Three Reasons a Facebook Phone Can Work

News of a Facebook phone code-named Buffy broke last week, and since then many have expressed doubt that such a phone can compete with Apple and Google. Ryan Spoon, a principal at Polaris Venture Partners, thinks it's too soon to write off Facebook's effort. Read the original here [ syndicated with permission ].

By Ryan Spoon

This week we learned of Facebook’s internal project (code-named Buffy) to build a Facebook Phone. Much of the tech press laughed: it’s too late! It’s too crowded! Facebook isn’t a hardware company! And so on.

Let’s not assume failure for three reasons.

1. As I have written before, Facebook has a better understanding of what I believe to be a phone’s most powerful lever: identity and your contact list.

For most people (which may well be outside silicon valley). Imagine walking into Best Buy, purchasing the phone and walking out with a directory of people, contacts, phone numbers, emails, updates, etc…. simply by logging into your phone. That’s really, really powerful. A stub of that already exists through their app and it’s a function I use all the time when seeking phone numbers:

2. Core apps are already popular and/or easily buildable. Facebook’s Messenger app is currently #2 in iTunes (think SMS). Facebook is #5 (and the experience would be tremendously better if natively integrated). Other popular functions can all be at the app level:
- photos: sharing, filters, etc
- contacts: really, really powerful
- email: messages + hooks to Gmail, Outlook?
- music: app ecosystem will support through Spotify, Turntable, Rdio, etc
- calendar & events: hooks into Facebook events + opportunity to build out calendaring tools
- games…

3. Pricing. Remember why Android took market share so rapidly: pricing pushed towards zero, undercut Apple and allowed them to reach a wider audience…. an audience who is probably more attracted to and a better fit for a Facebook Phone.


Ryan Spoon is a Principal at Polaris Venture Partners. Ryan serves on the Board of Directors of ReadyForZero and led seed investments in Formspring, (acquired by Google), Movity (acquired by Trulia) and Offline Labs. Ryan also works closely as an observer with Automattic, KISSmetrics, LOLapps, Recurly, and ShoeDazzle.

Email: rspoon at gmail dot com
Twitter: @ryanspoon