Can Facebook’s Buffy “Stake” Its Claim In The Smartphone Market?

I swear, that’s my last bad “Buffy” pun.

Various news outlets from The New York Times to the BBC are reporting that Facebook is reconsidering an entry into the smartphone market.

For some time now, the social media giant has teased the idea of launching a phone of their own. However, early reports indicated that the project started and stopped several times until it was ultimately determined that the actual complete process of making a phone from concept to manufacturing was harder than anticipated, and the idea was scrapped.

Now though the project seems to be back in earnest. Codenamed “Buffy” (which is odd considering Buffy was a TV character that slayed things that were better off left dead), the smartphone’s hardware is reportedly going to be worked on by HTC Corp, while Facebook will internally handle the software development, which could include an independent operating system. To help get the phone out by its alleged 2013 target date, reports are that Facebook is looking for former Apple and other high end smartphone developers to add to the team, of which they may have already hired almost half a dozen.

Everything revealed so far has suggested that Facebook is taking this project very seriously. The word around the company is that Mark Zuckerberg is worried that if Facebook doesn’t make a play to start its own phone service, that it will become just another mobile app and get lost in the shuffle of the new world order of smartphone superiority. Not to mention that Facebook could lose out on advertising revenue if it starts being accessed primarily through a third party device.

Facebook still carries a lot of name value, and its internal app market could potentially be very popular if kept exclusive to its new phone, but I still think this sound like a case of overreaching. If the initial conclusion was that smartphone development was going to be too complex just a year ago, I don’t know what could have changed their minds in the meantime. Well, besides that slightly embarrassing public offering fiasco of course.  But if this is all an effort to extend Facebook’s reach enough for them to wipe some egg off of their face, things could turn ugly.


The hyperbole of gadget marketing

Windows Phone 7 funeral.It’s no secret that gadget marketing is way over the top. There’s always this-killer and that-killer that everyone just has to have. It’s incredibly uninteresting, especially because none of the “killers” actually kill anything. They’re typically competitive in their respective markets, but that’s about all we can say.

That didn’t stop these Microsoft employees from throwing funerals for the iPhone and Blackberries to celebrate the release of Windows Phone 7 to manufacturing (maybe “throwing” isn’t the right word where funerals are involved). The group carried giant dead iPhone and Blackberry models down the street and threw a New Orleans-style wake, replete with a coordinated ‘Thriller’ dance.

This is all well and good, guys, but for these kinds of stunts, you better put out a kickass phone. The things I’ve heard are things like “underwhelming,” in which case I wish you would have put the Thriller energy into the phone. Congratulations on a finished product. I hope it lives up to the hype.


iPhone takes home JD Power customer satisfaction awards

JD Power award.The iPhone has yet again proven that people will put up with some of the worst wireless service in the world just to have a phone they can love. The iPhone won the 2009 JD Power awards for customer satisfaction in both the consumer and business categories.

If you take a look at the breakdown, no other phone came close. Sure, battery life was the iPhone’s weak point, but for all the other criteria, users scored the phone as high as possible. That’s quite a testament to the fanatical love people show for a phone that struggles most with actually making and holding calls, thanks to AT&T’s network.

In other, much less interesting news, LG was the winner for feature phones. Anyone surprised?

What more proof do you need than the iPhone’s sales figures that at the end of the day, it’s customer satisfaction that really matters. Sure your phone might be able to multi-task, it might have a unique, web-based operating system. It might even have the physical keyboard its competitor lacks. But if the whole world likes that other phone better, those features don’t mean a thing.


AT&T Has Refurbed iPhone 3G for $50

AT&T iPhone.If you’ve been thinking about making the switch to a smartphone or considering an iPhone, now’s about as good a time as any. AT&T enabled MMS on the iPhone today, which brings it up to speed with candybar phones of nearly a decade ago. The wireless provider also just found some old iPhone 3G models lying around that it will sell for a paltry $50.

Now, if I were you, I would splurge for the 3GS. It’s faster, has a better camera, and records video, which makes it much more than a cell phone. If you don’t want to drop $199 on a phone right now, though, the $50 3G will do just fine. It’s not that much slower, and you could probably live without the extra camera features.

There’s still one big reason to stay away: AT&T. Their service sucks and 3G coverage away from major cities is spotty at best. Also, you might be able to get Apple’s baby on a different network before your contract is up.

The good news is you’ll be just fine in either case. If you buy, you’re getting a great phone fairly cheap. If you don’t, you’re avoiding all the headaches that come with being tethered to AT&T. That is all.