Facebook And Vodafone Launch Social Mobile Phones

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The mobile and social networking giants have teamed up to produce a Facebook-dedicated, pre-pay handset

Vodafone and Facebook have teamed up to produce a pre-pay, low-cost smartphone that will be rolled out around the world in the coming weeks.

Facebook hopes to reach a billion users sooner rather than later, and the familiar looking Vodafone 555 Blue, with a social network centric OS, will cost less than £100.

The price reflects the fact that driving mobile adoption in countries where fixed-line Internet connection is rare will be crucial if Facebook is to reach its target from its current position of 750m users. it also targets the student market where pre-pay is often more practical than a monthly contract.

On the button

Facebook is wholly integrated within the handset, which features a dedicated key on its QWERTY keyboard and a Facebook-centric home screen. Status updates can be made from the home screen and there is also direct access to messages, friend requests, profiles and the news feed.

Facebook messages are even displayed alongside email and text messages.

Vodafone says the phone updates regularly in the background, flagging new items on the home screen and quickly loading them when opened. It is not, however, WiFi or 3G enabled, running instead on 2.5G, which it has estimated would result in less than 100Mbits of data usage per month for someone with 300 ‘friends’.

The phone will have a rear facing two megapixel camera with flash and an optical navigation button on the front.

A little help from my friends

It is Vodafone branded but Alcatel made and also supports Web browsing, with multimedia and music playback.

“Facebook wants to make every phone social and Vodafone has taken the integration of Facebook to the next stage for an affordable mobile device with the Vodafone 555 Blue,” said Henri Moissinac, head of Mobile Business at Facebook .

“We’re really happy that Vodafone will distribute this phone globally and we hope to do much more with them to bring the mobile, social internet to people everywhere.”

In a more direct step into the world’s emerging markets Facebook also recently launched an app called Every Phone compatible with 2,500 “feature” phones.

Feature phones are still the most popular models and bringing social networks to them has been tackled before. A SIM-card based application that allows any GSM phones to interact with Facebook  was unveiled by Gemalto at the Mobile World Congress in February – and goes one step further by carrying all communications on SMS instead of mobile data channels.

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