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The Facebook "phone" that no one wants

Mon, 04/08/2013 - 2:56pm
Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor

Well, well, well. It looks like Facebook has finally decided to join the big boys and create their own phone.

It’s the phone that absolutely no one was waiting for.

To quote the parody video below, “Stop. Don’t do that. Nobody wants it.”

Facebook has a habit of ignoring what most people say and forging ahead on their own path. On one hand, that’s helped them create a unique and wildly successful (if not mediocre on some levels) main product. On the other hand, once they got cocky, they made a mess of their stock, totally confused everyone with privacy settings, made the product increasingly convoluted and difficult to use, and generally made everyone mad.

But don't let all that cloud your judgement; let’s talk about their phone.

First of all, it’s not really a phone that Facebook built. In fact it’s not really a phone at all. It’s a homepage called “Facebook Home” that can be downloaded on any Android and can be used as your homescreen or a lockscreen.  (Side note: I’ve never been so pleased to be a diehard Apple fan.)

Basically the overgrown app turns your whole phone into a Facebook app. This is exactly what everyone wants, said no one ever.

Although, if we’re quoting actual numbers, a recent survey revealed only 3 percent of people want a phone based on a social network. 

The Facebook Home is supposed to create a phone that’s about people, not apps, playing to the social site’s strengths. It will be available April 12 on the HTC One, HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III and S IV and Samsung Galaxy Note II. 

They put out an official video explaining the Facebook Home, which is worth a look. It doesn’t talk about the tech aspects, but it explains what they were going for.

When the Facebook Home  is up—whether it’s through your locked or homepage screen—your Facebook feed will appear with updates, images, and posts from your friends. In addition to your actual Facebook updates, it pushes alerts from all the other apps to the main feed. It aggregates all of your "important" info onto the main screen.

Plus, as an added bonus, there is talk that in the future you’ll see ads on the main page. Thanks, Facebook.

One of the main features being highlighted is “Chat Heads.” Basically, if you’re in another app and you receive a message, the message will be delivered to you in a bubble. If you want to answer, you can click on the avatar that accompanies the chat message or you can ignore it. Doesn’t really seem too revolutionary, but if that’s all they have to focus on, it’s an okay feature.

For those of you who are interested in using your smartphone as a smartphone and not just a glorified social media access point, you’ll be able to access all the apps through an app launcher.

As for privacy issues, since it’s connected with Facebook, we’re probably only seeing a fraction of potential problems. Stay tuned for more on that.

I’m just not impressed. If I want to see Facebook, I’ll just open the Facebook app. Zuckerburg isn’t bringing any of his strengths to the table, here. Apple and Android already have a lockdown on decent software design, so I’m not sure what the plan was for this not-really-a-phone. I don’t think Facebook does anything particularly well. The site isn’t the best at anything specialized; it’s just the best combination of platforms. 

I definitely don’t see this taking off in any big way. Sorry Zuck, not this time.

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