Facebook Home: Another tech tweak or a paradigm shift for smartphone user experience?
Over a year ago, Mark Zuckerberg voiced a problem, “not enough people are using Facebook on their mobile phone”. Since then, there have been various rumours flying around. Yesterday, Zuckerberg announced what he hopes to be the solution…
It isn’t a phone, nor is it an operating system. Zuckerberg describes Facebook Home as ‘a suite of apps’. With the ultimate aim to make you use Facebook more on your mobile and for Facebook to see what everyone’s doing on their smartphone. The benefit for YOU? It is designed around people, encouraging you to see your world through people, and get the information you want from them. Facebook Home replaces your current home screen interface, and will be the ‘Facebook Experience’, featuring photographs, status updates and notifications.
Facebook Home will be launched as a fully integrated part of HTC’s new phone, HTC First. It will then also be available to download on a number of phones including Sony, other HTC’s and Samsung. It is also set to be rolled out on to Tablet devices in a few months time. Apple aren’t currently set to get Facebook Home, but we wonder if they will in coming months, or perhaps Apple will take the most successful parts of this suite and come up with their own app suite to making everything easier and integrated.
We are particularly intrigued about the ‘Chat Heads‘ feature. It removes cumbersome notifications, and the need to leave other apps, by ‘popping up’ and allowing you to interact with Facebook Messenger and SMS conversations without having to leave the app you are already using, be it video, news, or a browser.
We think Facebook were wise not to go down the phone manufacturing route, trying to persuade an already engaged audience to change from the likes of Apple and Samsung would have led to disappointment in the uptake and probable failure. Facebook Home is an interesting development in smartphone software design. We’re all familiar now with the app-centric mobile experience, Facebook Home seems to take a step away from this recognised concept and back towards the multiple window functionality of the desktop computing experience.
There are of course a few apprehensions about user uptake flying around already. People are already speculating about privacy protection, with a lot of discomfort about Facebook having access to everything. We’ll be interested to see how Facebook deals with this concern and whether it will affect user uptake of Facebook Home. The second issue for potential users, are ‘annoying-sponsored posts’. Whilst we of course understand the value for brands, consumers find them ‘irritating’ in a news feed context and will likely find them even more so if they’re integrated with the operating system to appear no matter what else the user is doing. Sponsored posts apparently won’t be on the app in the beginning, but it is rumoured they’ll feature in the future, which could, depending on how it’s executed put a lot of people off. No one wants to see endless adverts flying around their home screen. Of course the other issue put to Zuckerberg at the launch… Are young people in particular, turning away from Facebook? The question felt slightly dodged by the response it received. So we are thinking that if young people are, then of course this will affect the uptake of this app…
It’s still difficult to forecast what the uptake for Facebook Home will be. As with every Facebook development there are always a lot of skeptical and negatives views circulating. Knowing Zuckerberg’s previous developments if he really wants to make this work it might just do that. We support any improvements to the way phones and apps work for the user. Ultimately, we think the most exciting part of this is what will come off the back of it, will people use Facebook more? What will other brands and app designers do following this development?