Happy Monday! In honor of the holiday season and the end of the year quickly approaching, we’re taking a look at a list of products, strategies, and plans that misfired in 2013 from publication @FierceWireless. Last week we looked at “The iPhone 5c’s unsubsidized price point”, and today we’re looking at Facebook Home. Why is Facebook Home included in this list? Keep reading to find out–
After years of rumors over whether Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) would produce a “Facebook phone,” in early April the social networking giant introduced Home, an alternative homescreen for Android smartphones. HTC announced its “First” phone would have Home preloaded, and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) said it would sell the phone for $99.99 with a two-year contract.
Key Home features include Cover Feed, essentially a home page presenting apps and media. Home also includes Notifications and Chat Heads, which offers similar functionality to the social network’s standalone Facebook Messenger app.
“We’re going to turn your Android phone into a great, simple, social device,” said Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, explaining the company set out to flip the script on the traditional mobile user experience paradigm, designing around people first and then focusing on app-enabled interactions, instead of vice versa.
Android users downloaded Facebook Home more than 500,000 times during the app’s first week of worldwide commercial availability, though the app’s reach was limited to a handful of devices at first, including the Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy Note II, HTC One X and HTC One X+, as well as the HTC First. However, the app received a user rating of just 2.2 stars out of five, with more than half of all customer reviews awarding the app a rating of just one star. (Currently, with more than 25,000 reviews, the app has an average rating of 2.5 stars.)
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in late May, despite the rocky reviews, that the company was optimistic about Home. “We believe that the phone will get reorganized around people–Home is the first iteration of that,” she said at AllThingsD‘s D11 conference.
Around that time, rumors circulated that AT&T had decided to discontinue the First because of weak sales. AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega said the company has sold out of the First, but only after cutting its price to 99 cents with a contract (the gadget now goes for 49 cents). “We sold a bunch more when we lowered the price,” de la Vega told CNET. “We sold everything we had on that.” AT&T declined to specify how many HTC First units it has sold.
Zuckerberg admitted in September that Home had failed to live up to expectations, but he declined to call the venture a failure. Cory Ondrejka, Facebook’s mobile engineering vice president, said in November that the company learned a lot from launching Home, which it will use to improve the app and in developing other mobile products. “We will keep iterating on Home,” he said during an interview with AllThingsD at the Techonomy conference near Tucson, Ariz. “We really have a better understanding of where to take Home in the future.”
Facebook’s Home app generally seemed limited in availability and usefulness. However, at least Facebook feels like it got something out of it.