Why Facebook Home is a home run for Android

April 9, 2013
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Facebook Home Android Screenshots 1 (4)
As soon as Facebook unveiled Home for Android, the online tech media was quick to dissect it into tiny bits and pieces, not without a hefty amount of criticism, most of which coming from people who don’t use Facebook (or those who simply quit, or claim to have quit, the social network).

Without trying to send out any criticism of my own, I found that plenty of tech bloggers were a bit quick to forget that Facebook is the biggest social network out there, and despite the fact that Google Plus is now an important player in the market, Facebook is currently showing no sign of decline.

To me, Facebook and Android make for one hell of a combination if, somehow, these two tech giants could collaborate for a single, unified experience that encapsulates both the Facebook philosophy on mobile social networking, but Google Play compatibility as well. Oh wait, they just did!

HTC First

Throughout this article, I will try to analyze the potential impact Facebook Home could make in the Android ecosystem, and not enter any discussion about the product or its features. I will also avoid talking about the security related concerns that Facebook Home has raised.

I will also intentionally avoid discussing the HTC First, the only smartphone announced this far to come with Facebook Home preinstalled, mainly because I believe Facebook Home’s potential success or failure has absolutely nothing to do with what appears to be a mid-range Android smartphone at best. I may be going off the limb here a bit, but could it be that the only reason why the HTC First exists is because Facebook needed to heed pre-launch rumors? Could it be that Facebook had to tap into the hype such rumors have created around a potential Facebook phone?

In consequence, the purpose of this opinion piece is to point out a few factors that might change in the smartphone ecosystem now that Facebook has specifically targeted Google’s ecosystem with Home on Android. If you’re looking to find out what the rest of the team here at Android Authority thinks of Facebook Home, you can read our more recent Friday Debate on the matter.

On how Android just dodged a bullet

Facebook Home Android Screenshots (18)

The possibility of a Facebook smartphone has been so intensely debated and rumored over the past couple of years that everyone seemed to agree that if Facebook were to release a smartphone, it would be running a forked version of Android, much like the Amazon Kindle Fire.

In addition to that, one train of thought that’s popular amongst online pundits is that more and more device manufacturers will start looking into the possibility of forking Android so that they’re able to stand out in the crowd.

But following the Facebook Home announcement, it is my opinion that the Android ecosystem has not only eliminated this theoretical threat, but it has further cemented its position at the top of the mobile ecosystem.

Were Facebook to fork Android, I believe it would have been a clear sign for the rest of the industry that forking is the only way to go if you wanted to stand out. Fortunately for the market as a whole, Facebook Home is clear proof that unneeded fragmentation can be avoided by creating software that works on top of Android, instead of eliminating all compatibility for the sake of being unique.

Android vs iOS: a Facebook Timeline

Android vs iOS

For as long as the Facebook app has been an important component of any smartphone, Android users found themselves envying iPhone users for the quality and responsiveness of their Facebook implementation. The basic interface was roughly the same on both iOS and Android, but it is just that the dedicated app for Android were not as smooth. As a consequence, Facebook was not a major factor when deciding to go for an iPhone or for an Android smartphone.

Now that Facebook has unveiled Facebook Home for Android, the situation has dramatically changed, as Android now offers a much more immersive — and hopefully much smoother — implementation. This might not matter a lot to those of us who are not exactly complete Facebook addicts, but you’ve got to admit that there are a lot of people who use Facebook as the primary function of their smartphone. In my opinion, all those people will now have one extra reason to choose Android over iOS.

In addition, due to the closed nature of iOS, Facebook Home will not be coming to the iPhone or iPad anytime soon, as iOS does not support custom launchers. Bottom line: Facebook has just become one (if not the most) powerful Android ally.

Facebook Home on Windows Phone, Blackberry 10

When talking about the reason Facebook opted for a custom launcher instead of a forked version of Android, Mark Zuckerberg wanted traction. He argued that targeting just a few million users is of no importance for Facebook on the long run. To me, this speaks clearly about the fact that Facebook Home is unlikely to arrive on either Windows Phone or BlackBerry 10 — two mobile operating systems that together amount for only a fraction of the Android user base.

