Is Facebook developing its own phone?

Facebook is denying rumors that it is planning to build its own phone – but nobody much believes it.

Over the weekend, TechCrunch published a story claiming that Facebook  was working with third party hardware manufacturers to create a mobile phone for which Facebook would provide the software.

TechCrunch says its sources say that the project is in its early stages, but would see the creation of a low-end phone – possibly costing as little as $50 – that would be fully integrated with Facebook. It says two senior Facebook execs with extensive operating system development experience – Joe Hewitt and Matthew Papakipos – are involved.

The company is denying the rumors categorically – but in language that’s open to more than one interpretation.

“Facebook is not building a phone,” the company says in a statement. “Our view is that almost all experiences would be better if they were social, so integrating deeply into existing platforms and operating systems is a good way to enable this.”

But while this sounds pretty categorical, it wouldn’t be the first time that a company has denied that it’s developing something – then admitted that, well, actually an OEM is developing it for them.

A Facebook phone, if it exists, would probably be similar in concept to Microsoft’s Kin, which was launched back in May to target social networking teens. It didn’t work out so well for Microsoft, though, which scrapped the product just two months later.

With both Apple and Google increasingly building social features into their own phone platforms, the move would make sense for Facebook. And the company has reasonable grounds for thinking it would do a better job than its competitors.

Whether it started from scratch with an operating system or – as seems most likely – based it on Android, it would be able to inegrate Facebook right into the depths of the OS.