Facebook Home a threat to Google Search, Google+ and other services on Android?

by: Chris SmithApril 4, 2013

Facebook Home Android Screenshots (24)

Facebook’s Home user interface for Android devices may just be one of the smartest moves done by the social network in mobile, as the new UI does away with Google’s Search app from regular Android home screens and will feature Facebook’s own ads at some point in the future. Not to mention that it could affect other Google services in the future, especially Google+.

In other words, Home may not a sure bet, and it may not even pay off in the end, but it’s definitely an attack against Google worth following.

Without forking Android like Amazon has, Facebook is still in a position in which it challenges Google’s core business, search and advertising, by attempting to take over the lock screen and home screen of Android mobile devices with its own apps built into the Home UI.

Google Search

TechCrunch points out that Home actively replaces the Google Search app on most Android devices, with users having either to go to the browser for their online searches or to switch launchers (which is entirely possible) to go to the Search app. It would appear, though, that Google Search is still there on the HTC First, the first Android handset that will ship with Home preloaded, but the app would disappear from the Home screens on those devices that will get Home from Google Play.

HTC First Facebook Home 1

Google Search is not removed from the phone during the Facebook Home installation, and Facebook would never get away with doing such a thing, but Facebook is apparently simply placing an obstacle in front of Google’s mobile Search app. Would that hurt Google ad-based revenue in the future?

How long until Facebook will somehow include a more advanced search of its own in the Home UI? After all, Facebook wants to bring new features to Home on a monthly basis, and it has already made its first baby steps into the Search business.

Mobile Ads

As for mobile ads, The Verge says that Facebook has confirmed via its main man Mark Zuckerberg that ads are in the picture for the future. Home will not ship with ads at launch, but the feature will arrive later down the road, described as just “another type of content,” that would hit one’s Cover Feed.

This is sort-of similar to what Amazon is doing in its forked Android environment, the difference being that if you agree to be served Amazon ads, you also get to buy a cheaper Amazon device.

Facebook Home Android Screenshots (18)

Comparatively, Facebook may end up serving ads on your phone without you getting any sort of discount on that phone or tablet (in the future). We’ll have to note though that we’re only speculating at this point on how ads on Facebook Home would work, as we have no way of knowing in advance what Facebook’s advertising policy for Home will be.

On its part, Google isn’t putting ads directly on the Home screen. But through its Search features, other services and even third-party apps, Google ads are presented in one way or another to Android users, and Google walks off with more and more money each year off of mobile search.

But what will happen if Facebook Home does become a popular UI for some Android device owners who won’t mind having to go an extra step to search for stuff online or see mobile ads on their lock screens?

Other UIs and bloatware

Facebook’s Home won’t only replace Android home screens but it could also interfere with other proprietary user interfaces for Android, not to mention third-party content from carriers that inevitably gets preloaded on Android smartphones.

Facebook announced that a variety of Android OEMs as well as mobile operators are willing to work with the social network to launch Android devices with support for Home.

Facebook Home Android Screenshots 1 (9)

But what does exactly mean? Will OEMs preload future handsets with Home? Are they going to give up their own user interfaces they built on top of Android to simply replace it with Facebook’s UI?

What about carrier bloatware that gets preloaded on Android devices? Won’t carriers mind the fact that their apps will be buried in a sea of Facebook apps? Or will they turn Home into an asset, bringing targeted ads to their subscribers via Facebook?

And then there’s Google+

One of Facebook’s biggest rivals in the social networking game right now is Google’s Google+, so what better way to deal a blow to Google’s social network than by placing a Facebook-filled environment on top of Android?

Sure, Home does include an app launcher that will let users quickly launch any apps they desire, Google+ included. But with so many Facebook apps included in Home, and so many ways to interact with their Facebook friends, won’t they, in time, forget about Google+, or at least become less active?

Facebook Home Android Screenshots (23)

The numbers are not in Google’s favor when it comes to this social battle. Facebook has topped 1 billion users as of September 2012, with more than half of them using the service on mobile devices. Comparatively, Google+ has over 500 million users (235 million active on a monthly basis) as of December 2012.

Meanwhile, over 750 million Android devices have been activated to date, and the number will most likely pass 800 million by the end of the year.

Since both Google and Facebook make their money mainly from mobile advertising, they both need to be able to serve targeted ads to consumers, and thus their social networks are a way of getting the job done. The larger the active user base for each network, the better ads either Facebook or Google would serve. Sure, the later has other ways to leverage data in order to offer better-tailored ads, but that doesn’t mean it can afford to lose the Google+ battle, especially on its home turf.

