Thursday, February 24, 2011

HTC’s “Facebook phones” revealed (Ben Patterson)

Rumors had been swirling for weeks that HTC had a pair of new Android phones with deep Facebook integration in the offing, and now the two handsets—the Salsa and the ChaCha, both with their own, dedicated Facebook buttons—have finally been unveiled.

Details on the Salsa, which comes with a 3.4-inch display, and its little brother, the 2.6-inch ChaCha, are still a little sketchy; indeed, reporters and bloggers at HTC's press conference at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona could only gaze at the two handsets through a pane of protective glass.

The larger HTC Salsa looks to be a touchscreen-only handset, with a decent-sized 3.4-inch, 480-by-320-pixel display, while the smaller ChaCha is a BlackBerry-style device with a 2.6-inch screen, also 480 by 320, plus a physical QWERTY keypad.

Both phones come with five-megapixel cameras in back and VGA-quality front-facing cameras for video chat.

All very nice, but let's get to the good stuff—namely, the little blue Facebook button that sits at the bottom of each phone.

My first thought was that the button would do little more than launch the mobile Facebook app—not very exciting. But apparently, there's more to it.

As described by Phonescoop, the button acts more as a content sharer than a mere Facebook launcher; for example, if you stumble upon a webpage, a photo, or a song that you want to share with your Facebook pals, you can post it instantly (though, I'd hope, not before being prompted by a confirmation dialog) by pressing the Facebook button.

And here's another interesting tidbit, this time from Android Central: whenever you're viewing, watching, or listening to content you can share on Facebook, the Facebook button will glow.

So, are these the official "Facebook phones" we've been hearing about? No, insists Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who (in a pre-taped video clip, Android Central reports) told the assembled press at HTC's press conference that rather than a single "Facebook phone," there will be "dozens" of Android handsets featuring deep Facebook integration.

Expect the Salsa and the ChaCha to arrive in worldwide markets in the second quarter, with HTC announcing that the phones—or at least, "this unique user experience"—will arrive on AT&T "later this year." No word on pricing yet.

What's your verdict on HTC's new Facebook button: like, or dislike?

— Ben Patterson is a technology blogger for Yahoo! News.

Follow me on Twitter!

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