HTC is taking Facebook integration to another level with its new ChaCha and Salsa handsets launching on Vodafone next week.
There's long been rumours in the tech industry of an official, just-around-the-corner "Facebook phone" set to blow us all away, but why would Mark Zuckerberg need to branch out into the handset manufacturing game when mobile operators like HTC are so ably doing the job for him?
HTC's new mid-range ChaCha and Salsa models launched last night (released on Vodafone next Wednesday) take Facebook integration seriously: a dedicated Facebook share button on the front of each device is designed to provide simple one-touch access and sharing to the popular social platform.
The Facebook button is "context-aware" and pulses to alert you to updates or sharing opportunities. When pressed it allows for functions such as instant uploading of photos to Facebook, or identifying the song you're currently listening to and letting your friends know.
HTC Salsa, note the FB button along the lower edge of the face.
Both devices run Android 2.3 Gingerbread with HTC's Sense UI on an 800MHz CPU and include a 5MP camera. The ChaCha offers a tactile QWERTY keyboard in addition to a 2.6-inch 480 x 320 touchscreen and features a distinctive ergonomic design with its slightly curved body. The Salsa is all touch, with a 3.4-inch 480 x 320 display.
It's fair to describe these sorts of specs as mid-range, but it's also worth bearing in mind that this year's mid-range was last year's top-end. Both devices are available on $29 Cap and $45 Infinite plans from Vodafone as of next Wednesday, and the ChaCha will additionally be on sale for $299 outright (but locked).
In the background of the launch, there's been some significant movement this week -- as far as social platforms go, anyway. In the space of just a few days we've seen dramatic shifts with regards to three distinct 'generations' (you might say) of social networking.
First, there's been the sale of the giant-brought-low MySpace platform for a veritable pocket-change sum of US$35 million (the old guard).
HTC ChaCha, for those that want QWERTY and touch (and Facebook).
Then, unconfirmed reports online
suggest Facebook has now accumulated a staggering 750 million monthly
users worldwide (the current guard).
And finally, in the last three days we've witnessed the public birth of Google's latest and arguably most promising-looking social offering yet: Google+ (the new guard?). It's still early days (and invite-only), but preliminary feedback from around the web suggests people are liking what they're seeing (despite the inevitable Wave gags).
With ChaCha and Salsa, HTC and Vodafone are comfortably betting on the odds-on favourite for now. And with 750 million potential buyers out there, why the heck wouldn't you?