Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s first attempt — the aptly named HTC First — has been a complete bomb. Given that SAMSUNG ELECT LTD(F) (OTCMKTS:SSNLF)’s mobile phone success has been far greater than HTC’s, some have argued that a Samsung-made Facebook phone would have a better shot at catching on.
Unfortunately for Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), that isn’t the case. The problems with the HTC First are not on the hardware side, and bringing Samsung in isn’t going to change that.
If the HTC First was a movie, it would’ve been The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)’s John Carter or Will Smith’s After Earth. That is to say, it’s been a complete flop.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) called a special press event to unveil the phone in April. Less than a month after the phone went on sale, AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) dropped the price 100 fold (from $99 to $0.99). The device can still be purchased from AT&T’s website, but there are reports that it has already been discontinued.
Is this a problem of hardware? Fortune’s JP Mangalindan seems to think so. He argues that weak hardware specs, combined with limited carrier support, were major reasons behind the phone’s failure.
The HTC First has solid specs for its price range. It’s far from a flagship phone, but with a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor and 1 gigabyte of ram, it’s packing about the same firepower as SAMSUNG ELECT LTD(F) (OTCMKTS:SSNLF)’s Galaxy SIII or Motorola’s Droid Razr HD — both of which are $99 on contract.
And more carrier support certainly could’ve helped the phone sell more, but it doesn’t explain why it’s sold so poorly on the one carrier that supports it. Plenty of other phones have been restricted to one major carrier (HTC’s Droid DNA, Nokia Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:NOK)’s Lumia 920) and have sold decently well.
The problem with the HTC First is Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s software. Slapping Facebook Home on different phones isn’t going to fix the problem — the social network needs to go back to the drawing board.
The problem with Facebook Home
Facebook Home is facing a simple, fundamental problem: people don’t run their lives through Facebook. And yet, that is precisely what Facebook Home is asking its users to do.
Facebook Home hijacks Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s Android phones and makes Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) the central application. For the most diehard Facebook addicts, that’s probably ideal. But for everyone else? Not so much.
According to a Business Insider study, people on smartphones spend only about 24% of their time social networking — and that includes all social networks (Twitter, LinkedIn Corp (NYSE:LNKD), etc.), not just Facebook.
That isn’t to say Facebook Home gets rid of a user’s other apps or makes them impossible to get to. They’re still there, and can be accessed with a quick swipe. But it’s easier to use Android’s normal interface rather than having to go through the trouble of navigating around Facebook Home.
Can Facebook Home be saved?
Frankly, I doubt that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) Home can be saved anytime soon. It’s a neat application and it helps to showcase Android’s true strength — its customizability. If Facebook is the primary reason you have a smartphone, then Home is something you might like, but at the same time, no one is forcing you to use it.
Facebook would be better served by copying Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s Android strategy — not just trying to piggyback off it.
Google gives Android away for free. Some have criticised the search giant for this, arguing that Android isn’t making Google much money. But that is failing to see the bigger picture.