Facebook Home is in the Wrong House

Facebook HomeI couldn’t agree more with Pete Pachal’s analysis on Mashable that launching, and initially limiting Facebook Home to the U.S. market is the wrong move. Facebook should have launched “Home” in a market with a need for lower cost devices without such heavy broadband penetration.

For those who’ve been living under a rock for the past 48 hours, Facebook Home is Facebook’s new homescreen replacement for Android.

In the U.S., however, Facebook Home will have an uphill battle, and not just because smartphone penetration is so much higher. It’s also because, among connected people, Facebook isn’t the only network that matters to us. Yes, as Mark Zuckerberg showed, it’s probably the app we fire up most often. But we also like to see what’s going on on Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Quora and a host of other services.

In short, digital influencers in the U.S. — the very demographic Facebook Home needs to win over if it’s going to be successful — don’t want to curtail in any way the connections they value by spending more time in Facebook.

Would I let Facebook become even more of a constant distraction in my life, at the expense of the other social services I use and value? Would I abandon the social services where many of my friends have already migrated to? Would I want Facebook to be the first thing I see every time I pick up my phone? Hell no!

Pete also hit it on the head with the notion that a low end Facebook phone is simply not what the teenage market wants either.

The one way a U.S. launch for Facebook Home makes sense is the kid factor: The First offers parents a relatively cheap option for getting their kids a smartphone, one that’s caters to their lifestyle of constant connection.

But if that’s the thinking, it’s a few years behind. I was on the radio earlier this week to talk about messaging apps, and a 15-year-old girl appeared on the show to reveal how she communicates with her friends. Facebook didn’t factor in at all — she and her classmates only used the network when their study group made it necessary.

Gabrielle will be pushing 15 very soon, has an iPhone and laptop and doesn’t even want a Facebook account even though she’s been offered one a number of times. She has a blog, YouTube account and all the other bells and whistles, but as he friends don’t Facebook, neither does she. This initially surprised me but it makes sense – Facebook is where your parents hang out. Why would kids want to hang out there?

I was also struck by similar surprise when my little sister, Siobhán, was visiting from Ireland last October. She’s had a Facebook account since before she should have, but it’s very rarely used these days as it’s not where her friends congregate or choose to communicate online.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that Facebook has a bad history of not playing well with other application, and what this could mean if you allow them take over your smartphone experience.

Will you use Facebook Home?

Image via Facebook.

That’s Not Much Of A Gyft Google!

As part of Google’s 1 year birthday celebrations for Google Play, they are giving away free apps, episodes and music. One of the offers is for an app called Gyft (I have never heard of Gyft before now) which is offering $20 of free gift cards with the download.

$20 free bucks to blow on useless junk – let me download that straight away! Except, as you can see from the image below, the app won’t install on either of my Android devices. Instead I get the “this item is not compatible with your device” message, which is pretty amazing considering that my Nexus 7 runs the latest and greatest flavor of android (4.2.2) and my phone runs 2.2.

Fragmentation sucks! Thanks carriers!

Google Birthday Gyft

Xbox SmartGlass – Y U No Work On Nexus 7?

Smart-GlassBeing a huge Xbox fan (oflahertypaul if you’re interested) and mega Google nerd, I have to admit that I was a little late to the game in learning that SmartGlass is available for Android.

It was awesome sitting on the couch the other night messing with my Xbox (1 of 2) and controlling it from my Windows 8 laptop, so you can imagine that I was more than a bit disappointed to find out that SmartGlass does not work with either of my two Android devices.

I can forgive it not working with my Samsung Galaxy S, which runs Froyo (2.2) and has been around since Jesus rode dinosaurs to school, but that it doesn’t work with my Nexus 7? Wait, what? Oh hell nawww!

My beloved Nexus runs the latest and greatest version of Android (Jelly Bean 4.1.2), well at least until the Nexus 10 comes out (it will mine, oh yes, it will be mine), so what gives?

It’s simple Microsoft. The people  in the Google universe buying Nexus tablets are the ones most likely to want to use things like SmartGlass, and most likely to buy the 720 when it finally drops. We’re likely to pick up a Surface too, and Windows 8, because most of us are platform agnostic.

