It may be difficult to notice at the moment, but Facebook Home could lead the next big evolution of mobile phones. The last big evolution came when Apple opened up iOS to third party developers and that decision ended up accelerating the adoption of the smartphone market, filling it with app stores worth about $15 billion dollars.
Every year since, analysts have come out with their predictions of the trends for the next 12 months. Those trends have always been farsighted, repetitive, and inaccurate. They often include: NFC, Location, mobile payment, context aware services, smart objects, bigger phones, cheaper phones, smaller phones, wireless charging, etc…
The real change never comes from the analysts’ trends, but always from what they never see coming.
That’s not to say that Facebook Home is going to bring in $15 billion, but there’s a very good chance it will not only change the way millions of people use their phones, but the way people think about phones.
It will definitely inspire a few imitators in the process.
What You Think When You Think Smartphone
Not everyone is going to be thrilled about seeing stuff from Facebook every time they open up their phones, but it’s still a new, and a great idea. Up until now every mobile platform has approached the phone lock screen in the same way.
The only real differentiation in platforms has been the home screen that appears after you unlock your phone. iOS’s home screen has its apps icons arranged in an iconic grid that emphasizes its simplicity, Android’s home screen is associated with widgets and its Google integration, and Windows Phone has its Metro tiles which can represent whatever information or controls the user chooses.
The idea of Home doesn’t just change the data you see when you see your lock screen, but changes your understanding of what a phone is.
Right now my phone is a powerful, small computer that’s connected to the network and filled with many useful and entertaining applications. Facebook Home might make my phone a bigger token of me, my social life, and my place in the world.
The First Big Change In Mobile In Years
From the time the iPhone was first announced, the smart phone industry has been uninteresting until the announcement of Facebook Home.
- New phones come out year after year that look just like the iPhone; Big screens and simple hardware dominates.
- Platforms fight to acquire the same popular apps.
- BlackBerry and Windows Phone (Microsoft and Nokia) keep releasing their “comeback” phones.
- In the most over the top fashion Samsung releases phones with the most peculiar features.
It’s rare to see something come out that’s both innovative, useful, and practical. The fact that it came from Facebook helps justify my feeling that smartphone manufacturers have been competing with a narrow view of the market.
Where Facebook Leads, Others Will Follow
Facebook Home is a good app, but it’s an even better idea. I hope to see more companies re-examine their lock screens, and expect Google and Samsung to be the first ones to implement their own versions of Home.
I’m sure that Google will respond with something that pushes Google+ to users. Users installing Facebook Home on Android phones, and some Android phones being shipped with Facebook Home highlights the competition between Facebook and Google in the battle for users’ time and data more than it does the competition between the smartphone platforms of Android, iOS, and BlackBerry.
The nice thing about Android is that any company that creates their own launcher can easily distribute it to users over the Play Store. Even if iOS updates its lock screen, it will be the only implementation available to users because of the limitations on the kind of software that’s allowed into the App Store.
Thinking about a Google+ implementation conjures up visions of a lock screen that integrates the many services Google offers, as well as the many opportunities they have to integrate that data. Putting Google’s AI to work right on the lock screen of a phone could more easily connect users with their contact information, reminders, recommendations, routes, and just about anything that can be construed from the data.