Facebook Home App not Well Received

Since Facebook’s inception it has been heaped with praise, scrutinized over its security and privacy measures and derided over the handling of its IPO and slow slide into heavy advertising integration. Yet it remains one of the most popular and profitable social networks in the business. The site enjoys monthly usage numbers that rival the populations of many countries, and they’ve had almost constant success with every new game, app and redesign the company has launched. But one hardware release, the Facebook-centric First smartphone, seems to be dead on arrival. HTC and AT&T, two of the partners behind this new device, dropped its price from $99 all the way down to less than $1. Since the phone launched this very month, that’s certainly not a good sign.

Facebook Home isn’t a smartphone per se, but an addition to devices released by AT&T and HTC that turn your home screen into a Facebook portal. Basically, when you power up the First device you don’t see the standard list of apps, but the Cover Feed straight from your Facebook Account. It’s also animated, with updates from all of your Facebook connections and a slideshow of the latest posted photos and albums. You don’t have to launch an additional app to interact with your feed. Instead, you simply comment away, right there on the home screen. With the push of a button the Facebook Home app slides aside and the remainder of your menus and applications come into focus.

It all sounds great in theory, and the Android folks must have been thrilled that Facebook decided to partner with them, instead of their iOS competition. But if you take a look at the reviews that have been posted in Google’s app store, or do a quick search for some thoughts by preeminent tech analysts, it becomes clear that the app has been an absolute flop. Given that ridiculous retail price drop, it’s pretty clear that there hasn’t been much of a call for this type of device integration.

Facebook has remained silent on the question, instead referring the media to AT&T for any questions as to specific sales counts. AT&T hasn’t thrown Facebook under the bus, either. Their spokesperson declared in a published statement that the drop in price is simply a promotion to continue enticing customers, and that it would be available through online or brick and mortar sales locations. When pushed further, the spokesperson wouldn’t divulge any sales figures, and HTC isn’t getting involved either.

Part of the issue may be the currently limited market. The Facebook Home app doesn’t work on all Android devices. It will integrate with the HTC One X+, the Samsung Galaxy SIII, the HTC First and the Samsung Galaxy Note II. That’s as many as 70 million devices, which sounds like quite a large amount. But if you consider that there are currently more than 375 million Android users, it becomes clear that this app may have been launched a bit prematurely.

The true fight will be convincing all of those smartphone carriers to install a Facebook app with this level of integration. Facebook did announce some numbers, specifically that the Home app has seen close to one million downloads. But with a current two-star rating in the Google Play store, you could bet that most of those people aren’t using the app at all. You’d have to be a complete Facebook junkie to come on board with this. If you unlock your phone to go check out www.ratesupermarket.ca, you’d have to turn off the app to get to your web browser. That’s a level of inconvenience that most people simply won’t stand.

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