We love cool tech, but if you’re stuff doesn’t work on the current flagship device for cool tech (amongst those who aren’t pleasuring themselves over that other serving tray tablet) then you’re going to lose any allure you may be building.

Update: Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins informs me that you can side-load SmartGlass on to the Nexus 7 and it works just fine. But that does sound like an terrible lot of work…

Unlock At Home – Must Have Android App

Unlock At HomeFor those of you who hate having to unlock your phone while you’re at home but don’t want to have to think about changing your settings so your phone is secure when you leave the house, then Unlock At Home may just be the app for you.

How it works is simple. Once installed, you tell the app which is your home Wi-Fi network and then when you’re connected to that network, the application prevents the unlock screen from activating.

Once you’re disconnect from that network or move out of range of it, then the phone locks and goes back to the default behavior of locking the screen.

Unlock At Home is a free download from the Android Market place but if you love it, like I do, you might want to consider installing the companion app and making a donation to the developer.

Android’s Life Expectancy Is Decreasing

After the release of Android 2.3 it’s shocking to learn that only 51.8% of Android devices have made the upgrade to 2.2. Worse, 35.2% are on 2.1 (I’m one of those with my Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant), 7.9% are on 1.6 and there are even 4.7% still running 1.5 which is now more than two years old.

Android Stats

Image via TechCrunch.

It’s not the users fault.

It’s the carriers and the OEMs who are to blame.

They deliberately withhold updates to phones for BS reasons such as wanting to provide incentive for customers to upgrade to newer phones and differentiators for new customers.

An anonymous post, out of the XDA Developers forum sheds some interesting light on the behinds the scenes politics which are currently keeping all U.S. Galaxy S Phones on Android 2.1:

Hello,
I’m going to step across the NDAs and explain the issues behind the Android Froyo update to Samsung Galaxy S phones in the United States. I think most of you have come to this realization yourself now: the withholding of the Froyo update is a largely political one, not a technological one: Froyo runs quite well on Galaxy S phones, as those of you that have run leaked updates may have noticed.

To explain the political situation, first, a primer on how phone firmware upgrades work for carriers. When a carrier decides to sell a phone, a contract is usually written between the phone manufacturer and the carrier. In this contract, the cost of updates (to the carrier) is usually outlined. Updates are usually broken into several types: critical updates, maintenance updates, and feature updates. Critical updates are those that resolve a critical bug in the phone, such as the phone overheating. Maintenance updates involve routine updates to resolve bugs and other issues reported by the carrier. Finally, feature updates add some new feature in software that wasn’t present before. Critical updates are usually free, maintenance updates have some maintenance fee associated with them, and feature updates are usually costly.

In the past, most phone updates would mainly consist of critical and maintenance updates. Carriers almost never want to incur the cost of a feature update because it is of little benefit to them, adds little to the device, and involves a lot of testing on the carrier end. Android has changed the playing field, however – since the Android Open Source Project is constantly being updated, and that information being made widely available to the public, there is pressure for the phone to be constantly updated with the latest version of Android. With most manufacturers, such as HTC, Motorola, etc. This is fine and considered a maintenance upgrade. Samsung, however, considers it a feature update, and requires carriers to pay a per device update fee for each incremental Android update.

Now, here’s where the politics come in: most U.S. carriers aren’t very happy with Samsung’s decision to charge for Android updates as feature updates, especially since they are essentially charging for the Android Open Source Project’s efforts, and the effort on Samsung’s end is rather minimal. As a result of perhaps, corporate collusion, all U.S. carriers have decided to refuse to pay for the Android 2.2 update, in hopes that the devaluation of the Galaxy S line will cause Samsung to drop their fees and give the update to the carriers. The situation has panned out differently in other parts of the world, but this is the situation in the United States.
Some of you might have noticed Verion’s Fascinate updated, but without 2.2 : This is a result of a maintenance agreement Samsung must honor combined with Verizon’s unwillingness to pay the update fees.

In short, Android 2.2 is on hold for Galaxy S phones until the U.S. carriers and Samsung reach a consensus.

