The mainstream has had little reason to care that Android gives developers much more customization freedom than iOS. But if Facebookâs fabled Android homescreen is a hit, the stubbornness of Appleâs closed mobile platform could be framed as a drawback after years of its cohesive design and ease being seen as assets.
Cheapness and handset/carrier choice are two of the biggest factors convincing people to pick up Android phones today. Thereâs its premier integration of Googleâs app suite and the ârebel without an iPhoneâ attitude too. But Androidâs flexibility for app developers has been more of a selling point for geeks and early adopters than for the average Joe.
Meanwhile, the straight forward âit just worksâ aspect of iOS that leans on its rigidity has made it a popular introduction to smartphones for hundreds of millions of people. There just hasnât been a killer brand name app to grab the mainstreamâs attention that depends on Androidâs cooperative architecture and that iOS wonât support. No one has forced the issue of open vs closed on the common man.
But six years after the iPhoneâs debut, the average mobile consumer has matured. They crave more personalization through homescreen widgets and custom launchers. They want to make their phone truly theirs. The mobile world may finally have reached the turning point where the benefits of Androidâs customization outweigh the benefits of iOSâ simplicity. And itâs Facebook homescreen for Android that could crystallize this moment.
Last week, Facebook sent out invites to a big press event to âsee our new home on Androidâ. My sources got us the scoop that Facebook plans to unveil a new homescreen for Android that pipes in its news feed content and notifications for instant access. Weâre told this experience will be debuted on an HTC handset running a version of Android thatâs been modified by Facebook. The homescreen replacement is also likely to make its way to other handsets, either in the form a launcher app that can run on standard Android builds, or through Facebook partnerships with other OEMs.
The kicker is that Facebookâs homescreen cannot run on iOS as it exists today.
Now, for any of this to actually alter the mobile landscape, Facebook âHomeâ as it may be called will have to be a real success. Not just âOh that looks coolâ, but âI need to have that on my phoneâ. A lot people will never say that, because they just donât care that much about Facebook. Beyond that, it may be tough to add a lot of value on top of the full-featured Facebook For Android app thatâs just a few taps away.
Still, itâs possible that Facebookâ heads up display, a sixth sense for your social life , could be good enough to shift the balance in the Game Of Phones. Even if not directly or immediately, the mere existence of Facebook Home could bring the open/closed debate into the sphere of public consciousness. In that sense, it could at least begin to generate momentum for Androidâs âdo as you pleaseâ ecosystem.
Apple is typically resistant to diverging from its roadmap to head off potential threats. As Iâve said, Apple doesnât care what competitors do . But if it stays locked down, we might outgrow its hand-holding. For all Googleâs talk off Android being open, it could take Facebook to make us realize its liberty we really want.
Read more about Facebookâs big new Android project:
February 1, 2004
Facebook is the worldâs largest social network, with over 1 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 weeks, half of the schools in the Boston area began demanding a Facebook network. Zuckerberg immediately recruited his friends Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes, and Eduardo Saverin to help build Facebook, and within four months, Facebook added 30 more college networks. The original...