Smartphones that are centered around social networking platforms will never work

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: June 19, 2013

As a person who has grown up with social networking websites, I can honestly say I’m addicted to them. It started out as a simple Xanga blog with gems like, “AUUUUUUGHHHHHH WHAT IS UP WITH MY COMMENTS?! THAT'S RIGHT, NOTHING, BECAUSE THERE ARE NONE!” (Actual excerpt from my Xanga in 2005). After Xanga fizzled (probably because I didn’t get any comments) I moved to MySpace, where you never really updated anything other than your profile picture and/or relationship status. I’m not sure when I decided to jump ship from MySpace to Facebook, but I imagine it was at the point when music and entertainment became the main focus of MySpace instead of connecting with your friends. Facebook is still where I currently spend most of my social networking time, but along with Facebook you have other popular choices like Twitter and Google+.

Along with the rise and fall of different social networking sites, the methods used to visit these types of websites have also changed. Physically sitting at a computer used to be the easiest way to visit these websites, but with the development of smartphones and the app markets that come with them social networking has been taken to a whole new level of convenience when it comes to updating your status, uploading a photo, or sharing media with each other. A designated application was the perfect solution to give users the full experience of a social network from our phones without having to deal with the limitations of traditional “mobile” versions. And that’s all that social networks ever needed.

We’ve seen HTC come to pass with not one, but two “Facebook phones” that have tried and failed. The HTC ChaCha was the first Facebook phone that flopped. This was back in 2011, back when nobody was joking when they called an Android phone “low end”. It was pretty much guaranteed to give you problems sooner rather than later. Top it off with the fact that any Android phone could download a Facebook app just as easily and this phone didn’t offer anything extra special other than a designated Facebook button - whoopty-doo! The phone was pretty much doomed from the start.

The second device was more recent – the HTC First. The HTC First was advertised as the new “Facebook phone” featuring a new launcher, Facebook Home. This is likely what truly threw off its sales. After we got our hands on the product, we found out that it actually made a pretty solid nearly-stock Android device once you turned the Facebook Home launcher off. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done: it had already been branded as “The Facebook Phone”, and therefore anybody not interested in a Facebook phone most likely dismissed it without question.

Facebook Home makes for a nice alternative launcher for those who are interested, but I feel like it should have only ever been launched as that – an alternative launcher. The HTC First should have been launched as an almost-vanilla Android device with an emphasis on the option to download Facebook Home.

So we already have two failed phones that tried to make it work with a modern, popular social networking platform. Today, tech news website Ars Technica revealed that Samsung reportedly turned away Facebook, who was springing the idea to make yet another Facebook phone. Good on you for learning from HTC, Samsung; but Facebook… come on. The whole “third time is a charm” thing doesn’t work for everything.

Realistically, a phone that’s created to center around one social network will never work. I mean honestly, every smartphone is already a Facebook phone; every phone is also a Twitter phone, a LinkedIn phone, a YouTube phone, a Reddit phone, a whatever you want it to be phone. That’s what we like about them – the ability to add and remove different elements as they come and go from our lives. Social networking sites are unpredictably disposable. They come and go. They start off simple, they get big, they get greedy, and people leave; to the left, to the left. Move on to the next social networking site, delete the previous app, and download the new one. Voila. Everybody’s happy.

We don’t need a Facebook Phone, a Twitter Phone, or a whatever-other-website-happens-to-be-popular at the time phone; just let the manufacturers stick to making good hardware, and the social networking sites stick to honing on their respective apps. It’s just that simple.

Images via Facebook, Technology Review

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