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Facebook once designed a smartphone only for right-handed people

An anonymous Facebook employee claims, "We decided we didn’t care about left-handed people."

Published onFebruary 27, 2020

Above, you’ll see a photo of the HTC First, the one and only Android smartphone to be skinned with Facebook Home. The First — sometimes colloquially referred to as the Facebook phone — was a dismal failure and appears on many “worst of tech” lists, including our own.

Although consumers and critics hated the HTCFirst, this didn’t stop Facebook from planning to release a smartphone that was fully its own at some point. This news comes via The Verge, which sat down with author Steven Levy to discuss his new book, Facebook: The Inside Story. The interview snippets offer a fascinating look into some of the more embarrassing aspects of the company’s history.

The unreleased Facebook phone was apparently designed by Yves Béhar, the Swiss designer most famous for designing the iconic OLPC XO-1 laptop created by the non-profit One Laptop per Child. Judging from Béhar’s work, the unreleased Facebook phone likely would have been colorful and designed with sustainability in mind.

OLPC XO 1 Laptop
The Computer Museum The OLPC XO-1 laptop, designed by Yves Béhar.

The Facebook phone prototype also featured a curved display, probably similar to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus or the LG G Flex, both from the early 2010s. There was an “unusual groove in the curved surface” that would allow for scrolling as well as unlocking the device.

Surprisingly, Intel worked with Facebook to create the prototype’s processor and helped develop technology for the “unusual groove.” Just last year, Intel exited the mobile business entirely due to its failure to gain traction in the market.

But the groove was only on one side…

Notably, this “unusual groove” was only on the right side of the Facebook phone prototype, making it extremely difficult for left-handed people to use. “We decided we didn’t care about left-handed people,” an anonymous Facebook employee told Levy. This might have been one of the reasons Facebook kept the phone prototype a secret even from its own employees. Ezra Callahan, an early product manager and one of the company’s first 20 employees, said that it was the first time he remembered the company lying to its own staff.

Finally, maybe the most interesting thing about the unreleased Facebook phone is its codename: “GFK.” This is the initials of Ghostface Killah, a rapper most famous for his involvement in the Wu-Tang Clan.

If you have some time to spare, the whole interview over at The Verge is definitely worth a read. You’ll hear about one of the reasons why WhatsApp worked with Facebook instead of Google, how long it took for Mark Zuckerberg to be convinced to institute the “Like” button, the first product Facebook outright stole, and much more.

Facebook: The Inside Story is available now in hardcover, paperback, and ebook forms.

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