Facebook is already responsible (at least in part) for one of the biggest and most poorly named smartphone flops ever: the HTC First. But in a new book about the inner workings of Facebook, author Steven Levy reveals the social media giant had an even wilder prototype device that never saw the light of day.
In an interview with The Verge about Levy’s book Facebook: The Inside Story, among other tales about when Evan Spiegel spurned Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt to buy out Snapchat and the effects of hiring Sheryl Sandberg as COO, Levy talks about a prototype phone that sources claim even Facebook lied internally to employees about it ever existing.
Codenamed GFK (as a nod to rapper Pretty Toney aka Ghostdini aka Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan), Facebook’s prototype phone was apparently created with help from well-known designer Yves Behar and featured “an unusual groove in the curved surface, where one could scroll using a thumb” located on the right side of the device meant for scrolling and unlocking the device “in a single movement.”
And even though only right-handed people could use the phone’s weird touch groove properly, an anonymous Facebook employee told Levy that instead of trying to make the phone better suited for use with either hand, “We decided we didn’t care about left-handed people.” Simply incredible.
After hearing that, it’s almost a shame GFK never saw a retail release where it could have joined the likes of the HTC First, Microsoft Kin (another phone partially influenced by Facebook), and the Amazon Fire Phone as some of the biggest smartphone tragedies to go on sale this century. Personally, I would have loved to see an episode of The World According to Pretty Toney with Ghostface talking about a hustla’s phone, but alas, it seems that it will never happen.
Especially today, the idea of putting a specialised touch groove on the side of a phone meant to be used for scrolling seems absurd. It’s like Facebook didn’t even consider the full potential of a touchscreen.
For more stories from Facebook’s past, you can check out additional excerpts and insights here, and Levy’s book, Facebook: The Inside Story is available now.