So the cat is out of the Facebook bag. And it is an appy one, rather than a phone-y, if you will let us indulge our punning bones. And in best tech tradition, Facebook’s announcement of its Home app/theme for Android devices has divided opinions. There are those who think that it’s time THE social network threw its weight around on the world’s most poplar smartphone platform. And then there are the cynics like Yours Truly who feel that this is not quite, well, it. I have now been using Facebook for the best part of four years and in this time have inflected comments, likes, follows, shares and posts with dozen of friends, who have borne it with admirable fortitude. Logically, I am the kind of chap who should be in love with the idea of Home, and its ability to ”Facebookify” (is that a word?) any Android handset.
But truth be told, I am not exactly pleased with the idea. And it is not just a gut feel. Here are the eight reasons why I am not over the moon with Facebook Home:
- Trying out an app that delivers a functionality is one thing. Trying out one that takes over your phone is quite another. Most people are wary of trying out launchers for the simple reason that they like the way their phone basically is. How many would like to supplant Sense or TouchWiz with Home, especially after they have got the hang of the former and made it a part of their lives? I am not sure I would.
- Home will not only be home to your Facebook content, but also some advertising. No, the idea of having ads on my homescreen all the time does not exactly thrill me.
- I have not tried it out yet, but from what I have seen, the app is going to be both a battery and RAM guzzler, churning out notifications and images. Do we need any more of those around, given the penchant of most Android devices to start slowing down after a while? And honestly, Facebook is more about seeing big pictures. Google Plus tried that and it did not really work, you know.
- The fact that it is not available for the majority of Android devices is a major blow, especially after Zuckerberg claimed that the rationale for not making a Facebook phone was that it would reach a very small portion of FB users. Well, making the app available for six high-end handsets and one HTC First and that too initially in the US is sure not going to help the app reach most FB users either. If anything, it is going to fragment the Facebook experience, with different users getting different takes of the social network depending on their devices and apps. I am not sure that is a very healthy thing.
- We kept hearing how Facebook addicts would love Facebook Home. There is just one problem with that theory – most addicts are not just addicted to the social network but also to the means through which they access it. I have seen those used to accessing FB on a BlackBerry or Android device struggle to use it on a PC. Will they just switch over straight to a whole new way of looking at Facebook, no matter how awesome that is? They might, but common sense indicates they will take their time converting – and that too IF the app is available on their Android devices (I cannot keep stressing how important that is).
- Facebook might be THE social network, but it is by no means the only social network people use. Many people tweet, hand around resumes on LinkedIn, swap images on Flickr and literally hang out on Google+. Just how well Home integrates with these networks and apps remains to be seen, but it is very likely that they are all likely to be overshadowed by the big F. I am not too sure I would like that.
- The idea of getting monthly updates for an app does not fill me with joy, to be honest. Yes, change is the only constant in the world of tech and constant improvement is to be applauded, but every month? I don’t know any other app which makes me do that. I am not looking forward to that to be honest.
- All right, this is going to be touchy ground, but let me be blunt: Facebook’s track record has not really been sterling when it comes to making apps. My own experience of Facebook’s apps has been fair to middling and to be honest, I still think that the social network is at its best and most versatile within a computer’s browser. Of course, I would be delighted to see Zuckerberg and Co. prove me wrong, but…
Mind you, none of this is likely to stop thousands of people from downloading the Home app when it does hit Google Play on April 12. And as Tushar Kanwar pointed out on Twitter, the day is likely to go down in tech history as the one on which people asked for APK files of Home for their officially unsupported devices – I know I am going to be one of them (hey, I would love to be proved wrong and if Home turns out to be awesome, I would hate to miss out).
The big challenge for Zuckerberg and Co., however, is going to be ensuring that those who download the app actually use it to its fullest extent. If they do not, we might end up seeing that Facebook phone after all.