Is Facebook set to launch a smartphone?

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, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

Announcement of a media event to take place on Tuesday is reawakening rumors that Facebook is set to launch its own phone.

The social media company has so far given no clues as to what it will announce at its headquarters on Jan. 15, prompting many technology journalists to speculate that the on-again, off-again rumours regarding a Facebook smartphone are decidedly on again. Back in November, reports surfaced that HTC had been working with Facebook to develop a phone, code-named the Opera UL, complete with high definition display. Some websites even claimed that the handset had been benchmarked and had been scheduled for release in the final quarter of 2012 for the holiday season. However, the phone never materialized and, when questioned, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied the rumours, stating that his company's aim was to be on every smartphone in the world, not to make its own handsets.

TechCrunch journalist MG Siegler has now set a new round of rumours in motion, claiming on Saturday that the launch of a phone is imminent, indicating that "multiple sources have told us that they expect some sort of Facebook Phone to be on display on Tuesday." However, he goes on to hedge his bets, suggesting that it's just as likely that the event will showcase a smartphone operating system as it is an actual piece of hardware. "It could very well be that the 'Facebook Phone' is more about a Facebook OS running on a phone (or a few phones)."

Speculation about Facebook working on its own smartphone has persisted since May last year, partly due to the fact that the social media company's future revenue streams are clearly in mobile -- mobile advertising, location-based search and contextual features. For example, the company recently started testing a free wi-fi service for users who 'checked in' when they entered certain shops and stores. By sharing their location, these people could not only access the internet for free but could also access special offers and discounts redeemable at the retail outlet in question.


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