Poor, poor operators
How my heart bleeds for them. Not.
Facebook Home reskins a phone much the same way that operators have been trying - and repeatedly failing - to do for more than a decade. But can Zuckerberg really lock the the mobile customer down into its UI and achieve the operators' nirvana of customer ownership? Facebook Home, announced last week, takes a vanilla phone and …
You'd have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at the operators.
They're like a collection of unruly puppies. They're desperate to be loved, they bounce around at random, poo all over their own bed, they chew and break something every so often and couldn't organise the proverbial piss-up in a brewery.
It provokes a mixture of pity and laughter from me (mostly laughter), as they try to fight off the competition - who actually seem to have some idea of what the customers want. The only reason I feel any slight sympathy for them is that I don't find Apple or Google particularly appealing either.
I guess a big, fat fail icon is appropriate here...
Sigh. Maybe instead of wasting their money on this random shit, the operators could... I dunno, maybe build a decent network and stop their predatory pricing. Then, maybe then, they might get some customer loyalty.
As to Facebook, whaddya want to bet that this will mean they won't ever fix their shitty android app. Worst app ever... Well, second worst after apple maps...
No, its just another Android phone with this FB skin pre-loaded.
Anyways, I use the Ice Cream Sandwich 'battery saver' mode, which means that my phone doesn't use its data connection when in standby to receive live email / instant messages etc- so even if I wanted my lock-screen to be constantly updated with a succession of baby/puppy/comedy images (I don't), it would be too much of a power drain.
The Sony skin on my handset has some sort of FB integration pre-loaded- exactly what I don't know, as I have never logged in to it for fear of Bad Things happening (like my contacts' email addresses being replaced with @Facebook). If I ever get around to rooting the phone, I'll get rid of it, along with a currently unremovable McAfee trial.
People go to Facebook whereas operator-supplied social networks, e-mail and so on are some strange thing that no-one wants because of lack of users and they've already got Facebook/gmail, and inevitably implodes a couple of years later due to lack of users.
Walled gardens to keep users in won't work when the users are already out of them, instead what would keep users in would be making it easier to use outside services with that operator (e.g. instant notification, cloud storage to hold files which can be linked to) and perhaps come pre-defined following the operator on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever.
There's plenty of good stuff the operators could have done, if only they'd had half an ounce of sense. Also they needed the vision not to try to screw all the customers' money out of them on day one, you need to be cheap at first, and build up your services until they're popular. With their control of billing they had years of an open goal, which they managed to miss every time they tried. I guess their greed stopped them sprinkling some good free stuff in with the paid-for stuff. They couldn't even come up with apps to manage your bills and add-on services, let alone free storage decent email.
I think the other major problem was their total inability to cooperate. It makes sense that you worry most about your direct competitors I suppose, but despite repeated attempts they were totally unable to come up with any kind of standards they could all build on.
I suppose one big disadvantage is a customer is more likely to be loyal to Apple or Android, than they are to Vodafone or Orange. They were more concerned about creating the lock-in than they were about giving the customer the goodies that make them buy-in to the lock-in voluntarily. Some people move, but I know many happy 'Droid and Apple users, I don't know any loyalists to mobile companies. There used to be an army of Orange fanatics (I include myself), who'd been with them since the 90s and loved the customer service, but that all went when France Telecom bought them, and I've not found much difference in the operators since.
"They were more concerned about creating the lock-in than they were about giving the customer the goodies that make them buy-in to the lock-in voluntarily."
Right there is the key.
To get something to work which people aren't bothered about, you must make things they are bothered about which, coincidentally, need them to use the thing they aren't bothered about.
Had the operators had some foresight, they could have easily concocted a standard to allow people to buy in app stores and have the cost billed through them. That would have been a great money spinner for them.
I think it's a lot like the UK government ID cards. Although we are here on a tech forum where most just thought it was a bad idea from the beginning, most non-techies I know thought it was a reasonably good idea but didn't see much benefit. The government could have made it a lot more attractive. Adding the ability to store payment cards, loyalty cards, memberships etc. on it would have swayed many, for example. Incorporating an electronic cash system would have brought more into the fold. Hell, even I would have been tempted with that lot. But instead, they plodded along with the core idea, and it failed to gain any real interest from the public.
