Facebook unveils major smartphone push - WNCN: News, Weather

Facebook unveils major smartphone push

Posted: Updated:
MENLO PARK, Calif. -

With its new "Home" on Android gadgets, Facebook aims make its social network the hub of people's mobile experiences. The question, now, is whether people want all their Facebook content greeting them every time they look at their phones.

If users download Facebook's Home software starting on April 12, Facebook will become the center of their Android smartphones. Switch on your phone and you'll see friends' photos, overlaid by status updates, links and eventually, advertisements. If a friend sends you a message, their Facebook photo will pop up as a notification.

Done with Facebook? Swipe your finger to get to a screen with your regular Android apps to listen to music, watch videos or send email.

At first, Home will only work on some Android devices, including HTC Corp.'s One X and One X Plus and Samsung Electronics Co.'s Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note 2. A phone from HTC that comes pre-loaded with Home will be available starting April 12, with AT&T Inc. as the carrier.

The idea behind the software is to bring Facebook content right to users' home screens, rather than requiring them to check various apps to see what their friends are up to, or to chat. Down the line, Facebook will integrate its existing camera app and other features. Though cameras and calls weren't part of Thursday's presentation, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised the Home software will be updated at least once a month to add more features and fix bugs.

"Home" comes amid rapid growth in the number of people who access Facebook from phones and tablet computers. Of the social network's 1.06 billion monthly users, 680 million log in using a mobile gadget. As a result, the money Facebook makes from mobile advertising is also growing.

With Home, Facebook wants to design smartphone software around people rather than apps, Zuckerberg said during the service's unveiling at Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters.

"Why do we need to go into all the apps in the first place to see what is going on with the people we care about," he asked.

"We think this is the best version of Facebook there is," he said.

Zuckerberg said users can have an experience on Android phones that they can't have on other platforms. That's because Google makes the software available on an open-source basis, allowing phone manufacturers and software developers to adapt it to their needs.

Recognizing that text messaging is one of the most important tasks on a mobile phone, Facebook showed off a Home feature called "chat heads." This lets users communicate with their friends directly from their home screens — without opening a separate app.

"What Facebook wants is to put itself at the front of the Android user experience for as many Facebook users as possible and make Facebook more elemental to their customers' experience," said Forrester analyst Charles Golvin.

While that makes sense for Facebook, the analyst thinks the company is overestimating "the extent to which this is something their users want."

"I'm sure there are people out there whose lives revolve around their social network and for them it makes sense to have it front and center," Golvin said. "But this doesn't describe the majority of consumers."

The new Home software won't be available for Apple's iPhone and iPad devices. Apple's iOS and Mac operating systems include features that integrate Facebook's services, but Zuckerberg said doing something like Home would require a closer partnership.

Apple had no immediate comment.

For Google, the announcement isn't great news. The company gives away its Android software for free, in the hope that it will steer phone users to ads Google sells. With Home, Facebook is inserting itself between users and Google, diverting them to its own ads and services. It's not the first time a big Internet company has co-opted Android: Amazon.com's Kindle Fire tablets run a version of Android that strips out all Google services, replacing them with Amazon's equivalents.

The deeper mobile integration will help Facebook to attract more mobile advertisers. Though mobile ads were a big concern for Facebook's investors even before the company's initial public offering last May, some of the worry is subsiding as the company muscles its way into the market.

Last year, Facebook began showing ads to its mobile audience by shoehorning corporate-sponsored content into users' news feeds, which also include updates from friends and brands they follow. Facebook now faces the challenge of showing people mobile ads without annoying or alienating them.

At this early stage, advertisements are not part of Facebook's Home. Ads "are something we look forward to doing a great job with," said Cory Ondrejka, director of mobile engineering.

He said Facebook won't start showing ads "until we are sure we got it right."

That time will certainly come. The mobile advertising market is growing quickly, thanks in large part to Facebook and Twitter, which also entered the space in 2012. Research firm eMarketer expects U.S. mobile ad spending to grow 77 percent this year to $7.29 billion, from $4.11 billion last year.

Facebook, meanwhile, is expected to earn $1.53 billion in worldwide mobile ad revenue this year according to eMarketer, up from $470.7 million last year.

Facebook's stock rose 85 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $27.10 in afternoon trading following the announcement. It's still nearly 23 percent below its initial public offering price of $35.


Barbara Ortutay reported from New York. AP Technology Writer Peter Svensson contributed to this story from New York.

 

  • Trending StoriesTrending StoriesMore>>

  • Woman impales herself on cemetery fence; says she was running from attacker

    Woman impales herself on cemetery fence; says she was running from attacker

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 2:53 PM EDT2014-07-23 18:53:18 GMT
    A woman claims she was running from an attacker and tried to jump a five foot fence when she became impaled. Firefighters had to use power saws and a grinding saw to cut her free, all while she was conscious. After 30 minutes she was transported to an area hospital for surgery to remove the spike sticking out of her thigh. It happened at Vine Cemetery in Hazleton. She said the nearest gate was locked. Witnesses backed...
    A woman claims she was running from an attacker and tried to jump a five foot fence when she became impaled. Firefighters had to use power saws and a grinding saw to cut her free, all while she was conscious. After 30 minutes she was transported to an area hospital for surgery to remove the spike sticking out of her thigh. It happened at Vine Cemetery in Hazleton. She said the nearest gate was locked. Witnesses backed...
  • 2 charged with first-degree murder in beating death of UNC professor, cancer researcher

    2 charged with first-degree murder in beating death of UNC professor, cancer researcher

    Friday, July 25 2014 9:00 AM EDT2014-07-25 13:00:14 GMT
    A UNC research professor was robbed and beaten to death Wednesday afternoon on University Drive in Chapel Hill, police said.
    A UNC research professor was robbed and beaten to death Wednesday afternoon on University Drive in Chapel Hill, police said.
  • Largest companies by revenue in each state

    Largest companies by revenue in each state

    Thursday, July 10 2014 8:01 PM EDT2014-07-11 00:01:10 GMT
    Broadview Networks recently decided to find out the biggest -- by revenue -- company in each state in the US.The company used the Fortune 500 list to start with, but needed data by state, so it turned to Hoover's.With data from that company, they were able to search through each state's list of companies and then find the largest -- by revenue.Just flip through the list above and see who is the biggest in each state, what town they are based and their revenue.
    Broadview Networks recently decided to find out the biggest -- by revenue -- company in each state in the US.The company used the Fortune 500 list to start with, but needed data by state, so it turned to Hoover's.With data from that company, they were able to search through each state's list of companies and then find the largest -- by revenue.Just flip through the list above and see who is the biggest in each state, what town they are based and their revenue.
Powered by WorldNow

1205 Front St., Raleigh
N.C., 27609

Telephone: 919.836.1717
Fax: 919.836.1687
Email: newstips@wncn.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.