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4/9/2013
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Facebook Home: 5 Pros And Cons

Consider these five benefits and drawbacks to Facebook's new Android app.

Facebook Home Invasion
Facebook Home Invasion
(click image for slideshow)
In the run-up to Facebook's big announcement last week, rumors flew about what the company would unveil. However, most of the rumors pointed to the same thing: a Facebook phone. It turns out the rumors were true, kind of. Facebook announced not a phone, but a version of Facebook that will be at the center, literally, of some Android-based smartphones: Facebook Home.

Now that we know what Facebook had up its sleeve, the question becomes: What are the benefits and drawbacks to using Facebook Home? Following are five reasons Facebook Home makes both sense and nonsense.

1. Updates Are Front And Center.

Sense: Facebook Home feeds a stream of your contacts' posts and photos to your phone's home screen. I suppose this will potentially save time by removing the need to sign into (or even just click) an app. Facebook Home is visually stunning, at least in Facebook's ads, and the Chatheads feature is kind of cool.

Nonsense: In its ads for Facebook Home, the social networking giant uses beautiful photos of beautiful people doing beautiful things. I don't know about you, but my Facebook Newsfeed just isn't that beautiful.

[Social tools can be useful or a huge time sink. See 10 Ways To Foster Effective Social Employees. ]

2. Messaging Is Fun.

Sense: If you spend a lot of time messaging in Facebook, you will like the Chatheads feature in Facebook Home. Anytime someone messages you, his or her picture pops up on your home screen. You can just tap on the image to start a chat session with the person, while doing other things in the background.

Nonsense: I don't know anyone who uses Facebook messaging to any great extent. Chatheads could be just the thing to get people using it more -- or using it at all -- but it seems to me that, despite Facebook's billion-plus users, the platform is still too closed to work as a viable messaging platform, especially for business users.

3. Notifications Get A Boost.

Sense: Facebook says that notifications about calls, events, Facebook updates and other apps appear on your home screen "and stick around until you need them." Users can tap what they want to use and swipe away what they don't. That seems like it could be a real productivity boon, provided you are using Facebook heavily for your calendaring and messaging needs.

Nonsense: All of this assumes that people are using Facebook in a highly productive way now, but I don't think that is really the case. It might be that the new Newsfeed will enable users to streamline their feeds to the extent that they are seeing what is really important to them, and not a bunch of invitations to games and an increasing number of promoted posts. And, this being based on Android and all, it could be that we will see some kind of integration with Google Apps down the road. Personally, I'm distracted when I get notification of a single call or text on my iPhone -- I don't know how I would do with constant pings. And I don't think I am alone in this.

4. Cheap Phones.

Sense: Facebook Home will be available as a download but also preloaded on certain Android-based phones. The first phone will be -- wait for it -- the HTC First. AT&T will offer the new device starting on April 12, and it will cost $99.99. That's certainly a low price, and it might be a big enough draw to lure people to Facebook Home, a proof point in what Wired recently called the new "apperating system" model.

Nonsense: I suppose it's something of a Catch 22, in more ways than one. The use of Facebook Home will be limited to devices using the Android operating system because the Apple iOS operating system is closed to the kind of tweaking Home requires. For Facebook Home to really take hold, it will have to get a critical mass of people using it. If a majority of smartphone users -- those with iPhones and iPads -- can't use Facebook Home even if they want to, can Facebook develop that critical mass?

5. Privacy.

Sense: I got nothing.

Nonsense: Privacy experts are raising concerns about Facebook Home, mostly because it is always on and smartphones' GPS capabilities could theoretically send data about your every step back to Facebook. Facebook has published a FAQ addressing these concerns, but it sounds like a whole lot of, "No problem. You can just turn off any offending setting." The problem is, it can be very difficult -- even for the most tech-savvy among us -- to figure out what needs to be turned off in the first place. Facebook has a history of making changes on the fly that make keeping up with these controls even more difficult, and, with Facebook Home being so deeply enbedded in the Android operating system, I can only imagine that figuring out what you need to do to protect yourself or your business will only get harder.

What makes sense -- and nonsense -- about Facebook Home to you? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

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pcbackup
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pcbackup,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/9/2013 | 6:17:49 PM
re: Facebook Home: 5 Pros And Cons
Thanks for the clear summary of Facebook Home, but one of your comments flies in the face of all the facts I've seen:

Stating that the majority of smartphone users have iPhones and iPads is in sharp contrast to statistics that show Android devices leading iOS devices by about a 3:1 margin in marketshare! I think that leaves plenty of opportunity for Facebook to build some following among those who are willing to go all-in with their Facebook experience, even though I'm certainly not one of those people.

Of course, if an iPhone or iPad user is that committed to Facebook, this might be a motivation to switch device platforms, but I can't imagine any Apple user could be more fanatical about Facebook than their beloved platform.
TreeInMyCube
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TreeInMyCube,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/9/2013 | 7:41:16 PM
re: Facebook Home: 5 Pros And Cons
I think Debra may have mis-spoken. I can believe that a lot of smartphone users (even Android smartphone owners) have an iPad as their tablet device. The sales data for iPads vs. the Android tablets should show a lead for the iPads. If that's true, then would such a person want two Facebook experiences: the full-on FB Home on their phone, but a scaled down FB app on their iPad. It might be hard to persuade those folks to stop using their iPads, or to straddle the UI dichotomy.
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/10/2013 | 2:53:34 AM
re: Facebook Home: 5 Pros And Cons
I'm still waiting for the day that the vast majority of people out there realize that Facebook is an advertising platform and they're willing to do ANYTHING to get as much information out of you and your usage of their platform (or anything else they can get their digital hands on) and turn that data around for a profit.

I recall reading somewhere that the new Facebook Home app/operating environment can track more than 30 different streams of data regarding your usage of both your phone, their platform and the other applications on your phone. Why would anyone do that? Because there's profit to be made by putting advertisements in front of your eyes.

Maybe it's just me, but being able to tend crops or match candies or bricks or sling tiles in what we used to call Scrabble isn't worth me "working" for someone else to make them money.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor (and former Farmville addict)
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/10/2013 | 8:43:44 AM
re: Facebook Home: 5 Pros And Cons
I stand corrected. The latest from Comscore says, "Google Android ranked as the top smartphone platform with 51.7 percent market share, while AppleGÇÖs share increased 3.9 percentage points to 38.9 percent. BlackBerry ranked third with 5.4 percent share, followed by Microsoft (3.2 percent) and Symbian (0.5 percent)." http://www.comscore.com/Insigh...

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
4/10/2013 | 11:14:27 PM
re: Facebook Home: 5 Pros And Cons
I suspect there's going to be a generational divide over Facebook Home. I find Facebook on my PC to be just fine. I don't need Facebook in my face more than that. But teens trapped in the school yard with a smartphone would love Facebook Home, and it may become one way that Android manufacturers start to compete more effectively with the iPhone. Charlie Babcock, InformationWeek senior writer.
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