Today Facebook announced round 2 of their attempt to make a significant impact on the mobile market. They are once again teaming up with legendary manufacturer HTC to make a phone centered around their social network experience. In this article, I’m going to analyze what the hell they were thinking and why in my opinion, it might just work out.
The Facebook announcement was combined with an announcement with a new phone to serve as a great reference for the software. The HTC first will be a mid range 4.3 inch 720p display phone that was built to work flawlessly with the new Facebook integration. Everything from the button placement to the style of the phone was worked on closely between Facebook and HTC to create their ideal reference device.
The software was the main focus of the event though. Facebook has decided that instead of making their own deep Android integration for Facebook, the would instead just create a great Home screen replacement. What they managed to do was nothing short of amazing. The home screen launcher app completely overshadows the underlying Android OS without removing it altogether. It is made to put your Facebook profile front and center so you’re always connected to the people and content you care about.
There are no homescreens in the traditional sense. There is just a lockscreen which serves as a cycling feed for your Facebook newsfeed. Underneath you still have access to all of your apps, but they are presented in a way where your favorites are presented with one small gesture. Everything is very smooth and very intuitive.
One of the other deep connected features Facebook brought was system wide ever present messaging. You can access your newest Facebook messages whenever you need to instantly without closing out of what you are doing. This is a feature that most modern Android skins don’t provide.
Again, this app was created to essentially take over your phone at face value and put your humanity first, which is a great segway in to the next part…
Mark Zuckerberg made a great quote in the event today:
“Todays phones are designed around apps, not people”
This quote is the epitome of what Facebook was trying to accomplish with this venture. Phones are getting a bit too complicated for the normal user. They have to cater to the capabilities of apps and the developers are continuously trying to see how far they can push apps and so on and so forth. Somewhere along the lines, something went missing. These phones aren’t friendly to what the normal person cares about.
Facebook is still the biggest social network on the planet. In my very unofficial study of how people I know use their phones, most people use their phones for navigation, texting / messaging, and FACEBOOK.
While Facebook may not be able to hit that navigation, they took the other two things that I’ve found most people using their phones for and brought it right to the front lines. Now everything you care about is right in your face with little effort on your part. I cannot express how great it is to have something like this in existence.
Will it succeed? Maybe. Other companies have tried similar approaches (blinkfeed, motoblur, etc) with limited success. The problem with the other approaches is that it actually hindered what you were trying to do with the phone. Yes you want to stay updated but you also want to communicate. There’s also a demand to be able to use other apps right from the beginning. Facebook put the feed front and center with apps and what not a mere gesture away. Its all very simple and very intuitive.
Is it perfect? No. Sometimes I don’t care what everyone is doing. I don’t want my friends drinking pictures on my homescreen. There’s ton’s of privacy issues with the way messages are presented. I also use other services besides Facebook. What about them? These are all issues that Facebook will have to address before this is a viable total replacement. This is, however, a great step in the right direction. Facebook put a lot of effort in to things this time around and it makes the old attempt look like a joke. I will definitely be trying this out as soon as possible and report back with a review.
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September 9, 2014
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