Facebook and HTC Join Forces on the “Buffy” Phone

Ok fine, its not going to have Sarah Michelle Gellar’s face stamped on the back, and it has nothing to do with Joss Whedon’s vampire-slaying series, but Facebook is working with HTC to develop a mobile phone codenamed, “Buffy”. Designed to incorporate Facebook more completely than any other phone, Buffy will run a heavily tweaked version of Android and, in addition to typical Facebook fare, will allow users to play games like Farmville and Mafia directly from the Facebook app using HTML5. Officially the phone doesn’t even exist yet, and both HTC and Facebook refuse to speak on the subject, but rumors point to 2012 or 2013 as the potential launch date for Sunnydale’s deadliest cheerleader.

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This ups the ante on mobile devices like the Cloud Touch and Cloud Q that currently market themselves as “Facebook Phones.” Both spotlight the social network but fall short of the integration HTC recently achieved with the Status, which features a dedicated Facebook button. Given the success of HTC’s Status, developers at Facebook are shrewd to pursue the creation of a socially enhanced smartphone.

It may make business sense, but will Buffy actually be worth it? At this stage in the fledgling phone’s development, it’s too tough to really know, but here’s why I think we’ll like it.

[stextbox id=”info”]The Facebook Operating System[/stextbox]

I assume Buffy’s main upgrade over current claimants will be that it “runs” Facebook as a de facto operating system rather than requiring an app or a browser to get into the network. Doing so will surround users with Facebook’s many services and functions when they pull up the main screen. Potential byproducts of this integration would allow users to upload photos directly from the camera app, or synch Facebook friends with an address book. For Facebook whores, this kind of access will be as alluring as the vampiric Angel.

[stextbox id=”info”]Flash In The Pan[/stextbox]

Although I dropped this fact casually in the opener, abandoning the terminally-coded Flash for HTML5 is another nail in the Flash coffin, and brilliant move overall. It’s a more powerful, and more robust app platform, which will keep Buffy on top of the developmental wave for the near future.

[stextbox id=”info”]A Bite Out Of Apple[/stextbox]

Facebook was notably absent from iOS 5’s updates, which featured improved integration with Twitter. For example, people can share photos on Twitter directly with the camera app, an option to do the same on Facebook doesn’t exist. Creating Buffy frees Facebook from Apple’s steely grip and presents the public with another way to access their social networks. More choices means better competition, and better competition will push Apple to invent the next iPad, whatever that will be.

There’s nothing wrong with current offerings in the smartphone industry that Buffy will really address, she just presents the possibility of more. More power than Flash, more access than HTC Status, and more possibilities than Apple and stock Android. This promise, more than anything else, may upgrade Buffy to the status of Giant-killer on top of Vampire Slayer.