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Digital Life

For Facebook, Home Is Not Where the Hearts Are

For Facebook, Home Is Not Where the Hearts Are
April 22, 2013 3:53PM

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The 500,000 to 1 million landmark in 10 days for Facebook Home was greeted with cynicism since other apps, such as Instagram, have had far more successful debuts. Many noted that Facebook Home has an average rating of two out of five stars by its 11,771 reviewers on Google Play as of today, with the largest number being one-star only reviews.

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Ten days after its much-hyped release, Facebook's custom-made interface for Android smartphones -- allowing social media addicts to immediately share updates, photos and links without having to first open an app -- has been installed on between 500,000 and 1 million devices. That's according to a graph on the app's listing on Google Play.

Impressive? Maybe. Except when you figure that Facebook has a billion users and probably more than 0.1 percent of them have smartphones.

Only on Select Phones

To be fair, Home is currently available only for Android-based phones, and not even all of them. The supported devices all run Android 4.1, or Jelly Bean: the HTC One X, HTC One X plus, Samsung Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note 2.

Facebook has also launched its own phone, the HTC First, which comes with Home pre-installed.

Facebook is reportedly also in talks with Apple to bring Home to iOS devices, though no timetable has been mentioned.

But the 500,000 to 1 million landmark in 10 days was greeted with cynicism in the tech media since other apps, such as Instagram, have had far more successful debuts. Many noted that Home has an average rating of just two out of five stars by its 11,771 user reviewers on Google Play as of Monday afternoon.

The largest number of reviewers, 6,157, gave it just a single star, while only 1,910 gave it five stars.

"So I downloaded the app, and within 10 minutes of downloading, I uninstalled," wrote one Galaxy S III user on April 16. "Was not impressed by this app at all. Might be nice for some people, but not me."

But another Homie, also using a Galaxy S III, wrote on April 18: "Does exactly what it says it does. Runs smoothly. Doesn't use any more battery than normal, I must say, as you can change data use to low. Looking forward to the updates each month FB promised. Always switch between this and my default launcher. All in all a good FB Addition!!!!"

Facebook's goal in creating Home is to increase mobile users' time on the network to increase advertising opportunities, since mobile ads based on shared keywords is lucrative.

Big Bucks in Distractions

According to eMarketer, revenue from that market in the U.S. alone will reach $7.29 billion this year, up more than 77 percent from last year's $4.11 billion, and Facebook is expected to take 13.2 percent in its first-place slot in mobile display ads.

"It's still premature to decide if Facebook Home is a failure," wireless analyst Neil Shah of Current Analysis told us. "However, the initial traction is bound to be lower mainly because ... there is no imminent need or value generated for users to reskin their entire UI to an 'always on' social network and let Facebook take complete control over their phone."

He also noted privacy concerns and the fact that the Home experience is "so far not superior for the user to replace the 'stock or OEM' skinned Android experience."

The Home suite includes the apps Cover Feed, Notifications, Chat Heads, App Launcher and Instagram.

The social media giant made a series of advertisements promoting Home, one of which showed CEO Mark Zuckerberg giving a speech at company headquarters while an oblivious employee used Home to access a world of diversions on his phone.

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