> There used to be an army of Orange fanatics (I include myself), who'd been with them since the 90s and
> loved the customer service, but that all went when France Telecom bought them, and I've not found
> much difference in the operators since.
If I could up vote you twice I would. What France Telecom did to Orange was little short of criminal...
I remember the horror that was Vodafone 360. I had a temporary phone while mine was being repaired and it was fully integrated with 360.
With every other social network site, it doesn't matter what platform you uses, anyone can get on. With 360, only Vodafone users could get on.
Maybe it was an idea by Vodafone to try and get people over to their network, but it was a badly thought out one. I don't really care what phone network my friends are on. And none of them are going to change network providers just to see me on one social network, when everyone can see everyone else on the several existing ones, just like I'm not going to run out and buy a Blackberry or iPhone because some of the communication methods only work with their own brand of phone.
This one might have the edge, but there are many of us who leave 3g turned off and prefer to use free WiFi where possible and only turn it on to check facebook down the pub and back off again. Though that does make me sound like my elderly parents when I bought them their first mobile and they would turn the handset off between calls.
Are you sure about that Barry? Seems a bit too much like wishful thinking to me. There is an anti-Facebook backlash, I agree - it's become a fashionable opinion to hold. But there are a lot of very loyal users, who post loads of stuff on there, every day, and absolutely love to use it on their phones. They take loads of photos on them, and spray them all over Facebook, plus they've got lots of friends on it, and I doubt it would take much persuasion from Facebook for them to send all their messages via Facebook and WiFi, rather than the carriers.
Facebook may lose the fashion-conscious and the younger users, but they seem to have gained a stranglehold on a lot of parents and grandparents. And they're the people who've actually got the money. Advertisers seem obsessed with chasing the teen market (I guess it makes them feel young), but it's the middle aged and old who've got all the cash.
Of course, given what the other Facebook apps have been like, there's a good chance it will be a hideous, unusable piece of shit. Like the Facebook web user interface, come to think of it...
Define "fail." If they get even a 5% adoption rate, their mobile ad revenue goes thru the roof. That 5% will grow as FB adds features.
I'm sure I'll install it out of morbid curiosity, and then remove it to free up resources. I have enough malware on my phone courtesy the operators already.
>Re: Why would anyone want this?
Convenience. Not everybody has got around to collecting telephone numbers and email addresses from everybody they might wish to contact- Facebook often serves as a glorified addresses book and messaging system. Even from people who have my email address, I regularly receive messages sent through Facebook (forwarded to my Gmail)- which is annoying since replying to them is a long-winded processes for me (because I refuse to activate my phone's FB integration, and keep it at arms-length in the browser).
Want to know the scary thing? Now that Facebook has done this, you can bet all the other operators/manufacturers are going to attempt to follow all the more. We can all look forward to even more compulsory crapware pre-installed on our smartphones that attempt to lock us into their share of the markets and snaffle our personal data. All to enhance your "experience", of course. Nothing to do with making them more money.
All the more reason to root your phone and ditch the stuff they force on you.
Never allow the ISP disc into your computer! Always configure manually. It took me hours to clean the BT spyware off my Dad's PC, when he used their disc once. They'd got this remote desktop tool for their support guys that would re-install itself even if you un-installed and deleted it. I suppose I could have left it on there, but apart from being a security risk it also tended to crash every other time you booted the computer, and flash annoying messages all over the screen at random.
Ergh, so it's a skin that overrides your phones own skin? No ta, I waited long enough for someone to make a sweet Deus Ex theme for my rom (Paranoid Android), and I'm far too much in love with the elegant simplicity and gold trim I have now achieved.
An interface doesn't need to be busy to be useful.
Facebook already annoys me by always defaulting to shitty mobile view on my phone, forcing me to reload it in desktop mode, they aint going to win any friends by commandeering the entire interface with shitty mobile view.
But maybe that's the idea. Like cigarette companies' advertising campaigns that strive (or at least used to) to grab the next generation of smokers before they're even old enough. If this ends up coming with enough smart phones, which are being purchased for (if not by) younger and younger users every day, when little Keegan or Tyler grows up, they will come to expect it as their UI and settle for nothing less.
