After years of speculation, the first iteration of the mythical Facebook phone finally manifested itself within the grounded bounds of reality. Needless to say, the critical response has been — perhaps justifiably — polarized.
The aggressively anti-advertising group has predictably descended upon Facebook Home with great zeal. Upon hearing the news that Facebook intends to integrate in-line and non-intrusive advertising into Home, the frenzied, defaulted response of naysayers was swift and utterly boring. In the eyes of the angry, misguided few, Mr. Zuckerberg might as well have blasphemed across all religions, burnt a flag, and started voting Republican.
For all others, however, Facebook Home appears to be a source of intense fascination. For some, even, unabated excitement and interest.
In terms of negatives, Home lacks the potency of a fully-forked version of Android, its reach does not extend throughout the O.S. experience, and its hardware compatibility is shallow, at best. In spite of these flaws, however, Facebook has unquestionably managed to build a beautifully designed front-end for the modern, sociable smartphone user.
Shedding the hindrances of excessive sharing panels — or a lack thereof in the case of iOS — Facebook Home relies instead upon delightful animations, large-scale photography, engrossing colors, and other such endearing characteristics. Gone are the lingering hints of robotic themes within Android and forgotten are the rounded squares of iOS. All such paradigms have been paved over with an altogether different way to view your personal data.
Of course this hinges upon you being an active Facebook user — a fact which many have sought to highlight as a pitfall — but I tend not to think that's of any particular concern. Facebook boasts over one billion active users per month. For the sake of highlighting a point, that's this many people when expressed in numerals: 1,000,000,000.
The vast majority of people comprising that number care not about privacy concerns, processing power, or your petty anti-advertising arguments. They care about engaging with the people in their lives in a seamless and enjoyable manner. Yesterday, for those keeping track, Facebook introduced one of the most compelling mediums through which people can behave in precisely such a manner.
Although I agree with Mr. Honan that Facebook Home continues the ongoing trend of mediocrity in the technology marketplace, I tend to think such a judgment fails to appreciate the flexibility and potency of Facebook's position.
Home is unencumbered by a great deal of barriers in the marketplace for OEMs and software manufacturers. Facebook need only update the application in the Play Store for new hardware and software updates and continue to distribute it freely. Compared to the deeply-skinned worlds of Samsung and HTC, this renders Facebook in a comparably agile and competitive position, indeed.
Perhaps, Facebook's entrance into the mobile space is remarkably reserved, but I cannot shake the sense that such a fact is well-calculated. Introducing a 4.3" phone and a delightful UI to share across the mainstream phones is a strategy riddled with long-term merit as the company seeks to carve a foothold in a hostile marketplace. It's a long-term, thoughtfully-hedged bet.
And, given the initial response, I would not be surprised (at all) if it paid off.