What Facebook Home means for banks, and service providers.

The world of social media & networks just took a huge leap forward, as Facebook, the largest social network in the world unveiled Facebook Home. Labeled the “next version of Facebook” it brings a people-centric experience to phones. For now its is limited to a few select Android phones. However, iOS users hoping to see Facebook Home on the next iPhone, there may be a long wait.

Based on societies overwhelming fixation on Facebook and backed by a principle to build experiences around people first and not apps, Facebook has created Home, an overlay comprised of a several apps that deliver a deeper Facebook experience unachievable through a standalone app. Home is a launcher, one that lets you spring Facebook features into action while keeping your other apps in the picture, in the background.

One of the things that has made Android as popular as it is today is the extreme customizability. And what better demonstrates this capability than the huge array of launchers and home screen replacements that are available for the platform. Launcher is the name given to the part of the Android user interface that lets users customize the home screen, launch mobile apps, make phone calls, and perform other tasks on Android devices. Launcher is built into Android. Some of the most popular launchers today are Nova, Go Launcher EX, APEX, plus you can find many more in the Google’s Play Store.

Today people use Facebook more than any other application on their phones. During his keynote, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the Facebook, showed that 25 percent of people’s phone time is spent on Facebook. Home doesn’t just bring you to Facebook, it turns your device into a Facebook-content blasting machine.

The two biggest components of Home are Cover Feed and Chat Heads. Cover Feed takes over a phone’s lock and home screens with a steady stream of Facebook updates coming from your friends. Chat Heads is a way to keep your FB buddies with you no matter what you’re doing on your device.

We’re not building a phone. We’re not building an operating system, but we’re building something that’s a whole lot deeper than just an ordinary app – Zuckerberg.

To date, Android Launchers didn’t make it to the mainstream, instead kept mainly for those desiring a more ‘custom’ experience. But Facebook’s move could render the native launchers by manufacturers obsolete. Putting Facebook in the drivers seat of the content you engage, consume and share on your mobile device.

This move makes mobile a very interesting topic for banks and other service providers, as Facebook’s dominance of the phone is certain to grow. Putting Facebook’s content and network at the forefront of a device experience means everything else fades further into the background. Suddenly the most engaging point of a mobile device is not your Mobile Banking Apps, it’s the experience Facebook’s launcher provides, increasing the relevance of Facebook in engaging consumers.

Banks in particular are still playing catch-up with the App ecosystem. Many have adopted iOS, but have struggling to catch-up with the ever accelerating Android ecosystem. Are we likely to see any response from the banks? It’s unlikely, as to date banks don’t play nicely with Facebook. Bank also have historically shied away from Android’s ‘customizability’, perceiving it at risky and a security threat.

This however is not the first time we’ve seen a content and experience lead leap forward, Windows 8 was built on this very principle. Bringing content, not applications and settings to the forefront of the Windows experience.

A version of Home for iOS is seen as less likely, as it would require a “partnership” with Apple, which maintains strict control over its “closed” ecosystem; a pairing that would implicitly see Facebook ceding some control to Apple. A first for Apple.

When a entity like Facebook throw down the gauntlet, we all have to pay attention. As this move could revolutionise the way we perceive our most personal devices, our mobile phones. And it truly embraces my ideology of ‘mobile at the centre of your daily life

 

4 Comments

  1. Shrikant Mundra

    Hi Scott,

    I don’t think FB home will have much impact on usage of Mobile Banking apps.. Banking still being a looked as specialised service dont think FB can take that place….Definitely the latest move by FB will help FB earn more revenues on marketing where Banks and Service provider can definitly spend some money to get attention of the mass using FB.

    Let me know your views on the same.

    Few misses I see in FB Home;
    1. No clear plans for iOS. (agree that Android spans over 52% users across US but still there are other Mobile Platforms left out).
    2. Dont think this will come on Android versions below 4.0..Where FB is still leaving a big chunk of user as still the market penetration of Ginger bread is much more.. converting all of them to buy new Android Phones will take some time..
    3. Data plans in countries like India will restrict the heavy usage of FB.

    Having FB around full day…might be annoying ..on the mobile home.. (may be thats a personal view..might differ for masses..)

    Regards,
    Shrikant Mundra

    • Shrikant…. thanks for the reply.

      One way I encourage you to look at Facebook Home is to consider it is to consider Facebook as your new window on the world. A large major of service and content providers already see huge engagement numbers by distributing their offerings through Facebook. So it’s likely that with Home, your daily news or content will increasingly be consumed through through Facebook alone. This creates a challenge for brands that are not a ‘Facebook Savvy’ such as banks.

      In response to your points:
      1. Android adoption by more ‘traditional’ organisations like banks is increasing. But they are still hesitant to ‘jump in’ as Android evolves much faster than iOS. Hence it’s hard for banks to resource themselves to keep up.
      2. Agree, I don’t see Home coming to Android version below 4.0. But its importan to note that combined Android 4.0 and above make up nearly 55% of the global numbers. 2.3 (Gingerbread) still has 38%, but the majority of that is in the second hand and emerging markets. India and Indonesia being the largest contributors, as 4.0 device tend to be more expensive. It’s only a matter of time before they are more affordable.
      3. Agree… Prepaid Data in emerging markets limits the bytes used by consumers ‘on the go’ but the numbers for Nigeria, India and Indonesia suggest that a large portion of Social Media data traffic comes via Wifi hotspots. Which appears to match with Facebook’s ‘offline’ mode, which allows the user to sync the large majority of content while online, but consume offline.

      Full time Facebook for some sounds annoying, but for our growing digital native population they see it as an alternative way to collate media and social content in a single location. Adding the ability to have the network as your primary communications network only strengthens Facebook’s role.

      We are definitely witnessing an evolution here that has the potential to accelerate Facebook’s share of your time.

      Stay in touch 🙂

  2. Interesting post Scott.

    I thought I would add that Android, in my eyes, is a much simpler platform for banks to build on from the design framework to distribution. Whilst there are challenges with supporting multiple shapes and sizes it is getting easier and easier to manage. At is core the platform also has some great capabilities like widgets including lock screen. From a distribution perspective Google Play also allows comment responses (for top developers) and the ability to back out to previous version. All of which are key benefits for banks (not to mention the instant upload time).

    I believe banks will increasingly start to focus on Android as the number of users evens out.

    • @Michael.. thanks for the reply.

      And I agree with you on the capabilities of Android. Personally, I divorced iOS over a year ago when we first saw iCloud, I just got tired of Apple’s closed loop, tightly managed ecosystem. I’d love to see more banks embrace the power of Android, including the likes of widgets. Imagine how great a widget with your current balance would be?

      The reality is however, is Android’s capabilities and open ecosystem approach is still scary for a bank who demand predictability, control and resilience. All traits iOS does well.

      We are definitely seeing a trend of increased adoption of Android amongst the banks, but it’s just taking time.

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