Personally I don't much care for social media sites and this would be worse than useless for me, but everyone laughed at Apple too when there were rumblings about the first iPad. I just sincerely hope this doesn't take off.
It might be aimed at teenagers, if they go for cheap handsets, maybe with subsidies. And especially if the operators can be signed up to give cheap contracts where all the Facebook messages are free, then it could take over from BBM. But I've read many suggestions that teenagers are now less Facebook obsessed.
So I'm thinking it'll be people like my sister-in-law. She's got 2 kids under 6, last time I sorted out her phone she had over 800 pictures of the kids on there (not backed up), and I'm now her hero for saving them when it died. Probably a quarter of those piccies are on FB, and she posts loads of messages to all her other mates on there, lots of them also mothers of young kids. Not being interested in tech her phone is for texting, photographs, Facebook and a phone, in about that order. She'd probably love a FaceFone - as would many of her mates.
No matter what we (I'm including most of y'all by proxy) think of the idea, we are hardly the target market. Just by reading the Reg and posting here we are almost automatically disassociated from the majority of mobile/Facebook, whatever, users. If by re-skinning an interface you make it simpler for a large number of people to get what they want more easily, you may be on to something - ask Gates or the shade of Jobs. Assuming there are a few million dedicated Facebook on mobile users and the interface works well enough, there is no reason to think that it won't have some degree of success, whether we here like it or not.
A valid point, but that stil leaves Zuck to figure out some way of making MORE money from mobile users. There's not a lot of screen real estate on phones, so the chance of getting some decent advertising on it is limited, the users will soon tire of the battery being drained by always on GPS and the FB mobile client, and by being spammed simply for the temerity to walk past a Starbucks. That won't remove the attraction of the FB client for addicts, but who's going to pay extra for this? Not the users, 'cos they all think FB is free. Will the advertisers? Maybe in the first place, but when the (probably) dismal sales tracking results are in I can't see the party lasting.
@Ledswinger: yes, FB have a long and disgraceful history of battery sucking Android apps with unparalleled levels of bugs. They haven't even needed GPS to achieve record power drains, just a complete inability to play nice with the system and let it manage power use.
They're the last people I'd trust to run my lock screen responsibly. Also the last people I'd trust to not open gaping security holes to make life easier for the FB sheeple.
no it is not. users hate the branding crap, that is why there are already instructions on how to remove the facebook branding from this phone. Why you would want to pay over the odds for the phone in the first place is another matter.
Facebook isn't going to beat operators at their own game, it is going to fall flat on it's face repeating the same mistakes that they have made over and over. You can't force on users what they actively don't want.
"You can't force on users what they actively don't want."
Actually you can, and the mobile operators prove that. I can't think of anybody that really wants operator branding on their phone. Or the operator acting as a sluggish intermediary in handset updates. Or their phone to be filled with the IT equivalent of slag, in the form of crummy games trials, operators' tumbleweed infested online music and app stores, and the rest.
But that's exactly what the network operators continue to foist on people. Even after mucking out the Augean stables of crapps on my Voda handset, anytime there's an Android update a fresh, steaming length of Voadure is crimped out all over my handset. And its not just the network operators. The vast majority of prebuilt computers are flogged with hundreds of megabytes of bloatware that nobody asked for, and nobody would willingly pay for.
So you would certainly struggle to force customers to use these crappstores and bloatware, but the companies concerned believe that you can force things on people who don't want them.
I suspect Google is loving this - Facebook Home is arguably the first app to provide a simple and obvious reason for teens and avid Facebook users (and there are a lot of the latter) rather than those of us who like Android for it adaptability to want an Android handset rather than an iOS/WP8/BB10 device. The rest of the phone is still Android complete with Gmail, Maps, Drive, Picasa and such, Facebook has just pinched the lock screen. Even Google Now is still present and correct.
This is the first time Android has had a mass-appeal and highly publicized app that can't be had anywhere else.
The reason a lot of people now use Facebook less and less isn't the lack of realtime information, but the overabundance of it. The balance of quantity vs quality is increasingly wrong.
