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Facebook to reveal custom version of Android on new HTC device at upcoming event, says NYT

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HTC Chacha press
HTC Chacha press

Rumors indicate that Facebook's upcoming event scheduled for April 4th will reveal an HTC-made phone running a version of Android customized to deeply integrate the social network's services. The New York Times reports that the main announcement at the event will be this Facebook-focused version of Android, which will replace the typical homescreen with the user's main Facebook page. Additionally, the default camera and messaging apps will be replaced by Facebook's own apps for the two services, which are already available on other Android devices.

The New York Times report, which cites a Facebook employee familiar with the company's plans, expands on rumors The Wall Street Journal published earlier this morning. It's not yet clear if this will be merely a skinned version of Android like Samsung's TouchWiz or if it will be a fork off of Android — an approach Amazon opted for with the Kindle Fire. The Journal refers to the rumored new features as an app, while the Times discusses a "version of Android." It's possible Facebook will offer an alternative launcher, which would replace the main Android screens and the app drawer with features suited to the social network. Both reports imply that this Facebook-focused version of Android will be available on devices other than this yet-to-be-announced HTC phone, suggesting users may be able to enable it on other devices.

Android skin, Android fork, or Android launcher?

Anyone who's been paying attention to the news knows well that rumors of a Facebook phone are nothing new. A Bloomberg report from last year on the matter said that "Facebook could use a modified version of Android for its smartphone." Today's news, however, makes it clearer than ever that Facebook may be looking to work outside of the Google-controlled Android ecosystem. HTC and Facebook originally collaborated on the ChaCha (pictured above) and Salsa handsets, which both ran Android and featured some exclusive social networking features.