Facebook Surges on Phone Expectations

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Facebook ( FB) shares were surging by mid-day Wednesday on expectations that the world's largest social-media platform is poised to announced a new Android phone HTC that will prominently feature your Facebook account.

According to the rumor mill, this new phone may be called the HTC First - rather than "Opera" or "Myst" as previously thought. If you believe the photos leaked online, the First is expected to be a touchscreen device (maybe with a 4.3-inch display) with a Qualcomm ( QCOM) Snapdragon processor, 1 GB of memory and a five megapixel camera on the back. Though definitely not a high-end product, investors are intrigued: Facebook was gaining 3% to $26.18.

Such a phone wouldn't mark the first effort for a Facebook/HTC device. The two companies combined to create the ill-fated "ChaCha" (with QWERTY keyboard) and "Salsa" (touchscreen only) phones two years ago. Dance references aside, these were not big sellers. At best, these units will be remembered (barely) for having a small, blue Facebook button near the bottom. Facebook access was nothing more advanced than its early website app. Otherwise, these phones were unremarkable if not forgettable.

This new "First" phone will apparently boot-up to show a new Facebook home screen. That's probably why Facebook's invitation asked reporters and bloggers to "Come See Our New Home on Android." The new content-heavy interface is expected to operate along with the standard Google ( GOOG)Android operating system - not instead of it. It may also provide users with new, unknown features as well as additional Facebook functionality.

The new First phone might also be the first to take advantage of Facebook's alternative to Microsoft's ( MSFT) Skype. In the past few months Facebook has added voice messaging to its standard Android and Apple ( AAPL) iOS apps and has been testing its own brand of Skype-like Voice-over-IP (VoIP) voice calling technology in Canada.

Whatever they actually announce, we'll know soon enough. So will you. Join us for our live blog of the Facebook event beginning at 12:30 pm EDT,Thursday, April 4. We'll be there to report on what they have to say.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.

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