HTC LogoMobile and social networking mix well, as evident with how social networking apps are popular among smartphone and tablet users. Taiwanese manufacturer HTC (news, site) has even gone as far as marketing a "Facebook Phone" in the HTC Chacha and HTC Salsa. But in China, the prominent Facebook button has been replaced, instead, with that of Weibo.

Facebook Phone Without Facebook

HTC announced its Facebook phones at the Mobile World Congress in February this year, and released to the public just last month. The HTC Salsa comes in the usual touchscreen form factor, while the HTC Chacha comes with a QWERTY keypad for easy typing. The Android smartphones come with a special feature that no other smartphone has so far -- a dedicated Facebook button, which provides quick access to Facebook sharing from any application. But images of Chinese-bound HTC Chacha units leaked from within China show a different story altogether.

HTC Salsa in China with Weibo
"Facebook phone" HTC Salsa is sold in China with the dedicated button launching Weibo instead

HTC's Salsa smartphone being marketed in China has one obvious difference from its international counterpart. The dedicated social networking button gives way to Weibo, the most popular social network in the country.

The smartphone itself is identical in other areas, with the same 800 MHz processor, 3.4-inch capacitive touchscreen display with a 480x320 resolution, 5-megapixel camera and Android Gingerbread 2.3.3 with HTC Sense 2.1 UI. HTC has renamed the smartphone to "Weike," which will cost 3,380 Yuan or about US $520 without contract.

Wise Move for HTC?

This seems a logical move for HTC. For one, Facebook is largely banned in China, which negates the need for a Facebook-phone, per se. But social media is big in China, regardless of how the billion-strong Internet using population has limited access to sites like Google, Twitter and Facebook. Weibo has about 150 million users in the mainland. And with plans to expand internationally, Weibo's audience -- and market share in the microblogging scene -- is soon to get a big boost. 

With this big switch, could it mean that HTC can also build smartphones that feature the other major social networks, such as Twitter and Google+? Or, can users modify the dedicated button's functionality to instead launch these alternative social networks?