As rumored, HTC did launch two "Facebook phones" at Mobile World Congress this week: the HTC Salsa and the HTC ChaCha. No, they're not the Facebook phones - that is, they're not branded or licensed by Facebook itself - but they offer such deep integration with the social networking service, you may as well call them "Facebook phones," we'd say.
Here's another surprise - the phones may soon run a newer version of Android, which may or may not be code-named "Ice Cream."
One Button for Facebook
With the HTC Salsa and ChaCha, Facebook access is baked into HTC's Sense user interface. If you take a photo, for example, the phone is aware of your actions and the button will light up, indicating that you can now post the photo to Facebook, if you so desire. One press of the button, and the photo is sent directly to your Facebook Wall.
But the functionality is not limited to photos alone, it will also work with videos, music, calendar appointments, and even status updates. In the case of status updates, a simple "press and hold" action will present a screen where you can type in your status. Music updates post the artist name and album and calendar entries are duplicated to your Facebook calendar.
You can also chat with your Facebook friends using these devices and your Facebook messages and conversations are integrated so they appear alongside text messages and emails.
As for the specs, the ChaCha has a QWERTY keyboard, a 2.6-inch, 480 x 320 resolution landscape touch screen, a 5-megapixel color camera with auto focus and LED flash and a VGA front-facing camera. The Salsa also has a 5-megapixel camera and VGA front-facing camera in addition to its 3.4-inch, 480 x 320 resolution touch display. Assuming Facebook ever launches video chat, these phones would be ready.
What's This About "Ice Cream?"
CNET and others noticed that HTC sent out a press release saying that the phones would run Android 2.4, the version that will be known as "Ice Cream," or so say the Internet rumors. That's not exactly true, according to the HTC reps we spoke to. The phones will launch with Android 2.3.3 ("Gingerbread") but will soon be upgraded to 2.4, depending on what Google provides as the next big upgrade for its mobile operating system. That update may be called "Ice Cream," or it may be called "Gingerbread," - the naming is up to Google. All that really matters here is the phones are going to run the latest version of Android ASAP - there's a commitment on HTC's part to make sure of that.
And these so-called "Facebook phones" won't be the only devices getting the update, when it arrives. HTC's new Incredible S, Desire S and Wildfire S will also run the latest from Google as soon as it's available.