Once you have more than a certain number of contacts on any platform, your updates tend to get cluttered with a minority of users who have to post everything they do. Automated updates and "liking" things made Facebook even less worth reading. A risk of deep mobile integration is that it becomes even more trivial, full of posts such as "this is the sandwich I just bought". Likely to be followed my the promotional post "you could buy the same sandwich your friend just liked using this voucher code today!"
But it was slow and you could literally see the battery dying as the home screen did nothing. Thankfully it was easy to revert to the normal one.
Oh, and if Sony is reading: I DON'T WANT GOD DAMNED FACEBOOK ON MY GOD DAMNED PHONE! Why can't we uninstall this crap?
Can't you Disable it in the Apps settings? I disabled it on my old HTC Incredible running ICS, which I think was the first version that lets you do this. I've also disabled notifications from the Google Play store, because they really are annoying.
No it bloody well isn't.
No one likes the branded veneers from Vodafone, Orange, et al and the idea of FB doing the same thing is just so incredibly scary it makes Skynet look like a bad dream.
There are already more than enough non removable apps added to the average Android phone by operators and manuafacturers, another one from FB is the last thing we need. The reports on FB Home say that phone will launch with it pre-installed. If Samsung do this and it is not removable then my S3 is the last phone my family and I will buy from them.
If you get unexpected charges, complain. Preferably to the CEO of the phone operator by letter. I've done this three times now in the space of 18 months and obtained a refund each time.
The bottom line is they don't want to lose customers/mugs and it costs them more to field your complaint than the money you've been ripped.
Once you get their attention -- forget ringing (and I notice that the relevant company's complaints dept doesn't disclose its email address) -- the companies are not quite so evil seeming as we tend to assume.
Zuckerberg would've done better to design a better Facebook App for all platforms that actually works well and is pleasant to use based on what FACEBOOK USERS WANT, not what he wants to shove down their throats. Everyone keeps trying the Steve Jobs approach without realizing that he's the only one that will EVER work for. Zuckerberg would like to think he's got the mojo of Jobs, but no one in the tech industry does. Facebook Home will fail miserably because, as others have pointed out, no one, including the most obsessed Facebook users, wants their entire phone experience to be Facebook. No one. Sure, some will download and try it and sure, some will even buy an HTC First, but people will quickly find it more annoying than the Facebook Timeline and rush to uninstall it more rapidly than they installed it. Besides, as has been pointed out, none of the big players in the industry will want Facebook Home to succeed in taking over the user experience. That alone guarantees Facebook Home's failure.
"The SIM is the operators' natural home, but only the most fanatical would expect to run a replacement skin from there. The GSM SIM is best considered an entirely separate computer, connected to the handset over a 9600 baud serial connection, and can no more control the user experience than it can fly a 747, though that didn't stop France Telecom trying the idea with Orange Homescreen back in 2007."
Smartcard Web Server, with the USB connection to the SIM? (sadly only supported by 3.5 handsets)
Given the state of the current Facebook Android app, there is no way I'll be installing anything that take over my phone.
The latest app crashes nine times out of ten, is extremely slow on the occasions it does work, and is not fit for purpose. I have switched to using the browser based interface
I don't have a Farcebook account, so no reason to get locked in. I'm going BB anyway.
Dunno about anyone else but I'm heartily and utterly sick and tired of being bombarded by social networking as the "way forward, man". I get spam from FB - "Do you know xyz..." funnily enough, Yes I do. So how are they matching me without an account then?
You can thank the media for all of this not me! Its cos I'm such a darling of theirs. Why?
Cos media types love this sh*t bitch! They have all day to surf Facebook and Twitter and Foursquare and PInterest, and all the other wank I haven't even heard of yet... but will buy up once it hits critical mass!
Zuck is worth more than $10 billion dollars. I would say that, thus far, the 28 year old billionaire has shown remarkable good judgment if we use net worth as our benchmark. I am dubious if facebook begins too early to plaster advertisements on things, but it is theirs to lose. If I had to bet on someone's judgment about this, Mark Zuckerberg's opinion would be a front-runner.
Consider this: if there is a strong reaction to anything happening in the world, do you think it might show up in the conversations of a one billon strong social network? I have a feeling that facebook will know if it is damaging its userbase LONG before it has lost a few hundred million users.
