Welcome to Facebook's new Home
by Dan Beasley
With Home, Facebook is attempting to make good on its "Mobile First" promise in a big way.
After all the hype about the new Facebook phone, the launch of the HTC First was just a sideshow to Facebook’s largest smartphone experiment yet. A first step that, they hope, will take them towards a dominant position in mobile communications.
At its full user potential, Home could become the friction-free base for all personal communications - effectively killing dedicated messaging applications such as WhatsApp, and seriously denting a host of others such as Twitter and FourSquare.
For brands, it can create a glut of new opportunities to talk to people on their devices. More significantly, Home could generate a huge volume of smartphone user data for Facebook.
First reactions from the media have been luke-warm, but as with all Facebook developments Home is only "1% finished".
What is it?
Facebook Home is a family of Facebook apps that overhauls an Android device, effectively transforming it into a full-on Facebook Phone.
From the Newsfeed to Messages, core Facebook services are deeply integrated into any Android device running Facebook Home.
Let’s look at the various components of Facebook Home:
Coverfeed brings your Facebook Newsfeed to both your home and lock screens. That means users will get updates from friends are doing without having to launch an app - or even unlock their phone.
Chat Heads is a deeply integrated messaging system, seamlessly combining Facebook Messenger and traditional SMS. Think Facebook version’s of Apple’s iMessage. In various apps, you will see round portraits of your friends - just tap on them to open your chat window.
The Gallery app lets you quickly share content with Instagram, Facebook Messenger and Facebook Camera.
App Launcher stores all of your favourite Android apps for easy access.
What it means to consumers
If you install Facebook Home, your Android experience is now primarily based around your friends (rather than apps), making it easier than ever before to stay in touch.
The design is top-notch, Home is nothing if not beautiful. Updates on Coverfeed display high-res, full-bleed bleed photos from your friends and the Pages you follow. Chat Heads is re-imagining mobile messaging.
Facebook Home truly moves the platform’s “Mobile First” approach to what Mark Zuckerberg calls “Mobile Best”. This is the “best way to access Facebook” – on any device. Home is really a radical re-imagining of what the mobile experience can be. If you're a heavy Facebook user, strongly consider giving Facebook Home a try.
What it means to marketers
Facebook Home is going to get installed on a lot of Android handsets.
There's presently about 750 million Android devices out in the world and Facebook is regularly used on about 200 million of them. That means that if only 20%, two out of ten, people who are already using Facebook on Android install Facebook Home, that’s 40 million “Facebook Phones” in the world.
Smartphone owners already spend a lot of time on Facebook - about 25% of the time they spend on their handset is spent using Facebook. With Facebook Home, that number is going to increase dramatically, which means Facebook is going to be more important for brands than it already is.
However, if users are going to be receiving Brand Page updates baked-in to their mobile phone, users will expect those updates to be good. Community content standards will have to increase to meet demand.
We imagine Facebook will release new image and video guidelines in the next few days, instructing brands on how to create the best-looking content possible for their fans.
Facebook has committed to displaying ads on Coverfeed, but it remains to be seen how fans react to brand messaging on the very face of their mobile.
Download Facebook Home from the Play Store for select Android devices from 12 April.
Facebook Home will initially be available on the HTC One and One X, along with the Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy Note II. Optimisation for other Android handsets is coming "soon".
Dan Beasley is Head of Mobile at Jam. Iain Matthews, Head of Planning, contributed to this post.