Custom launchers

Custom launchers have been one of the main reasons why more tech-savvy users prefer Android. But as it turns out, the vast majority of Android users are complete strangers to the notion of a custom launcher, mainly due to the fact that these custom launchers are more of an enthusiast thing instead of a profitable niche at this point.

Now, the huge fan base that Facebook has, combined with the tight grip Android has over the smartphone market, will eventually translate into a large number of users who will install Facebook Home as their first custom launcher for Android. And once users start understanding the awesome concept of a custom launcher, I believe that custom launcher developers will start writing more and better custom launchers since they will soon have a larger users base to target.

What I’m really trying to say here is that custom launchers will become much more popular, and thus a real advantage in the market for Google, and not just another paragraph in “top 10 reasons Android is better than iOS” articles.

Home Run!

Android already has a lot of inertia, although it also seemed like there was a lack of impact-making software that’s available exclusively for Google’s mobile platform. I’m not saying that Home is the best thing that happened to Android in the past year, but love it or hate it, the concept will surely make a lot of impact on the market.

Is Facebook Home just another custom launcher for Android? Will be a success, or will it flop? We are aware that the prevailing opinion on Facebook as a social network is not entirely positive. But wouldn’t you agree that Facebook Home makes for a great synergy between Android and Facebook?

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/piyushr21 Piyush

    Or it can be worse just saying , more ads like facebook home

  • Anoma_dotNET

    Facebook is experiencing a plateau at the moment and with the lack of improvements lately it needs to improve it’s services greatly to avoid a user failover to other services.

    Facebook Home is in no way an improvement on any Android function and only serves to be a distraction to convince FB users that they’ve created something “special”.

    They’re targeting the less informed users by releasing a sub-standard product. That is all that is happening with this latest announcement

    http://goo.gl/PUQAf

  • http://www.facebook.com/msantaka Mochammad Santaka

    Nice, Android Authority (And Mike). Good point on how other companies might release their own custom launcher like Facebook if this thing does well. Finally an article where you know the writer sat down and spent some time thinking before writing.

    The past week all I’m seeing is “It’s gonna fail! BLAH!” “Zuckerberg is the devil! BLAH!” without a sound reason on other techblog (And comments).

  • Phil Nolan

    Great for android, sad for customers.

  • http://www.androidauthority.com Derek Scott

    We have to remember the internet is Facebook for a large portion of the population. It’s the starting point for everything they do on the internet. This is a huge win for Android as this will be a selling point for people purchasing a new phone.

  • Jim Smith

    You forgot to mention how Facebook Home going to make money at this. Ads are now less clicks away from when you first open your phone? A custom launcher with ads? Who going to develop the first Facebook Home ad blocker?

  • http://twitter.com/lukamlinar Luka Mlinar

    sponsored ad? :)

  • nishantsirohi123

    this is a good first step
    if you see most custom launcher

    majority of them are made by small developers hence are not very smooth

    ok there are big stuff like Go Launcher but it is so ad hungry that it ends up being a nuisance.
    Facebook is ad free, so an ad free custom launcher by a big company
    another thing which I feel is how this might be modified by XDA people

  • http://twitter.com/Peter__Blanco Peter Blanco

    If Facebook keeps ads out of Home (which they’ve basically confirmed that they’re NOT going to do) I think that Home has a really good potential. If Facebook can improve their UI a little bit and keep a consist and SMOOTH experience with Home, I think it could potentially be a big success. Only time will tell.

  • KID ANDROID

    I’m digging Facebook Home and can’t wait to try it. I talk to many ppl through Facebook and the Facebook Home will make it so much easier to get other things done while talking to ppl on Facebook, the chat heads are genius and I don’t know why nobody else thought about it. If anything it could give other launcher makers more ideas about implementation of ways to chat to friends while still accomplishing other tasks. Depending on how ads are implemented is whether or not Facebook Home is a hit or a complete failure, I’m thinking they’ll go too strong with the ads at some point and destroy the whole idea. We will then associate going overboard on something with Zuckerberg and start saying “man they Zuckerberg’d that idea” lol ;-)

  • APai

    3 months down the line, the critics seem to have got it right, and facebook has failed. it might take them more attempts to somehow make it work. already 2 face book branded phones have failed – htc cha-cha/ salsa, and htc first. they tried going after samsung to make a new facebook phone. looks like no one wants facebook to be their internet or mobile :)