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?
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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