The HTC First smartphone marks the first time Android has gone totally Facebook – a full-fledged Facebook smartphone that combines the leading social networking site with everything you do on a mobile device. This is the first fully integrated smartphone, but not the first Facebook-dedicated handset, with HTC’s failed ChaCha and Salsa Facebook-heavy phones. This time, Facebook is not button press away; Facebook IS the whole phone.
This sounds purely experimental; probably why the handset is named “First” instead of another dance move. Rumba or Roomba is already a home cleaning device, so perhaps we could call it the Swing or the Electric Slide. But is this more than just another gamble for the social networking giant and the struggling Taiwanese phone manufacturer?
Do I really want Facebook every time I check my phone?
The average phone user checks his or her phone more than a hundred times a day, roughly around once every 10 minutes on their waking hours. If this translates to Facebook usage, the average user would be exposed to updates (or even ads) more frequently than just browsing Facebook on their computer for a couple of hours. In a perfect world, that would be a profitable situation for Facebook, as advertisers would see it more as an opportunity to reach their target audience. But that’s not going to happen, considering that people go to Facebook to “socialize” and not shop around for deals or check out upcoming products or services from paying advertisers.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here: even if we don’t see a lot of ads populate on our newsfeed, social networking can also saturate a user to a point where he looks for something else to focus on. You can only stare at your profile page for so long until you open another browser and check out something else. Imagine having that on your phone 24/7: would you like to go through the mundane things that your friends post regularly every time you unlock your phone?
A little too late
Again, the idea of having a full-fledged Facebook phone is a matter of choice for consumers. However, Facebook is not really that big compared to how it was a couple of years ago. With the rise of other social networking platforms, sticking with just one would mean boxing yourself out of your social circles. You can still use the Android apps of these social sites, but having a full Facebook phone gives off an air of exclusivity—something that you don’t want in this highly social world we’re living in today. If this idea was conceived back in 2010, probably it would’ve been a big hit for HTC and Facebook. But at present, limiting yourself to just one social circle (even if it has more than a billion users) would be unthinkable.
Aside from the dedicated HTC First handset, Facebook will also release an Android launcher Application called Facebook Home. This means any smartphone can be a dedicated Facebook phone through running an app. But transforming your smartphone into a Facebook-dedicated device is not really practical, because again it goes against everything that a smartphone stands for. An Android phone can do lots of things; with the right set of apps, you can transform it into an entertainment and business phone hybrid. You can play different games, run various productivity programs, and do virtually anything with it as long as there’s an app for that certain function. Turning it into a Facebook-dedicated phone would be counterproductive, because it would seem like Facebook is the only thing you care about in your life. Having a Facebook phone in your office would mean you’re more into social networking instead of doing your job. There’s a hint of immaturity when you can’t separate your social networking life with your real life.