SAN MATEO — The long-rumored Facebook smartphone, denied or side-stepped for years by the company, appears to be days away.
On Thursday, Facebook plans to unfurl the first phone designed to showcase its social network. Made by HTC, and using a version of Google’s Android software, the device will be built into Facebook’s services and include a camera, according to a report in the New York Times today, citing anonymous sources.
Facebook declined comment, but the report was confirmed by an employee with knowledge of the launch.
Earlier this week, Facebook sent an invitation to the media for a new conference at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on April 4. The invite promised a “significant mobile-focused announcement.”
Rumored for years, a smartphone is a natural for Facebook’s more than 1 billion members, a majority of whom use the social network network on a mobile device.
Facebook has banked its future on its mobile strategy, in an unending pursuit of advertising. It’s part of a larger directive internally to get customers to congregate around its social network as much as possible.
As a result, the company has added several features of late — including a new news feed and Timeline to keep users on the site longer. Increasingly, ads will be introduced in those areas to help monetize Facebook’s site.
Facebook raked in about $4.2 billion from advertising last year — 84% of its estimated $5 billion in total revenue, according to eMarketer. Leading the charge were mobile display sales. Facebook took home about 18% of the U.S. market last year, or $339 million, besting Google’s 17%.
Google took home 15% of the nearly $15 billion U.S. display ad market, with Facebook close behind.
Payments accounted for Facebook’s remaining $800 million in 2012 revenue, eMarketer estimates.
The new Facebook phone comes before the next anticipated Apple iPhone.