A Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) smartphone? Oh yes, it could happen. Facebook has gobbled up a few Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) engineers, and there even have been calls in some quarters for the company to buy Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM).
But as much as Facebook needs to do something about its shortcomings in the mobile space, it isn’t in the hardware business.
Even if Facebook is working on its own phone, buying RIM just doesn’t make sense. Why would the social media giant — whose mobility problem helped to contribute to the most turbulent IPO in recent memory — want to buy a company that has gone from pioneer to dead stock walking?
Plus, RIM is on the outs with consumers (the ones who use Facebook), with enterprise and government users being the BlackBerry’s last strongholds in North America. I can’t see CIOs putting off replacing BlackBerrys with iPhones just because the BlackBerry features tighter Facebook integration.
Then again, stranger things have happened. More than one company has thrown its lot — and its logo — in with mobile hardware, with laughable results. Let’s take a look at eight other mobile phone flops:
The Motorola ROKR E1
If you think Apple nailed it with the original iPhone, it’s worth remembering that wasn’t its first kick at this can. Although the company wisely kept its logo off it, Apple was integral to the 2005 ROKR phone — the first cell phone to be integrated with Apple’s iTunes. Apple CEO Steve Jobs even introduced Motorola’s (NYSE:MMI) creation on stage.
With a limit of 100 songs and Cingular exclusivity, the ROKR E1 was widely panned.
The Google Nexus One
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) might have a new strategy — and a new Nexus phone out — in an attempt to reinvigorate its battle against Apple.
However, its first try — the Google-branded Nexus One (manufactured by HTC) — sold dismally and was discontinued seven months after its release.
The ESPN Phone
In 2006, Disney’s (NYSE:DIS) sports network partnered with Sanyo to offer a red-and-black, ESPN-branded cell phone for $199 (plus $65 to $225 monthly for premium content) and spent a reported $40 million marketing it.
After signing up fewer than 30,000 customers, the venture was scrapped the same year.
In 2004, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) still was a mobile leader. It was the world’s No. 1 cell phone manufacturer and held nearly 30% of the market. So why would it release the N-Gage — a monstrous combination of smartphone, MP3 player and portable gaming system? And why would it ship as a GSM phone that was incompatible with Verizon (NYSE:VZ), then the largest wireless provider in the U.S.?
The N-Gage actually lasted through several iterations and reportedly sold 2 million units in total, though $100 discounts at GameStop (NYSE:GME) didn’t hurt.
Companies continue to try to mash serious console gaming with mobile phones.
Sony Ericsson launched the Experia PLAY (once rumored to be branded as a PlayStation phone) in March 2011. The Android-powered smartphone has a clunky form but sports the necessary buttons to play PSP titles and can download the games for less than comparable discs sold in stores — thus bringing the Experia PLAY in direct competition with Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) own PlayStation Portable and Go game systems rather than the casual-game-friendly iPhone.
Sony bravely stuck the Bravia name on this Japan-only Sony Ericsson smartphone — because who wouldn’t want a phone that carries a visual reminder of the billions of dollars Sony has thrown into the Bravia TV pit during the past decade or so?
Dell Venue Pro
Back in 2010 — before it was cool to hate on BlackBerry — Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) famously announced that it would replace 25,000 employee Blackberrys with new Dell-branded Venue Pro Windows 7 handsets. The slider shipped in early 2011 — and was killed off a year later.
Looking for a cheap prepaid phone but not sure which one to choose? In 2007, someone at France Telecom’s (NYSE:FTE) Orange decided that consumers would jump at a cell phone with the BIC logo slapped on it.
If you wanted one of these (and who wouldn’t for the novelty factor alone?), it meant a trip to Spain. Or a few minutes on eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY).
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.