Don't Laugh at the New Facebook Phone

We can finally bury the relentless Facebook Phone chatter.

There really is a Facebook-centric (NASDAQ: FB  )  phone coming, but thankfully it's not as ridiculous as it may sound.

Facebook announced today that HTC and AT&T (NYSE: T  ) would be teaming up to introduce the first Facebook-optimized phone next week. HTC First will be available through AT&T Wireless on April 12 at a compelling price point of $99 with a two-year contract.

If this was the end, it would be a disaster for Facebook. Who wants a Facebook phone, especially one tethered to a two-year contract? Can anyone safely say that they will even care about social networking come 2015?

However, Facebook is actually doing this in a smart way. You don't need to buy the HTC First to get the shiny new interface which powers up with visual updates and other nifty navigational features.

Facebook Home is a new home screen that will be available on several of the leading smartphones running Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Android next Friday through the Google Play app store. HTC First naturally will have it pre-installed and the device itself is optimized for the interface, but anyone that doesn't want to make that kind of investment can just stick with a Samsung Galaxy S III, HTC One, or any of the other eligible devices.

If someone tires of Facebook Home and wants to revert back to a home screen that revolves around apps instead of people, it's an easy process to undo.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg began the presentation alluding to third-party data showing that more than 20% of someone's time on a smartphone is spent engaging on Facebook -- and that pops up to better than 25% when you tack on Facebook's Instagram. Social apps make up the largest category of smartphone engagement.

Facebook is taking a logical and evolutionary step with Facebook Home, and that will hold true even if next week's rollout of HTC First flops. Facebook knows what it's doing.

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