Facebook Home - The New Face Of Android? (Part 1)

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Facebook can no longer be classed as a social network - it’s now a real alternative to the Android operating system. Here’s why...

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand for the past decade, you’ll have clearly noticed Facebook’s dominance as a social media platform. Despite rivals in the form of Twitter, Pinterest, Path and Google+, Facebook still remains at the top of the social media pyramid, and with a fanbase that now exceeds a billion users, the time has come for Mark Zuckerberg to move the company in to unknown territories.

Facebook Home: the new face of Android?

Facebook Home: the new face of Android?

Facebook’s new venture comes in the form of a partnership with HTC to launch a mid-range Android phone called the HTC First, plus its own unique skin which can be applied to a number of Android devices called Facebook Home. As a phone, the First isn’t the most spectacular of devices. It has average specs, a pretty standard design, but at least it should come with an acceptable price tag. Facebook Home is an entirely different prospect altogether and one that could change the landscape of the Android operating system for some time.

“It doesn’t matter that Facebook Home will be launched with an Android operating system on an HTC smartphone. If Facebook’s new concept works, it will become the standard for phones and operating systems from now on” says Roslyn Layton, vice president of Strand Consult. “Facebook’s announcement is an important milestone for investors, for it demonstrates that the gold mine for Facebook is not advertising, operating systems or hardware. The key for Facebook is to monetize its users for the very communication it offers: SMS, voice, and data-enabled services.”

To be able to monetize such services, Facebook will have to look to adapt Home very quickly from a simple skin that keeps you in contact with your Facebook profile to a communication powerhouse. There’s been much talk about Facebook’s willingness to follow in Amazon’s successful steps. Both the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD had a totally independent skin designed by Amazon, but with Android at its core. Both tablets have been successful, with many preferring the budget pair to many of the high-end Android tablets now available on the market. With the added bonus of having full access to the Amazon library of music, movies and books, Amazon has the money and power to cater for everyone. Even Google is looking to build on the amount of media available in the Play store, with Play Magazines now a major competitor to the likes of Zinio. Fred Huet, managing partner at Greenwich Consulting, thinks Facebook may have a tough time competing with the likes of Amazon and Google on this front. “The biggest challenger to Facebook Home would be Google, with traditional apps such as Gmail, Google Search, Google Maps and YouTube in the background. That means less traffic, clicks and revenues.” But he firmly believes that Facebook can remain unrivalled with being a communication powerhouse: “With 1,800 texts a month sent by the average American teenager, Facebook Home will capture all that traffic, thus increasing revenues, traffic and metadata about users that they can use to better target with ads.”

With Samsung saturating the mobile market, it’s hard to find gaps that can be filled.

With Samsung saturating the mobile market, it’s hard to find gaps that can be filled.

If we look away from the media side of things, for Facebook to be a major player in the mobile industry and ultimately for Facebook Home to be a real success, it will very quickly need to identify the market it is aiming itself at. With Samsung saturating the mobile market, it’s hard to find gaps that can be filled, but it will be something that needs to be considered by Zuckerberg and company. Sri Ramanathan, CTO of Kony Solutions, believes that Facebook should play on the openness of the Android platform to really nail a suitable target audience: “By using the ‘open-ness’ of Android, they’ve been able to make a very native application that integrates deeply into the existing capabilities of Android. It also integrates seamlessly with other applications on your phone. Facebook Home is going to appeal to a generation of users who are very connected to Facebook and who want to use it for the majority of their phone activity.” He -v advertisers and has the potential to completely change the Facebook business model. More advertisers will come to Facebook because the company is better leveraging mobile and tapping into this key demographic.”

Facebook’s transition into mobile is a bold move to say the least, but one that could change the landscape of the Android operating system as we know it. Communication is at the forefront of what Facebook does best and Home encapsulates that perfectly, but it’s in the other areas where Facebook will have to vastly improve if it wants to really challenge Google for the Android crown. But with a fanbase as large as what Facebook has and with its first partnership with HTC already in full swing, maybe we’ll all own a Facebook device in the next couple of years.

HTC First

HTC has another crack at making a Facebook phone. Can it possibly find a market beyond its niche audience?

HTC has another crack at making a Facebook phone. Can it possibly find a market beyond its niche audience?

HTC has another crack at making a Facebook phone. Can it possibly find a market beyond its niche audience?

Whether a Facebook phone is truly needed remains a dubious question, but HTC has forged ahead with bringing the HTC First to the market. With full backing of the Facebook team, HTC has looked to implement its own take on the Android OS, offering the standard Android features with Facebook’s completely new launcher, Facebook Home, at the forefront. There’s plenty of inspiration from the likes of Amazon here, who has previously launched its own spin on the Android OS, but whether Facebook has a committed enough fan-base to follow its success remains to be seen. It’s certainly an important phone for HTC considering its current financial problems, as the First follows a number of unsuccessful efforts at making Facebook phones. It includes a very average set of specifications which means anyone looking to get some decent bang for their buck may be left a little underwhelmed with what’s on offer here, so pricing will be key for HTC when it comes to finally launching the device all over the world. Perhaps most interestingly the Facebook functionality can be turned off, leaving you with fully stock Android.

·         Start your phone and you’ll see all your latest Facebook statuses from your friends.

·         Incoming messages appear on your lock screen. Tap on one to launch the full conversation.

·         This is you. Drag up to unlock the phone, or sideways to launch into the app drawer or camera app.

HTC First’s specs

·         Operating system: Android 4.1/Facebook Home UI

·         Processor: Krait 1.4GHz dual-core

·         Memory: 1GB RAM, 16GB storage

·         Dimensions: 126 x 65 x 8.9mm

·         Weight: 123.9g

·         Display size: 4.3-inch LCD

·         Display resolution: 720 x 1,280 pixels

·         Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, HSPA+, micro USB

·         Camera: 5-MP rear, VGA front, 1080p video recording


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