Ok, so here’s a more accurate and current update to my earlier post about the so-called “Facebook phone”.
Seems like what Zuck is doing is now allowing any Android phone user to essentially turn their device into a “Facebook phone” by simply downloading an app called “Home”. This app places a new Facebook layer over the existing Android OS, which makes Facebook the primary interface for all basic phone functions. I was accurate that there will be a new device from HTC called the HTC First – which will be the first phone to be sold with Home pre-loaded into the OS. But, on April 12, any Android user can go to the Google Play store and download Home and turn their Android phone into a Facebook phone.
According to TechCrunch: Anyone who has the most recent version of the current Facebook App as well as Messenger will be able to download Home. If so, you will apparently get some kind of banner alert to download Home from the Google Play store. When you launch it the first time, you can decide to “try once”, or choose “always” to swap in Home for you home screen from then on. Facebook will try to make Home available on tablets within a few months, and it’s supposed to be a great experience there. Every month, Facebook will release a Home update to add new features and make it accessible to new devices. The Newsfeed feature will be called “Cover Feed” and will display what are called “Chat Heads”, or little bubbles with the face/head of your friends when you receive a chat or message from them. These Chat Heads will appear at the top of the screen within any app or feature that you use on the phone and can be ignored or responded to via some swiping options.
Overall, the idea is to fully layer or integrate Facebook into the entire Android experience, which for all intents and purposes makes the Facebook experience a 24/7 always on environment for users. This is could be a real boon for people who already rely heavily on Facebook for updates, chats, invites, groupings, etc. on Facebook – and weave these functions more ubiquitously into their daily use. It could also drive people to WANT to integrate Facebook’s tools into their usage if they find that the new Home OS works well, and provides more speed and connectivity to their social network.
This is an interesting and very clever strategy. By creating a universally accessible app for any Android user, Facebook has created a very robust distribution strategy. You have to think that a lot of Android users are at the least going to download it and try it (the Home app allows for a “try it once” option- smart) and play with it for a little while. Some will stick, some will not. But this strategy exponentially increases the pool of potential users.
Amazingly, Google cooperated with this – which is shocking frankly, as Google’s entire Android strategy is going to get killed by this new app.
Here’s why: One of Google’s primary objectives for the development of Android was to force users to rely on Google’s proprietary tools: Gmail, Search, Google Maps, Google Chat, etc. and hence continue to feed the beast with the heaps of data that nourish its colossal search juggernaut. With Home, Facebook bypasses all of these tools by letting users simply use Facebook for most of these functions. Why Google would be ok with this is curious. Could be that Zuck is playing a very clever game of gotcha – in forcing Google to make a Sophie’s Choice about its commitment to Open Source Free Range integrations. We shall see how it plays out.