Now that I have actually laid my own hands on Facebook Home (via the HTC One), I feel that my “official” thoughts are ready for prime time. For avid Facebook users, I can see Home being a great addition to their smartphone. If you don’t want to read this entire piece, I can tell you that I won’t be using Home any time soon. For those with the time and patience to read the entire article, read on for my thoughts on Facebook Home.
On the whole, I think Home will treat avid Facebook users well. Some have stated that Home could potentially spur further Android fragmentation. This won’t be the case since Home is simply a home/lock screen replacement. There isn’t any modifications to the core OS. Home can run atop any version of Android and be turned on/off by the user at any point.
Since Home relies on updates and photos posted from your Facebook friends, there is naturally concern about the type of content that can present itself on your home screen at a moments notice. I can’t imagine what would happen if my boss passed by my desk at the exact time one of my friends posted a NSFW picture. If I were to buy in, there would need to be a way to set which content can be posted to Home and a list of acceptable friends. I would much rather receive status updates only, rather than photos. I am not really wild about Home simply being a gateway to my News Feed.
I do however, like the communication aspects of Home. Lately I have used Messenger to communicate with groups of friends. Whether it be to plan an event or outing, or just get the word out to multiple people quickly, I am finding Messenger to be a great option.
Facebook is also starting to integrate VOIP, giving them a major leg up on the competition. Windows has Skype integration, but Apple is sticking to iMessage (Haven’t heard anything about “iVoice”) and Google’s acquisition of Gizmo5 and Global IP Solutions leaves roughly $100 Million in missed Google Voice opportunities. Being an avid Google Voice user, thinking about this actually makes me really upset.
The plain truth of the matter is that 99% of my friends and family are now on Facebook and being able to interact and communicate with them across one platform is attractive. There are so many mediums of communication on the Internet these days, it is really hard to keep track of how many ways people can contact me. By bringing Home to users, they are hitting a large segment of the population.
With that said, Facebook will not hit an even larger part of the population until they go cross-platform. Not being able to integrate Home with iOS, WP8 and BB10 is going to be the single largest crutch of this product. The entire strategy revolves around people being able to communicate and interact with their friends and colleagues, but only if they are using an Android device (and only if that Android device is one the 5 or 6 Home-compatible devices). Not only that, but the software is built in a way that pretty much excludes itself from being able to integrate with other operating systems. The idea of a home screen replacement is unique to Android and even if Apple, Microsoft and BlackBerry allow Facebook in to their closed ecosystem to develop Home, it will have to be modified for each OS leaving users with a variable experience.
Time will tell on the success of this product but whenever something new and shiny is released, I always ask myself “What problem is this solving?” Up to this point, I have solid cross-platform solutions for my communication and information needs. I also switch between mobile ecosystems quite frequently and Home being Android only for now, is a huge hurdle to overcome.