So now that everyone is talking about this semi-cryptic invitation Facebook sent out regarding a “new home for Android,” the question must be asked, are we ready for a Facebook powered smartphone? Do we even really want a Facebook powered smartphone?
The first question is fairly easy to answer, yes. Yes, “we” will certainly be able to handle whatever is unveiled next week. Yes, the market will certainly bear the burden of a new product or service and it will either succeed or fail.
The second question is not so easy to answer with a resounding “yes.” This is not a slight against Facebook or the way it handles its business. However, there is a hurdle that Facebook faces which other near-ubiquitous services are better positioned to handle and have handled with aplomb, like Google. Facebook and Google are alike in that hundreds of millions of people use their products. Each also have a dedicated core of users that love everything about their respective services. However, we can say the similarities end there.
Facebook needs the world to work within the framework of what makes Facebook work as a social network. Certainly the social network is successful, easily half of the access to Facebook is done from mobile devices, so it makes sense that Facebook would invest heavily in developing the network for the mobile platform. However, Facebook is facing a fatigue factor, there is only so much “share this” or “like” that which resonates with a user. After a while, all you may end up seeing is a collage of pictures of what people ate for breakfast intertwined with comments about puppies and children (yes, we are deliberately being overly simplistic).
Google on the other hand, does not operate in such confines, and the breadth of its services is far wider. On top of that, it is easier, and far more functional to integrate daily lives around what Google has designed as a whole. Google allows the world to come to it, rather than being centered as a news-feed of delivering the world to its users.
Can Facebook offer something similar? A complete user experience which can provide a mobile platform covering all the bases, from calendars to messaging, contacts to voice calling, documents in the cloud to email? No doubt Facebook would love it if people used all of its services the way users of Google (and to some extent Microsoft) do. Will the world bend to Facebook’s will?
We will not forecast on something we know so little about, but we will say this: the context of how we use our smartphones is the standard and it explains why Android and iOS platforms are the current benchmarks. As users, we are accustomed to diving deep into a single application to accomplish something. That it is not the most efficient way to do things is irrelevant, it is the reality of “what is” and that is one of the user experience challenges that Windows Phone has been hammering away at with its own deep Facebook integration.
Because of that, an arguably small segment smartphone users are actually “all-in” with their respective platforms. Android, iOS and Windows Phone all have different strengths when it comes to this, but in the end, the majority of people do not put all their eggs in one basket. However, if they were, is Facebook the right basket?
It is obvious why Facebook is pointing both barrels at mobile, and it does not take a brain surgeon to see why HTC is a willing partner. What is not as obvious is why people that already use Facebook on their smartphone, tablet and computer would feel compelled to make a leap into a Facebook-first environment on different hardware.
That will be the key to next Thursday’s announcement, Facebook will unveil its “new home on Android,” but must also show how it needs to become your home and make it the hub of all your mobile activities. That is what we will be looking for and that is what we will be sharing with you as well when PhoneArena.com covers the event for you.