Facebook Home For Android: Our Full Recap
Yesterday, Facebook held their highly anticipated Facebook Android event. Social media marketing gurus and mobile app developers alike were excited to see what Mark Zuckerberg & Co. had to announce. Most were speculating that the event would at least reveal some sort of noteworthy update to their mobile app, or possibly even a Facebook-specific phone, as has been the assumption for previous Facebook Android events. As it turns out, the event revealed both, but left some observers still feeling a little underwhelmed.
Facebook “Home” For Android
The initial announcement of the event focused on a mobile app upgrade called Facebook Home, a new way for Android users to fully integrate Facebook into their mobile experience, by incorporating a family of timeline, chat, check-in and event apps into the Android interface. Android users will be able to access & use Facebook’s key mobile components as if it was part of the phone’s operating system and within other running applications, as opposed to only within the Facebook app. By all accounts, the new version of Facebook mobile for Android is clean, seamless and very fluid in its integration with other Android apps and functions, but poses some obvious challenges to users who want to use their device independent of Facebook. (More on this, below.)
Facebook’s “Almost Proprietary” Phone
Secondary to the announcement of Facebook Home for Android, Zuckerberg announced the release of the first device to be preloaded with and optimized for Facebook Home (as well as Instagram), the HTC First. The device (as well as the app update) will be available on April 12th and will be exclusive to AT&T. Zuckerberg also sought to clarify that something like the Facebook Home experience would eventually be available to iPhone/iOS users, but noted that the open environment of the Android platform lent itself to a launch there first. While its not a truly “Facebook-driven” device, anyone familiar with the Touch, HTC’s previous Facebook-centric phone, could regard this as the next logical phase of evolution towards such a device.
Criticisms and Summary
While it is impossible to contest the influence of Facebook on both social media and mobile app development, most industry pundits have mixed reviews on the announcements. The app update seems to be little more than a highly stylized Android Launcher, that poses functionality issues for Android users who wish to use apps and components of their devices independent of Facebook. Some have noted the additional steps that would be needed to perform once 1-touch commands, like a Google search.
While the possibilities of using Facebook ads independent of the Facebook apps sounds appealing to social media marketing experts, the prevailing criticism on the user side is that it creates new privacy issues, as Facebook Home would be tracking all activity on the device in order to serve up ads anywhere within the platform. Some are saying that the new collection of apps is “too much Facebook” unless you really like Facebook, while others are saying that the app collection only being on 6 supported Android devices isn’t really making Facebook a “Home” to all Android users. Primary criticism of the phone is that its still not a true “Facebook phone”.
Regardless of where Facebook takes their mobile strategy next, the true test of their successes will always lie with the creativity of marketers, developers & most importantly, their users. One thing to be sure of, is that as mobile app development and social media evolve, finding the middle ground between user intent, marketing needs and mobile development advances will be where all parties find the most shared success. What are your thoughts on the Facebook Home for Android announcement? Let us know in the comments section, below.