Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Facebook Home: A Whole New Experience from Your Smartphone

Screen Shot 2013 04 09 at 10 58 03 PM

(Photo from Facebook)

Facebook started as a website that hosts social network, and it is still true even today. However, its presence in mobile space is getting more prominent than ever. Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that, instead of launching a physical and dedicated 'Facebook Phone', Facebook Home is released to bring a whole new experience for smartphone users.

By nature, Facebook Home is an Android Interface and app launcher that brings together Facebook services and put social network (or human? according to Mr. Zuckerberg) at the centre of the user experience. Cover feeds are right on top of the screen and chatting with friends is just a tap away. No doubt, you can still access other apps as normal, just a bit tricky to find them.

It indeed is a clever move for Facebook to take. In fact, the company doesn't need to manufacture a 'Facebook' phone'. First, it isn't an expert in designing a smartphone and put it in mass production. There is no way for Facebook to compete with Apple and Samsung in controlling the cost. Second, even the phone was designed and out on the market, who will actually buy a phone just for the sake of Facebook system? Don't forget that you still can use Facebook on your iPhone or other Android phones. 

Creating Facebook Home greatly reduces the company's development cost, but its impact is no less than launching a physical phone. iOS and Android are very much app focused: you tap on an icon, get into an app and do things accordingly. Facebook Home smartly rearranges and integrates the functions at one place, and its focus is on people: you can message or email friends, check their latest updates and call them for urgent matters, all in one screen. It brings back the very original intention of a phone: communicating with people. That is something Google and Apple will be afraid, because now Facebook has come right in the way between their products and the customers.

Certainly, Facebook still needs to set a benchmark in its Facebook Home experience. That's why we have HTC First, which will be a phone model that is pre-installed with Facebook Home. Interestingly, Facebook doesn't choose Samsung, the largest Android phone manufacturer as the partner. There could be a conflict of interest between them since Samsung has been trying very hard to promote its own services so as to create an eco-system like Apple. HTC, however, is struggling with its declining smartphone sales and I suppose it will desperately grab any opportunity to regain its market share. Whether the collaboration will succeed, we'll wait and see.

I am definitely going to try out the Facebook Home once it's available for download on 12 April. Then I would have more to say in my blog, whether Facebook has played its magic this time.   

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