Consider this: One of the most canny players with arguably the best intelligence available has tried three times and failed and is now trying a fourth time and thus far failing. Time spent on Google+ is measured in minutes when time spent on facebook is measured in hours. Google has gone looking for users. Facebook has had users continue to stream into them and each new user disproportionately amplifies its grip on the entire userbase. Google knows two things better than anyone: (1) The facebook userbase is very valuable and increasing in value rapidly (2) It is difficult (thus far impossible) to dislodge them, even with an existing foothold of hundreds of millions of users, superlative intelligence and nearly unlimited funds.
All things being equal, facebook is not stoppable. If I were CEO of any of Microsoft, Apple, Google, HP, IBM or similar firms I would be be frantically trying to partner with facebook before one of the other big players gets there first and slams the door. I was told by someone at Google that Sergey Brin was deeply concerned about facebook -- more than anything else -- as a threat to his company. If management at a powerful player like Google is worried, you can bet there is some reason to think that facebook is strong and getting stronger. Facebook *could* be in a position to sell more effective adverstising just on its knowledge of its users. Facebook *could* fairly rapidly put up significantly better search results for most things than any other company. Facebook is a person or two away from everyone in the world. No other company is in that position. Facebook has access to *all* of facebook's data and deep enough pockets to buy tons more. The failure of Google+ should be convincing to most of you that facebook has a tenacious grip on its userbase.
I am surprised that nobody mentions the fact that facebook's might comes from the math of 'group forming networks'. In my opinion, barring facebook repeatedly shooting its own foot at point blank range, the only way to stop them now is by extreme measures -- using lobbying and bribes to put in place regulatory hurdles to shut them down -- joining all the large players against them -- locking the URL out of devices like phones, bombarding them with lawsuits, etc.
If I were in charge of Google, I would do whatever I could to be facebook's partner. Otherwise, facebook is a very dangerous exposed flank for them. If facebook replaces Google as the search engine of choice it will suck Google's oxygen out of the air. Could facebook do this? Could they get more than one billion users? The answer to both questions is yes, yes they could.
Could they get more than one billion accounts? Possibly.
Users, however, I don't think so. And it's unique eyeballs, not accounts that advertisers will demand. For instance, I have 4 accounts, my cat has 3 and my wife also has 4 (I was hooked on Mafia Wars for a couple of months and was too cheap/smart to pay $ for extra action points). However, I got bored of FB a year or so ago and have logged on with one account maybe twice so far this year, both times for about 5 minutes. If FB did a deep-clean of their old/inactive/unused - say no activity for 90 days - or ran a relatively simple check to weed out duplicate accounts, I'd be surprised if more than 30-40% were actual individual live users. Then remove the fan/tribute/corporation pages and you're probably down to 25%. That's still a horde of eyes, but sounds a lot less impressive than the current userbase figures that they tout.
They do seem to have a particular grip on parents, if only because many I know use it to stay in touch with parents of their kids' friends and to organize whatever. Whether that cycle will continue remains to be seen.
TL;DR - Yes, FB is big, but not near as big in terms of actual users as they make out. As more and more advertising creeps in, it's usefulness and, arguably, relevance will decline. Time will tell what that does to the volume of active, individual users.
I'm not on Facebook, but I can see this being quite successful, reminds me of Metro, but users don't have to switch phones and apps etc for a new platform.
Double edged sword for Google, nice to have a big exclusive on android, but shame it cuts them out of the picture somewhat. Can't see how this really affects telcos who are little more than conduits at this point.
Also, Reddit could play this game as well.
I watched most of the Facebook livestream event and have seen various blogs showing off the HTC phone - but I have yet to see the mobile phone being used for the the number 1 reason it exists in the first place. Other than going in to the dialer app - how many steps does it take to PHONE someone from the homescreen? (that goes for existing contacts and new numbers)
If I'm a black hat, I'm rubbing my hands with glee right now. A few million people are going to skin their phone with something that has deep hooks into every area of their personal lives and is inherently network connected. On a device that records a bucketload of information about them (including financial information, esp. if they have NFC going on).
Imagine malware that slurped your facebook info and friend network every time you paid-by-bonk.
Oh wait, that's probably the intent.