Yesterday, Facebook made an announcement that shook the mobile industry to its very core. It literally changed everything. They announced not only new software, but also unveiled a new device from HTC, which will be optimized to run that new software! All of those rumors finally came together, collected over the past couple of years, to create something truly groundbreaking. Mark April 4 on your calendar, ladies and gentlemen. An epoch took place on that particular date, and nothing shall ever be the same.
Or, Facebook announced a new Android launcher, and HTC unveiled a mid-range device called the First.
In all seriousness, yesterday did mark what I will certainly hope is the end to all those “Facebook phone” rumors. At least for a year. I think we’re seeing that Facebook, or Mark Zuckerberg at least, wants to be the Facebook phone in the First from HTC. More than that, I think their idea of what a Facebook phone should be is what they’ve designed in Facebook Home: A launcher that replaces your TouchWiz/Sense/Stock launcher in favor of the lowercase “f.” As Zuckerberg and company put it on stage yesterday, it’s not about an app, but about the people you know.
As the day was winding down, Anna Scantlin wrote about why the HTC First will make a great first phone for plenty of people out there, and she’s right for plenty of reasons. At “only” $100 on a new, two-year contract the First will see plenty of second looks for anyone who uses Facebook as their social network of choice, and doesn’t want to pay more than $100 up front for their phone.
Except, I can barely justify that as a reason to buy the First. There are just other options. Right now, if you look at the Samsung Galaxy S III from AT&T, you can buy it on a new, two-year contract for $100 as well. And guess what? It’s getting Facebook Home, too, beginning April 12. The main difference is that the Galaxy S III has a better display, faster processor, and just overall better specifications. Why anyone would pick up the First instead of a Galaxy S III is just a little beyond me. Unless you just can’t stand having a screen larger than 4.3-inches, and then I understand perfectly.
I use Facebook to stay connected to family and close friends, especially those who haven’t made the switch to Twitter. However, my main takeaway from Facebook is its Messenger functionality, and not so much, well, anything else. Do I need a proprietary launcher to replace the Facebook app? No, not really. Do I need a launcher to replace my SMS and Messenger applications? Not really. The app itself is fine, and Messenger does exactly what it’s supposed to. I don’t check my Facebook stream . . . timeline? . . . Whatever it’s called enough to see the Facebook Home as a rational choice for me.
However, I do know people who practically live on Facebook, and so I think Facebook Home will be a good option for them. An option, at the very least. Some of these people have Windows Phone 8-based devices, and they use their lockscreen settings to keep their Facebook notifications right there up front at all times. Facebook Home for Android is like that, but better, in that it has more functionality.
Let’s not mess around here: Facebook Home is designed for the people who use Facebook, the way that Facebook thinks you should use it. This isn’t for folks who check their page once, maybe twice a day. This is for the folks who use Facebook to connect, check-in, message, read, and just generally interact with those around them. There’s nothing wrong with that. Facebook is making something that speaks to its most personal members of its customer base. Good for them.
But that doesn’t mean you need to include the whole experience, Facebook. Because, as much as I think the Facebook timeline is fine, and it gets the job done for showing me things that family members and friends think or are doing, the one thing I absolutely hate is advertisements. I’ve literally hated every single step of their evolution in Facebook’s history. They used to be hard to catch. And then they appeared on the right side of the page, but they’d disappear after a little while if you didn’t interact with them all that much. (I kind of remember being able to dismiss them, too. But maybe that was a dream I had once.) More recently, though, the right side of my page is drowned in ads. That’s all it is.
But, worse, is that advertisements, for all sorts of different things, have invaded my timeline. These ads are actually one reason why I don’t find the need to check Facebook as often as I could. I just don’t want to see them. But obviously Facebook has jumped on the advertisement train, and they don’t plan on getting off anytime soon.
In fact, Zuckerberg confirmed at the press event yesterday that while Facebook Home doesn’t feature any advertisements right now, that it will have them at a later date. So, for those of you out there who are excited to get your fingertips on Facebook Home, cherish the moments you have with it now, because you’re going to be swallowing ads all day every day at some point in the future.
That doesn’t sound fun at all. I’m not even a fan of advertisements showing up in the Android notification shade, something we’ve seen implemented in the past. If the Cover Feed really will be a home for advertisements, then I’ve completely lost any and all interest in it. And since Messenger works just fine on its own, and Instagram works, too, I guess Facebook Home is just something I’ll only be able to experience vicariously through others.
How do you feel about advertisements being in the Facebook Home Cover Feed? Do you think that’s a smart move on Facebook’s part? Or do you believe they should be trying to keep the experience about the people in your life (that you know through Facebook), without shoving product placement down your throat? Let me know what you think about Facebook’s impending new software.