Tomi Ahonen, if you don’t know, was named by Forbes as one of the Top 10 Power Influencers in Mobile – he is a prolific writer and public speaker, with extensive knowledge and strong opinions about the mobile communications industry (and the James Bond series!).
The ‘ForumOxford’ LinkedIn group hosts chats with mobile industry experts. The guests are available to answer questions from group members, for 1 hour, on a set date and time. [It’s a great format! Thank you to James Ramsay for bringing this group / these chats to my attention.]
So, I couldn’t resist this opportunity to pick on Tomi’s brain regarding the Facebook’s venture into ‘mobile’, Facebook Home. I don’t see Facebook Home as an attempt to compete with mobile phone operators or manufacturer. Rather, I see it as an attempt to compete with other social networking services. Facebook wants to capitalise on our compulsion to share our experiences, and make sure that mobile phone users predominantly share content through their platform.
Accordingly, this is what I asked Tomi:
‘Tomi: Thoughts on Facebook home? – Not whether it threatens existing players (it doesn’t, IMHO) but in terms of what it says about how users communicate nowadays, and what they use their mobiles for. Thanks.’
And this is what Tomi replied:
on @ana and FB Home, specifically how we communicate. I both like it, and dislike it (spoken like a true consultant, eh?). I like at least the part, that FB made a big issue about the fact that our communication drives the phone use (for the most part)
But I remember seeing many attempts to build a user experience around who your friends are and what they are doing right now. This is what T-mobile’s Fave 5 was (showing your 5 favorite friends at the home screen), and Nokia’s Lifeblog was also in this direction
I think yes, its a relevant insight into how we use the smartphone but it is also ‘only one of very many’ ways. If you are not heavily into your social network but prefer for example often to listen to music, or play games on your phone (killing time etc)…
I think the analogy here would be perhaps like in cars, when the SUV vehicle class emerged, and it fed the needs of suburban families being able to pack a lot of kids and pets (and/or grocery shopping) into their cars, etc..
Its not the only way to use cars, its not the only preferred way to have your car, but clearly there is a market and its design aspects reflect use patterns that previous cars didn’t serve very well
Tomi is, of course, spot on: there are many different types of users of mobile phones, some of which use the devices predominantly for ‘social networking’ (is that a verb?) over Facebook – let’s call this segment the ‘compulsive FB sharers’. For these the new application will make perfect sense. The next question is: given that (for the moment) the app only works on Android phones, how many Android phone users are, also, ‘compulsive FB sharers’? Is Facebook Home facing a segment like A or more like B?