Facebook-branded phone may finally be coming

Well, it’s been rumored for a long time, but Facebook is finally getting close to launching a smartphone of its own, according to a report from All Things D.

It’s said to have signed a deal with HTC to manufacture the device, after also considering Samsung. Facebook chief technology officer Bret Taylor is said to be leading the project, which should see phones appearing in a year to 18 months’ time.

The new phone, codenamed Buffy, would be based on a modified version of Android, in the same way as Amazon modified it for the Kindle Fire.

For Facebook, says AllThingsD, it would be tweaked to support HTML5 as a platform for applications – and to put Facebook at the core.

It’s not really clear, though, what this would mean in practice. Stories of a Facebook phone have been circulating for a while – and, indeed, AllThingsD says the project’s been two years in the making.

Since then, though, several vendors, including HTC, have produced phones with dedicated Facebook buttons, making the business case for such a phone less obvious.

It’s not entirely clear what features the new phone would add – or take away. If the phone’s too focused on Facebook, it could mean that other tasks become more difficult.

Privacy concerns, too, could hold users back from buying a Facebook branded phone – many people think the company already knows quite enough about them as it is.