Facebook will post a status update today for what is expected to be a new Facebook phone.

Facebook is preparing a deeper push into smartphone software with a modified version of Google’s Android operating system as it seeks to boost sales from ads on small screens, according to people with knowledge of the plans. The new Android product is expected to be unveiled at an event at the company’s Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters. The software will prominently feature Facebook’s social-networking tools.

Speculation has centered on a mobile phone, made by HTC Corp., that deeply integrates Facebook into the Android operating system. The move comes as Facebook works to evolve from its Web-based roots to a “mobile-first” company, as its mantra goes.

“What Facebook wants is to put itself at the front of the Android user experience for as many Facebook users as possible and make Facebook more elemental to their customers’ experience,” said Forrester analyst Charles Golvin.

Last year, the company began showing ads to its mobile audience by splicing corporate sponsorships and content into users’ news feeds, which also includes updates from friends and brands they follow. Among the challengesFacebook faces now is showing people mobile ads without annoying or alienating them.

The mobile advertisement market is growing quickly. That’s thanks in large part to Facebook and Twitter, which also entered the space in 2012. Research firm eMarketer expects U.S. mobile ad spending to grow 77 percent this year to $7.29 billion, from $4.11 billion last year.

Derick Mains, a spokesman for Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, declined to comment, as did Gina Weakley Johnson, a spokeswoman for Mountain View, California-based Google.

Facebook rose 3.3 percent to $26.25 yesterday in New York, paring its year-to-date decline to 1.4 percent.

Amazon-Like Approach

By modifying Google’s Android, Facebook would adopt a strategy similar to Amazon.com Inc., which uses a version of Android in the Kindle Fire tablet. In some cases, that means bypassing Google’s preloaded applications, such as Gmail, Google Maps and YouTube, which generate revenue for Google.

Facebook’s phone will probably highlight Facebook features such as Messenger, which enables real-time chats between members, and Camera, a photo-sharing app, Howe said. Software crafted by Facebook could more prominently display the social network on handsets and challenge competitors such as Apple Inc. and Google for the attention of smartphone users, said Carl Howe, a Yankee Group analyst.

“They’re not as mobile focused as Apple and Google are,” Howe said in an interview. “They need to play catch up.”

While the iPhone operating system is controlled exclusively by Apple, Google provides more flexibility with Android. Companies can take older versions of the software and customize it for their own services and preferences.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he sees opportunities to push the company’s features deeper into mobile devices — though he has denied that Facebook will make its own smartphone. Already, Facebook, along with Twitter Inc., has been built deeper into the latest version of Apple’s software, enabling users to post easily to the social-networking service.

“I think people want it to be very integrated into all of the different devices that they have, and that’s what we’re going to focus on,” Zuckerberg said on a call with analysts in January. “So, rather than just building an app that’s a version of the functionality that you have today, I think making it so that we can just do — go deeper and deeper I think is going to be a big focus for us.”

A new Facebook-enabled handset would follow earlier forays into mobile devices for the social-networking service.

Limited Adoption

HTC began selling “ChaCha,” an Android-based phone with a dedicated Facebook button to share music, photos and messages, in 2011. INQ Mobile Ltd. and Facebook that year also unveiled a phone with close integration of services, such as wall postings and photos.

While those devices have won over some die-hard Facebook fans, widespread adoption has been limited, according to Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Gartner Inc. A new Facebook handset may struggle to match the success of devices made by Apple or Samsung Electronics Co., which manufactures the Galaxy line of phones, she said.

“I don’t think that Facebook as a brand will necessarily get consumers — that are your average Facebook users — to pick out that phone over a Galaxy or an iPhone,” she said.

After a 31 percent decline in Facebook’s shares since an initial public offering in May, investors are looking for signs that the company can extract more ad dollars from promotions on mobile phones. The number of daily Facebook users on desktops and laptops fell in the fourth quarter as the portion of members on mobile devices increased, regulatory filings show.

Mobile-Ad Share

Facebook’s nascent mobile-ad service, started in March 2012, isn’t helping the company gain market share in the U.S., according to EMarketer Inc. Facebook is projected to grab 12 percent of the market in 2015, down from 13 percent this year, EMarketer said. Over the same period, Google’s stake will climb about two percentage points to 57 percent.

A new handset could help Facebook get more information on users to bolster its mobile ad efforts, according to Melissa Parrish, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

“They need to do more,” Parrish said. “The most important thing is putting more focus on how they can deeply understand the people who are using Facebook on a mobile device.”

(Bloomberg News and The Associated Press contributed to this report)