Ina Fried

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HTC Shows Off First Tablet, Android Phone With Facebook Button and More

HTC on Tuesday became the latest cellphone maker to “friend” Facebook in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the social network.

At a press conference due to start any minute, the Taiwanese cellphone maker is set to show off a pair of Android phones–the Cha Cha and the Salsa–as well as its first tablet and several other Android devices.

HTC’s move follows that of INQ Mobile, which last week announced two Android models that feature heavy Facebook integration. Gemalto also announced Monday it plans to integrate Facebook into SIM cards, allowing users of low-end phones better access to the social network.

Like many others’ news here at the show, most of HTC’s had leaked out well ahead of the event.

One particularly nice touch–HTC planned ahead and ran Ethernet cables to each seat in the theater. (Unfortunately, Mobilized left the MacBook Air Ethernet adapter back in the apartment.)

Mobilized has live coverage of the event below.

9:58 am: Still waiting for the press conference–which was due to start a half hour ago–to get under way. We do have comfy seats and soothing music, but would have prefereed an extra half hour of sleep.

9:59 am: Apparently all I had to do was complain. Now it’s getting started with CEO Peter Chou taking the stage.

“2011 is going to be an amazing year,” Chou promises.

Some analysts predict smartphones will outsell feature phones, Chou says.

“Features that were once fancy, extra, are now becoming standard,” he says. “‘Nice to have’ is turning into ‘must have.'”

Hardware is important, but so are software and services like Sense and Company plans new versions of HTC Sense for phones with keyboards, larger screens, etc.

10:04 am: Some stats from Chou:

25 million smartphones sold last year, more than double the prior year, with revenue up 93 percent.

The company’s global brand awareness reached 50 percent, up from 13 percent a year and a half ago. (Of course, that means half of consumers still don’t know HTC, but a big improvement nonetheless.)

10:05 am: On to 2011: 4G networks will change everything again. HTC Thunderbolt, its first LTE smartphone, shipping this week with Verizon.

10:07 am: Company is announcing five phones today, the most it has ever announced at one time. Chou says.

“I hope you agree it has been worth the wait,” Chou says, bringing out John Wang, HTC’s chief marketing officer.

10:07 am: Talking about HTC Sense. Location-data for 83 countries. HTC spent a year and a half building the maps product. You can preload, so travel won’t cost a fortune in roaming charges.

Weather is another good example, Wang says, where the company aimed not just to provide information, but also offer an emotional experience.

“When it is sunny you almost feel the warmth on your body. When it rains, you almost want to wipe your phone dry.”

10:10 am: First demo fails as video he wants to show won’t play.

“Well, maybe later on,” Wang says, moving on to the new phones.

And another fails as whatever was supposed to happen isn’t happening.

Okay, here we go. HTC Desire S. And, we’ve got some more demo fail going on.

10:12 am: “We apologize for this,” Wang says, annoucing a few-minutes pause.

10:15 am: And we are back, with HTC Desire S, Incredible S and Wildfire S.

Desire S doesn’t have front and back. Machined out of a single block of aluminum. “It feels solid in your hand,” Wang says. Also has full HD video recording.

Wildfire S, smaller and in three colors. “It can almost disappear into your pocket. (Mobilized hates it when that happens. We’ve put two iPod Nanos through the wash.

10:20 am: HTC Incredible S. As you rotate the large Android phone, the icons on the buttons also rotate. 8-megapixel camera, integrated video chat with front-facing camera. “Incredible S combines premium design with premium experience,” Wang says.

So, essentially these are updates to the existing product line.

Next up, the Facebook phones.

10:22 am: There are 500 million Facebook users worldwide, but 200 million check it on their phones. Those users are twice as engaged. Many young people check Facebook right when they wake up with a significant number doing so from their phones before they even wake up, Wang says.

Now showing a video of HTC’s work with Facebook to build the new phones.

10:24 am: Video of Facebook CEO Marc Zuckerberg touting the device.

“A lot has been made about a Facebook phone,” Zuckerberg says, but adds that there will be more than a dozen phones this year with deep social integration. “HTC is doing that here.”

Mobilized is apologizing in advance, but I may not make it through the whole press conference.

10:26 am: The new phones–the Cha Cha (with keyboard) and Salsa (touch-only) both have a dedicated blue Facebook button at the bottom.

10:27 am: Can use button to post updates, but also if taking a picture can use that button to share social network. “When you press this button, the photo is instantly uploaded to Facebook,” Wang says. Button blinks also when reading an article on the Web. Press the Facebook button and it will share that on Facebook. Similar, when you are listening to a song, pressing the button will share that information.

If you hold button down, you check in on Facebook Places.

Both phones also support Facebook messaging and chat.

“We did not just add social networking to the phone,” Wang says.

10:30 am: Bringing up Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya to talk about the partnership.

“I’m just frankly very thrilled we are taking this very important step, which I think will be the first of many,” he says, saying he expects Facebook and HTC to do more things together.

10:32 am: Chou back up, saying he could just stop with five great phones and ensure another great year. But he’s not. There’s a tablet coming.

10:34 am: Chou says the company could have rushed out another “me too” experience, but says that wasn’t what the company wanted to do.

Showing video of how the company came up with its tablet, the HTC Flyer.

10:37 am: Chou holds up the Flyer, then hands things back to Wang. Flyer also has unibody design, which he says makes the tablet feel solid but keeps it lightweight.

HTC wanted it to be comfortable to hold in hand. At 415 grams it is about the same weight as a paperback book.

Here are a few features: 1.5GHz chip, 6-hour battery life, dual cameras, Flash 10 and HTML 5 support, along with new 3-D-based HTC Sense experience.

10:40 am: Also has a stylus–unique among Android tablets–HTC Scribe technology.

Allows you to share things more easily, Wang says. Just scribble “let’s go” on a restaurant Web page and press a button and it is sent.

You can also use it to do audio note taking–a la Livescribe, where notes are synchronized to the audio.

Mobilized has to jam to our next meeting, but I think we have hit the high points.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik