Facebook Home; Radically Different or Nothing New?

April 5, 2013

 “Who are you messaging now?” probes my Mum on a regular basis whenever I am engrossed on my smartphone rather than conversing with her. If asked whether her daughter was a Facebook fanatic the answer would be a resounding yes. But according to a research report by IDC, unless you check Facebook more than 14 times per day, you are actually below the daily average. 

Channels of constant communication are an always on feature of our lives, which explains the fact that 79% of smartphone users check their devices within 15 minutes of waking up, and this figure rises to 89% for 18-24 year olds. Facebook has used this insight to design a “radically more social phone experience”, known as ‘Facebook Home’ launched yesterday. The Android-only experience “shifts people’s focus away from tasks and apps and towards people”, says Zuckenberg. But is this taking a step back to a time when phones were and could only be used as a means of communication?

I agree with Zuckenberg that phone apps were a legacy of the computer world in which people clicked on an icon to start a program, but they have given us the ability to have a portable computer in our pocket with instant access to knowledge at the click of a button. Facebook Home will definitely create a more seamless experience for conversations with friends but in reality is it just another commercial move by Facebook to keep users inside Facebook at all times to track more of a user’s behaviour on devices and subsequently to serve up ads? Great for advertisers and Facebook’s revenue streams but for Facebook users who want less advertising and tracking over concerns of privacy this could essentially create a real conflict. Smartphones and social networks are becoming increasingly synonymous and as people spend more and more time on their handheld devices Facebook has created an easy way for this user time to be invested in their platform. And, with Facebook’s ability to track a consumer’s location at all times (privacy settings permitting) Facebook Home could become the holy grail of real-time location based mobile advertising.

Interestingly, Facebook Home is not currently available on iOS, potentially making Home a differentiator for Android against Apple if the software is a success. Does the fact that Home is not available for iOS right now suggest that Apple is no longer at the forefront of what people want? Home is also not available on Microsoft but in my opinion Facebook Home poses them no threat. The Facebook Home ‘Cover Feed’ feature remarkably resembles the Microsoft Live Tiles on the Windows 8 platform used by the Nokia Lumia range and HTC Windows Phone 8 S. According to Facebook, the cover feed feature replaces the lock and homescreen to create a window into what’s happening with your friends, strikingly similar to the Live Tiles which continuously update on the homescreen to pull in real-time personalised updates to the forefront of the users smartphone.  This begs the question, has Facebook actually created a product that’s “radically” different at all and cracked the mobile conundrum?

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