Facebook vs Google

Sure, not every Android user will get Facebook Home, especially those consumers that like to run their own custom ROMs or who prefer a vanilla Android experience unobstructed by any other UI layers. But that still leaves a lot of Android device owners that would appreciate using Facebook apps on their mobile devices right from the Home and/or lock screen.

After all, Facebook did not risk the farm on this move. The company is simply leveraging its power in the social networking business, and by power we mean the fact that the Facebook app is the most popular smartphone app, to turn a profit.

Facebook Home Android Screenshots 1 (8)

Considering that so many people go to the Facebook app countless times during the day – and Facebook probably has a good idea on what the usage of its mobile apps is – offering them an even easier way to check out content from their friends seems like a no brainer for Facebook, especially on a platform so popular as Google’s Android and so… open source.

Facebook could not try to take away the iOS or Windows Phone screens in such a manner, but with Android these prized possessions could be there for the taking.

Google can’t really be happy about this whole Facebook Home thing, or at least we wouldn’t expect it to publicly acknowledge it, especially since Facebook rather praised Android for its openness on stage during its media event. In fact, here’s what Google told VentureBeat when asked about Facebook Home:

The Android platform has spurred the development of hundreds of different types of devices. This latest collaboration demonstrates the openness and flexibility that has made Android so popular. And it’s a win for users who want a customized Facebook experience from Google Play — the heart of the Android ecosystem — along with their favorite Google services like Gmail, Search, and Google Maps.

However, the same source says that Nexus devices won’t support Facebook Home, which is an indication that Google can’t be too thrilled about this.

Facebook Home Android Screenshots (13)

But the fact is that Facebook is challenging Google on its own turf, and could potentially endanger Google’s mobile money-making avenues. Mind you though, that will not happen all of a sudden – and it may not happen at all – but Facebook it’s clearly making a run for it, and it’s not even hiding the fact that monetizing Home will follow.

How will Google fight back? That still remains to be seen, but the Facebook vs Google fight is getting more and more serious.

What kind of Android user are you? Will you install Facebook Home on your Android smartphone or you like things as they are now?

  • anops

    im here to say this “home” is going to fail because people will notice a battery life cut of a 40% because the damn thing will never go to sleep ! just like the facebook app!

  • Jacob Mustin

    hahaha. No, facebook home is not a threat to anybody except the reputation of the facebook mobile team… and lets be honest, they dont have a reputation as it is. :)

    • taz89

      Agree don’t see this as a threat and doubt many people will actually use this as there main launcher

      • I won’t install Facebook Home WTF app… :( (It is another thread to users who are all concerned about their privacy)

        It is not only a thread to Google’s Search, It is thread to a other popular apps also.
        Better Google must introduce home screen policies and block unwanted threads like this.

        • john


          • Typo edited John. Thanks… :)

  • Denis Levesque

    Well, seeing has I JUST uninstalled facebook due to them changing their permissions to allow them to downloading anything to my android devices without asking me. Not going to be on my 2 devices.

  • Al

    I probably won’t use facebook home based on my Google search experience. Basically Google search took up so much of my phone’s memory that it slowed its performance to an unusable degree. I don’t expect facebook home to be any different.

    • john

      get a decent phone then

  • AndroidDev123

    It looks great for people who still use Facebook frequently, and they may get a lot of downloads, but as soon as they start serving up ads right on people’s home screen I’m sure most users will quickly uninstall it. I’ve already heard complaints from friends about the creepy factor of Facebook knowing things about them which they didn’t tell it (real life friends, family, birth year, etc.), so serving up ads on the main page, especially targeted ones (ex. related the the apps you have installed, or businesses around where you currently are) will probably creep a lot of people out. We’ve already seen apps which serve up ads in notifications getting a huge backlash.

  • dogulas

    Can launchers like this be simply uninstalled?

    • RaptorOO7

      If its built into the device like the HTC First then no not unless you get a custom ROM for it which strips it away. You can run another launcher on it, but I bet the integration is pretty deep and will be running in the background tracking what you do, who you call, text, pic msg, etc.

  • RaptorOO7

    I certainly don’t want FB having any more information about me than they do and I don’t want them knowing anything about my mobile life or the ability to track my user profile and the data it generates. Sure Google does it but I want their free services and that is something I am willing to trade off for, but not creep FB.

  • notanewb

    Even if Nexus devices did support Facebook Home, I would never let that garbage on my Nexus 4. Stock Jelly Bean, ftw!

