Back in 2010, only a few years after the official introduction of the iPhone, which changed technology for the world, Social media giant, Facebook allegedly designed a smartphone that could only be used by people who are right-handed, a move that no doubt would’ve alienated a large portion of the human population, and cutting their potential audience in half if proven to be true.
According to Steven Levy’s new book, “Facebook: The Inside Story,” Swiss designer Yves Béhar created the right-handed-people-friendly prototype device, codenamed GFK in reference to Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah. Though the company denies any such phone existed at all, one of Facebook’s earliest employees Ezra Callahan told Levy that “it was the first time I recall Facebook lying internally.”
At the time, Béhar’s previously public work featured a number of bold colour themes and was made with sustainability in mind over anything else. For this reason alone, the Facebook phone probably would’ve likely featured similar characteristics.
Facebook’s prototype featured “an unusual groove in the curved surface, where one could scroll using a thumb,” according to Levy’s book, or unlock the device. A feature that was described as being close to what we currently identify as a mini trackpad, which would’ve been positioned on the side of the phone.
An anonymous Facebook employee told Levy that the touch sensor only worked well for right-handed people, but the company went full steam ahead anyway. “We decided we didn’t care about left-handed people,” that employee told Levy.
While it was likely that Facebook’s wasn’t intentionally discriminating against left-handed users, the GFK prototype, if true, would’ve been just another example of technologies long line of right-handed bias products available on the market. There are no doubt a number of products (whether intentional or otherwise) that cater more towards users which are right-handed, than not. For example, The 2017 Samsung Galaxy S8’s fingerprint scanner is placed on the right side of the camera lens, the Note 8’s stylus is housed on the right, and the Apple Watch does not centre its digital crown, which can also be awkward for left-handed people to use efficiently.
While hardware continually falls short of any sort of ambidextrous ideal, Google has also tried to fix the problem at hand and alleviate some of the left-handed suffering through various software updates and newly added features designed with left-handed people in mind.
For Android devices, users can now access their developer settings, where they can now switch on a left-handed layout to make it more comfortable and user friendly. The changes of course would be subtle to most people, but can make a vast difference in the user experience. For instance, buttons in the left-handed layout will be moved slightly so that it’s easier for left-handed users to tap the buttons with their left thumbs.
Of course, Facebook has since denied all evidence of this phone ever existing, even to its’ own employees, and there’s no way to ever know whether it did ever become a product, or at least an idea on a whiteboard. However, if you’re curious on what may have gone on within’ the company in it’s early days, you can read the entirety HERE.