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Is the Facebook Home Android app a good idea?

By Daniel Cawrey / May 13, 2013


Facebook Home, the company’s Android app that transforms your phone into the social network itself, is a divisive concept. On one side of the fence, the idea seems like a brilliant notion: take Android’s open source capability and reimagine it the way that Facebook sees fit. But on the other hand, is having Facebook constantly online and active what mobile users really want?

A few years ago, Facebook bet that cross-platform web apps would be the future of mobile. Now the company has refocused its efforts on making platform-specific applications a success.

Facebook Home’s look and feel

It’s likely that Google, one of Facebook’s biggest rivals, did not expect Home to essentially take over the Android smartphones that are running it. While Google lets carriers and manufacturers customize Android to create unique products, Facebook Home takes this liberty to another level.

The result is a very different environment from what users get from a normal Facebook experience. For Facebook, that’s by design because they want to steer the experience toward more social-enabled elements. This is so the company can gain better mobile traction as people turn to their phones rather than computers for connecting with friends.

Do users want Facebook all of the time?

While Facebook does well on the Web, it has struggled with smartphones and especially with its iPhone app. It’s no secret that a number of technology companies want to crack the code on making money from mobile advertising. By offering a slick, social-media prioritized interface, Facebook hopes to be able sell more sponsored newsfeed posts and laser-targeted ads that are powered by geolocation data.

But this strategy may contrast with what users actually want. A good Facebook smartphone app is key for the company, yet many might not want “all Facebook all of the time.” It’s very much possible that the company could overextend its boundaries with users. In fact, the Facebook Home app has only seen a million installs on Android. When you consider that the company has over a billion registered users, that’s a pretty small subset of customers. But it’s a start, and Home is only available for select Android devices right now.

So far it’s hard to tell whether Home is what users want. If it is, you can expect other companies to follow suit. This strategy would give them more opportunities to engage with their users to sell products and services — particularly on the prime real estate like the home screen.

In the end

So far it’s hard to tell whether Home is what users want. If it is, you can expect other companies to follow suit. This strategy would give them more opportunities to engage with their users to sell products and services — particularly on prime real estate like the home screen. As such, Facebook Home might be a glimpse into the future of monetizing the small screens of mobile. Yet it may take some refinement before it becomes something that consumers are comfortable with.