Some might wonder why I didn’t deliver this over a more legitimate news channel – the short answer: I don’t want to lose my job. I do, however, appreciate transparency, which is why I’m here.

This fragmentation is leaving a bad taste in a lot of users mouths. If the only time users can upgrade their phones OS (without going the route of rooting the phone and installing custom ROMs, which is a daunting and intimidating notion for most non-techie users) is by buying a new phone, users are very quickly going to loose loyalty and not want to be burdened with the issue.

Users look at other phones such as the iPhone and see that updates are delivered without much hassle. They will hear (and see) the promises of Windows Phone 7 with over the air updates that Microsoft has claimed the carriers can only block for one cycle, then they will arrive.

People want the latest and greatest.

The realization that the operating system is (essentially) free, that there is no good technical reason why your phone can’t be updated (just marketing and politics), that you are being denied something that was part of the marketing push for your phone (get X with 2.1 today – 2.2 coming soon etc..) will drive consumers to other devices.

The feeling that everyone else’s phone is better than mine and there is nothing I can do about it(other than buy a new phone) because the bullies won’t let me play, will drive people to choose phones running other operating systems.

This growing feeling of discontent among Android users will lead to a backlash. It will lead to consumers NOT recommending Android to their friends.

After all, who wants to have the knowledge that their phone isn’t as good as it could be and the only reason is that the carriers and OEMS are stopping them from getting something that, to their mind, is essentially free?

As the fragmentation increases and more consumers become aware and vocal of how they are being short changed, the opportunities for other established and emerging phone OS’s will increase, and it will happen at Androids expense.

Right now Android is riding the wave of success but if the deliberate fragmentation continues that wave will likely crash against a rocky shore.

What If ISP’s Operated Like Cellphone Carriers?

The following video and the transcript below, is a direct result of conversation I had with Sara about the fact that there are currently no Android phones available on the Sprint network.

Transcript of the video:

What would the world be like, or what would your communications be like, if ISP’s operated the same way cellphone carriers do?

Imagine a situation where, with ISP’s operating the same as cellphone carriers, every time you wanted to change from one ISP to another you had to buy a new laptop, and the laptop that you bought had to be one approved by the ISP for use on their network!

Imagine every time, if you wanted to go out and buy an Alienware PC or but the latest Mac notebook, laptop or whatever and you couldn’t do it because they weren’t available to your ISP. Further to that imagine if you the got hold of your new laptop after moving to your new ISp and found that you can’t run the software you want on it because the software has to be approved buy the hardware manufacturer in conjunction with the ISP.

This may sound like a really, really stupid situation considering the cost of laptops and the cost of an ISP for a year but it is a situation that we go through and deal with everyday, especially in the US. Not so much here in Europe, but especially in the US in terms of our cellphones.

Now, many cellphone handsets are just as expensive as an entry level laptop or low end laptop. You can pay 300, 400 dollars or more, 500 – 600 dollars for a handset sometimes and yet you can only use it with certain networks.

Here in Europe things are very, very different on that front. I can buy any handset I want (except an iPhone) and as long as I take a contract and get a SIM card, with the network that I want to be on, then I can put it on any network that I want to put it on. And I can move it from network to network just by changing the SIM card.

Now, you can buy a phone here discounted, because of your contract with the cellphone carrier which locks your phone to that cellphone carrier. However, when you finish your contract you are allowed unlock your phone and move it to any other network.

But, you know, that’s besides the point.

The point that I’m trying to make here is that cellphone handsets are expensive. We buy them they are our hardware, once we purchase them.

They have also become very, very central to our communications and they’ve become central to our productivity. They are  just as essential to our productivity in some cases as our laptops are. They allow us to do many of the same functions while we’re on the move and stay in contact. But why is it that while we wouldn’t put up with this behaviour from ISP’s we put up with it from cellphone manufacturers/carriers?

Cellphones cost approximately the same as an entry level laptop yet if somebody was to tell you that you can’t use your laptop with us because we only allow Apple or we only allow say, Dell PC’s on our ISP, you’d be in uproar. The whole place would be in war over it.

So again, why do we allow this to happen with our cellphone handsets?