Tonight Facebook will make its first decisive move that will transform it into a true mobile-first company. The social networking giant will reveal its new “Home on Android” at a press conference where it is also expected to unveil an Android smartphone from HTC that would be running Facebook’s new Android launcher. Yes, the long-denied “Facebook Phone” will finally be announced but it isn’t what everyone expects it to be. If Facebook plays its cards right, every Android smartphone user would have a Facebook Phone in their hands tomorrow. Also Read - Facebook reportedly working on a modular smartphoneAlso Read - Facebook is working on a Truecaller rival, called simply as “Phone”
We are not going to build a phone. Even if we sell 10 million units, it is just 1 percent of our user base, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors and analysts during the company’s most recent quarterly earnings call. And he is right about it. Making a phone does not make sense for Facebook. Even the HTC First or whatever it will be officially called will just be a device to showcase what Facebook Home is all about. Also Read - Facebook Home now works on the HTC One and unofficially on the Samsung Galaxy S4
The important thing for Facebook to achieve here is how it can make people spend more time on Facebook on their phones irrespective of the brand or the model. Apart from time share, Facebook also wants the user’s mind share, encouraging them to share more stuff not just with their friends and family but also with Facebook. Google does that effectively courtesy of Android, and now Facebook wants a share of that information.
Zuckerberg set the tone right in the same earnings call earlier this January when someone asked him about Android and Facebook’s relationship with Google. Android is a very open and dynamic platform, till Google keeps it that way. Our relationship with Google isn t such where the companies really talk, Zuckerberg said.
Google has been trying to utilize its dominant Android market share to push its Google+ service but that has not really gone according to plan. Facebook still continues to be one of the top three most used apps for Android users and Google+ is nowhere to be seen. Ask around and most of your friends using an Android smartphone won’t even know about Google+ but they certainly would be using Facebook on their phone.
Facebook, with this announcement, would like to consolidate its position and give users the latest updates from their Timelines whenever they switch on their phones, make it easier to check-in to places, upload photos and videos, and share stuff with others. At the same time, it could also create a detailed user profile by observing their usage patterns, much like Google does on Android devices.
The genesis of Facebook’s Android Home can be traced back to Zuckerberg’s first quarterly earnings call last July when he denied building the Facebook Phone. We want to not just have apps that people use but also be kind of deeply integrated into the systems as possible. We want to support a development ecosystem, where other apps can build on top of Facebook. So that s why you ll see us do things like support Apple in the iOS integration that they wanted to do. There are a lot of things that you can build in other operating systems as well that aren t really like building out a whole phone, which I think wouldn t really make much sense for us to do, Zuckerberg said.
Facebook’s Android Home is not something that has happened overnight. The social networking giant has been building it in bits and pieces right under our noses. There have been news reports from as early as November 2011 while more concrete reports came out in July last year that hinted at this development but wrongly focused on the hardware aspect of it. Meanwhile Facebook kept releasing individual mobile apps throughout last year, which when combined together complete the most used features in any phone.
With multiple updates, Messenger is close to becoming a complete messaging tool comparable to iMessage if Facebook integrates it with the SMS app. In some countries Facebook has tied up with carriers to make Messenger free while in others it allows users to send SMS and make calls for free. It already has a camera app as well as a PhotoSync feature that automatically uploads photos to a private Facebook album, not forgetting Instagram. It also has an App Center that has apps, which use Facebook Connect for user verification.
From initial leaks, it is clear that Facebook will obviously have a close tie-up with HTC but its Facebook Home app will also play nice with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. Samsung and HTC together make up for the bulk of Android smartphones, which Facebook could cover on day one. And that is a very big deal. But it all depends now on Facebook’s execution and if it is successful, it might give Google another reason to think again about its “open” stance on Android.