    • dogulas

      Haha that’s true, I doubt anyone who is smart enough to get a Nexus phone wouldn’t ever install facebook Home.

      • I’d say a lot of Facezombies wouldn’t even know how to install something from an app store like Google Play anyway. From what I’ve seen, If the FB app wasn’t already on their phone when they bought it, many can’t work out how to “do Facebook” on the phone.

  • Alu Zeros

    can’t see it being a threat, there’s more than facebook….texting, phone calls, etc

  • ramonq619

    I don’t see it as a threat. Its basically an app. Everything you can do on facebook home you can do it on the app

  • William Peterson

    No FB Home for me. G+ will do something similar I’m sure and when they do, if it’s like comparing the FB app of today to G+, It will be quite nice. They are not a threat. All those FB junkies will do the same as they do now, waste their time learning about what Fred ate last night, how pissed sue is over whatever and how bad my tummy hurts. In the end, both will make money & both will tell you they care about you…. Your money that is. That said, I prefer my rooted GS3 with the Baked ROM on it, keeping it close to vanilla as I can. When I want to see what’s up in the social world, I just open G+ or Falcon.

  • K.

    Who wants facebook phone to start with? And for those who don’t buy that phone, I don’t see them using this crappy home launcher with ads. This is really a joke and will fail badly.

    • le_lutin

      Who wants a Facebook phone?
      Lemme see… People who love facebook? And there are millions of those people.

      Seems to be a lot of confusion in these comments. People whose hatred of Facebook automatically leads them to the conclusion that a phone that puts facebook at the forefront of the mobile experience will automatically fail.

      I dislike facebook as much as the next nerd, but let’s not pretend it’s not popular. Let’s not pretend that millions of people don’t use their phones to access facebook. Let’s not pretend that a phone which facilitates access to facebook’s services will automatically fail.

      • K.

        The phone is coming very soon and we’ll see how many people are interested in these facecraps.

  • Really? is it me or is every other Android Authority story about threats? Shit is getting repetitive and boring…

    • le_lutin

      I think it’s you.

    • Jelly Bean

      Google versus Apple.
      Google versus Facebook.
      Google versus Samesung.
      Google versus EVERYONE! (well, they do own a lot of information about everyone…)


    facebook is noway a threat for google

  • this will probably require 24/7 3G to actually be “usefull”. i this i will stick to SF Launcher for now.


    it will fail nobody is really going to buy into a facebook eco system this is the second time facebook has tried to do this. then take into factor a die hard android users who is one of two things a user with a rooted phone or runs launchers die hard android users go to android for freedom and customization and facebook start throwing ads up once they will it will lose value now lets touch on the biggest problem it will have. big as android is android more popular over seas apple still has a tight hold in the u.s because its eco system apple has a following that iphone cult isnt leaving for a facebook phone facebook limited it self you have a small percentage of black berry windows people as well so to only do this on android setting themseleves for a fail

  • Tíghearnán Carroll

    This article is one of the worst I’ve ever read. Just a bunch of made up shit stirring. Seriously, removing Google Search? How many phones just need a long press of the home button to launch search?

  • anon

    I’d rather use Nova, Espier, Launcher8 or SS Launcher. An fb app is enough for me.


    the only losers in this game are – iOS and Microsoft… Poor people

    • I would actually call them the winners since they don’t have to worry about this mass infestation of FB on their devices. FB can’t even get the app right on Android… and now they make a UI??? Priorities.

  • I can’t w8 to delete this of my next phone!

  • Tonnie

    No FB Home for me. G+ is much better!

    • Omran Terro

      At least it’s much faster !!

  • Considering that Facebook apps and associated widgets/extensions are the first thing I delete or freeze when I get a new phone or rom update, you can be certain I will never install this piece of crap launcher on anything I own.

  • mggOptimusG

    Infact every time I see a Facebook stunt it reminds me I should remove everything FB related. But it’s about communication and sharing with friends. So I hesitate.
    I want to be free, and I want to be part of “it”…. At least part time.
    Come on FB, give me a reason.

  • Facebook home screen is a Fail … I regret ever signing up to facecrap and if i open it up one a month its already too much for me..

  • photoRew Andy

    Nothing wrong with a Facebook app, for those that like that sort of thing, But, OEMs like HTC falling in to bed with Facebook, can only spell disaster for them.. Look how successful the HTC Cha Cha was.. I suspect most of us use Facebook as a useful communication tool, end of..

  • tBs_Battousai

    I would love facebook to go away forever…

  • Albert Bos

    Had become interested in this app, but my Galaxy Tab 2.0 7 inch crashed immediately uppon launch.