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Facebook Home, breaking new ground on Android


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On April 4th, Facebook announced Facebook Home, a new social media layer that will be available for select Android smartphones, and will be fully integrated into the upcoming HTC First.

While the impact of this isn’t going to topple Apple’s iOS, or significantly shift the fortunes of Google’s Android mobile OS, it makes a very interesting shift in how mobile phones can be considered: a shift from the smartphone as an access point to tools, to it instead being an access point to people.

Today, we’re finally going to talk about that Facebook phone … What would it be like if our phones were designed around people, not apps? – Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg commented on stage that Home was “about people, not apps”, I think the argument can be made that the shift is instead to make the device about connecting to a personal network, rather than connecting to services. This as an interesting impact when you consider what future integrations Facebook applications and pages will have with FB Home enabled smartphones, including the deeper behavioral data and tracking that Facebook will have access to for ad targeting.

Beyond that, this is the most interesting extension of what Android is, that we’ve seen to date. Instead of treating Android as a platform to be added to, Facebook is treating it as a back-end to a Facebook-centric experience. By creating a ‘Facebook Phone’ without needing to build an OS or hardware capabilities, Facebook points to the future of mobile software and tools – building the interface and the access point, rather than the underlying functionality.

By putting the widely adopted Android platform through a social interface redesign, Facebook could potentially re-define what a smartphone means to those who use it. Starting on April 12th, consumers using flagship HTC and Samsung devices will be able to find out, and we’ll start to see if this new take on defining the role a mobile device plays for the user will catch on.

If it does, the possibilities for an OS layer that prioritizes treatment for a chronic condition, or monitoring of mental and physical health, have just been expanded.

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