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Facebook Hints at 'Home' Evolution, Expands Availability

Facebook Hints at
May 10, 2013 11:39AM

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"I have yet to meet anyone who tells me Home is exactly what they want. I've talked to a lot of teenagers and many of them don't use Facebook exclusively," said analyst Avi Greengart. "If you are following celebrities on Twitter, as many teens do, you need to open up a Twitter app. And to do that you have to go into the app launcher, find the app and then launch it."

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Facebook is reporting that Android-operated mobile device users have downloaded its Home app nearly 1 million times since the product debuted in the Google Play store in April. Considering the billions that use Facebook, though, that's not an overly impressive stat.

Part of the issue is that Facebook Home is limited to a handful of devices. The app, which aims to offer up your friends' latest updates on your home screen and messages that reach you no matter what you're doing, is currently only available for the Android operating system. And even then it rolled out only for the HTC One X and One X+, the Samsung Galaxy S III and Note II. Facebook this week quietly added support for HTC's flagship device, the HTC One, and Samsung's Galaxy S IV.

The HTC First, the first phone to launch with Facebook Home pre-installed, may be an indicator of the challenge of adoption. AT&T this week slashed the price of the HTC first from $99 to 99 cents. Now, Facebook is looking to make upgrades.

Home Users Engage More

According to the Los Angeles Times, Cory Ondrejka, Facebook's director of mobile engineering, would not disclose how many of the 1 million Facebook Home downloaders are actively using the app. He did disclose to a small group of journalists at the company's headquarters, however, that Home users are spending 25 percent more time on Facebook and interacting with other users 25 percent more.

"Chat usage has bumped up 7 percent, and Home users send about 10 percent more messages," the Times reported. "He acknowledged that users have complained that Facebook Home makes their apps hard to find. So it plans to create folders of apps within the launcher. Facebook will also add a dock at the bottom of the home screen to give quick access to key apps such as e-mail and maps."

The MIT Technology Review is reporting that it's not clear when Home will be available for more smartphones. The news outlet reports Facebook product director Adam Mosseri saying that technical limitations -- such as dealing with the different resolutions and amounts of memory on different phones -- complicate things. But he also said it would eventually show up on tablets.

Home's Evolution

"I have yet to meet anyone who tells me Home is exactly what they want. I've talked to a lot of teenagers and many of them don't use Facebook exclusively. They are on several social networks," said Avi Greengart, a principal analyst at Current Analysis.

"If you are following celebrities on Twitter, as many teens do, you need to open up a Twitter app. And to do that you have to go into the app launcher, find the app and then launch it. There are other apps that integrate Facebook with Twitter."

There is a saving grace in the slow start. Greengart told us that because Facebook is offering Home as an app and not as a platform, developers can upgrade functionality more rapidly. Facebook had promised monthly updates, but Greengart said even if the updates come every other month or every three months it's still faster than an operating system.

"Facebook could add things that Home doesn't do today, like integration with other services and tweak some of the things that consumers don't like or add features that make the Messenger more powerful. There's no video chat in Messenger right now," Greengart said. "Facebook is giving itself a method for rapidly updating Home, either adding to it or changing it if it proves that consumers don't like it as much as they'd hoped."

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