Monday, April 22, 2013

Facebook Home at 500,000 Downloads – Seems Like A Dud. Should It Be A Million or More?

Source:  Droid Life.

Facebook Home shows that Facebook’s brand power is nowhere near those of other apps like its own Instagram or even paid apps like Angry Birds.  So, 500K does seem like a big fail.

Having said that, we want to be fair.  Home is only available to a subset of Android devices.  What are they?  Galaxy S III, Note II, HTC Ones.

So sure, limited availability and all that but the fact that it is limited to a segment of high end Android devices makes that a huge deal.  It means high-end Android users, who may also be Facebook users, are not interested in getting bombarded with updates from friends all day long.  Nor do they want their home screen splattered with ads.  So that probably also mean they don’t like having their privacy violated more than it already is by Facebook.

Even when I was on Facebook, I check it at most once a day.  Sometimes a week or two can go by without me logging in.  I think that’s likely the case for the vast majority of high-end Android users.

And that in and of itself should worry Facebook and its supporters.  You naturally think high-end Android users, like iPhone users, probably will be more engaging than Android users who use the phones as they are without buying apps or media.  That means Facebook Home is inherently being avoided by high-end users who are likely to spend money for apps and services.

What’s also worrying is the two stars Home has on Google Play while the standalone Facebook and Messenger apps have 3.5 and 5 stars respectively.  Even competitor Path has almost five stars.  (Furthermore, I don’t think Google is looking to promote the heck out of Home which many, including us, believes Home is a play by Facebook to replace Google as the face of Android.)

Even now, Facebook Home doesn't work with Google’s flagship device, Nexus 4.  And over weekend, I had dinner with friends who had Nexus 4 as their main devices and not one plan on install Facebook Home on there.  A couple don’t even have Facebook apps installed.

However, I think it is still too early to tell.  The first Facebook phone, the HTC First, isn’t out yet and we have to see if anyone bites.  Having said that, retailing for $99 with a two-year contract and unless the user is a dead on Facebook addict, the mobile buyer has too many choices to pick from not to mention better devices for the same price or free.  And in a few months, the First will probably be free on contract.

Home is Facebook’s beachhead to get into mobile.  And Android is the easiest place for it to make that happen.  What next is easy to guess.  We’ll likely see a future app store from Facebook just like Amazon had an app store before the Kindle Fire went on sale.  After that, we’ll see a full fledge device with Home, Facebook’s app store, and its other services completely replacing any mention of Google.

Facebook is patient because it can afford to be even if downloads are so far a dismal failure today.  Unless you’re selling high-end devices like Samsung to make money off Android, monetizing mobile traffic and content is slow going after years at it by Google and Microsoft.  Facebook will try and try until it finds a winning strategy or failing that, end up alienating its mobile users.

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