Facebook phone, made by HTC, slated for mid-2013 launch

facebook-phone-mockupWe’ve been discussing the possible existence of a Facebook phone for the last two years and suggested HTC has long been the social network’s rumored partner. According to Bloomberg, the two will make things official. A smartphone running a Facebook-modified Android operating system and HTC hardware is being prepped for a mid-2013 debut.

The phone was supposed to be released as early as late this year, in time for the winter holiday season, but HTC has been suffering as its stock prices plummeted to its lowest levels in June 2012. To iron out its own troubles with its own product line of smartphones, HTC delayed the Facebook phone’s release.

Among HTC’s woes included the US International Trade Commission’s decision to block HTC’s Android smartphones based on Apple’s patent infringement complaint. Beats is another problem. Just days ago, HTC sold back $150 million of its $300 million Beats Audio stake back to Dr. Dre and Jimmy Lovine, creators and founders of the popular headphone brand. HTC now owns approximately 25 percent of Beats.

The Taipei Times reported that Goldman Sachs has downgraded HTC’s performance this year with “HTC shipments to drop by 68 percent from last year to 6.7 million units in North America and by 38 percent to 5.8 million units in Europe.” In the wake of its shipment estimates, Goldman cut the HTC’s stock target price from NT$360 ($11.95) to NT$280 ($9.30).

The rumored Facebook Phone wouldn’t be the first time that Facebook has worked with HTC. Last year, HTC began selling the HTC “Cha Cha,” a keyboard-based Android Phone that sported a Facebook button baked into the smartphone.

Adding to Bloombergs sources close to the Facebook Phone’s development, Facebook has left bread crumbs hinting at the Facebook Phone’s existence. Facebook hired former Apple employees responsible for the iPhone’s interface, exterior design and software, while purportedly courting Opera Software for its Opera browser. Just two months ago, Facebook debuted the Instagram-competing Facebook Camera application for iOS and yesterday rolled out the Facebook App Center internationally.

But is a phone what Facebook really needs? Facebook’s existing mobile application has been met by discontent by its users, and the social network has yet to figure out its mobile monetization strategy. Is the ailing HTC and Facebook a recipe for outcompeting Google and Apple? We aren’t quite convinced just yet. But it does look like a Facebook phone exists and will debut in the near future.