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Smartphone-in-a-box maker cooks up cheap Facebook-flavoured chips

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Smartphone platform provider Spreadtrum will work with Facebook to integrate its the social network into the platform at firmware level, putting the interactive life blog into the cheapest hardware.

The deal will see Spreadtrum working with Facebook to optimise client software running on its chips, just as it does with Google (to get Android running well) so puts the social networking software on a par with the operating system, messaging clients and web browser in being critical to complete the mobile experience.

Spreadtrum is one of a host of Asian companies who provide smartphones-in-a-box - chip sets and accompanying software - which can be cased by handset-makers to make cheap mobile telephones, running Android in this instance. Companies such as Spreadtrum provide such platforms to Samsung and its ilk, who slap cases on them and knock them out as low-end complements to their in-house-developed flagship devices.

Users could easily download the Facebook app onto their handsets, but this way Facebook won’t have to worry that the phone's hardware won't support the social media app's features, as it's built in.

Those devices, tens of millions annually from Spreadtrum alone, tend to end up in developing markets, which is just where Facebook also wants to be, so providing an integrated, and well-tested, mobile client to those markets is probably more important to Facebook than it is to Spreadtrum.

Facebook's Android client is not well-respected - it's known for overloading the notifications bar and lamentable performance (not helped by its brief foray into the world of HTML5) - and that has combined with an excellent mobile-web client to discourage widespread use, but the dedicated client is a work in progress and should improve.

Not every phone powered by Spreadtrum will feature an integrated Facebook client, but it will be a tick-box for companies using the platform which will surely sour greater adoption, except in Spreadtrum's home country - as Facebook still refuses to self-censor to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities. ®

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