With the big Thursday reveal of Facebook Home, the haute-tech blogger set seems to have come to terms with the reality that smartphones are now a commodity of the masses, sometimes not made for their very particular tastes. Indeed, the new sub-$100 HTC First device that will be first to run the new Facebook-first version of Android's cellphone software — well, it just isn't for the insider crowd, what with their fancy hardware and latest-and-greatest software platforms. However, aware that over 1 billion people on Earth now own a smartphone, even technology taste makers are trying really hard to conceptualize the future: You — yes, even you, and you and you — might actually want to buy this "Facebook Phone" thing.
Despite their own privacy concerns (there will be ads, and there will be data mining) and their insistence that users want more and more apps (beyond, you know, "Chat Heads"), the conventional wisdom among Silicon Valley's functional equivalent of Morning Joe is that the plebeians — you know, people with normal brain power, thin wallets, and general technological savvy of our times — will want what Facebook has to offer. Which is to say: The social network's takeover of the everyman phone is for you... not for them.
Despite calling it a "laughable" proposition for the "tech set," Mat Honan at Wired says "millions of Americans" will want the Facebook phone:
Will businesses take to it? Almost certainly not. No business, other than maybe Buzzfeed, wants its employees spending more time on Facebook. Will it be a hit with early adopters and the tech set? That’s laughable. No. Will millions of Americans just want a handset that can run Facebook? That seems like a bet I’d take.
Just who are these "millions" of real people, you ask? Poor people, with poor taste, Honan suggests: "I suspect there is a strong correlation between people who want a 'free' smartphone with people who really dig Facebook," he writes. You people who value bargains over privacy and utility and style are already buying up all those mid-level Android phones because you people have no idea what's what, as SplatF's Dan Frommer explains. So "the types of people who, every couple of years, go into the Verizon or AT&T shop and walk out with whatever newish thing the store rep says they should buy" will be drawn to the HTC First and its ilk. Or, in a similar vein, Frommer says, those "who have bought Android phones — and some iPhones, probably — who don't really care that they're Android phones, or even smartphones" also fall in the Facebook sucker category.
Within these others, the "tech set" also suggests another, sicker subset: "Facebook addicts." Slate's Farhad Manjoo, who comes right out and says "I don't think Facebook Home is for me," guesses that people with an unhealthy attachment to the social network will love the new Facebook-fronted Android platform. That's like saying a nicotine addict would definitely like a pack of cigarettes. ReadWrite's Mark Hachman agrees with that proposition, by the way: "If you're obsessed with Facebook, Home is for you. But if you'd like to use your Android phone for something else — like checking email, for example — you'll probably find Home more trouble than it's worth," he writes. It's unclear how we diagnose the addicts. But if they truly have a health issue, perhaps we shouldn't prescribe a phone with the drug of choice right on its home screen.
In reality, none of this reality check from the "tech set" is very helpful to an actual person deciding if he or she wants to buy a new Facebook phone. (Beyond the HTC First, the Home software will be available for select Android phones, both top-tier and mid-level, beginning April 12.) More likely, the tech bloggers want to cover their hides on this one. They don't like it, nor do they understand it, and they certainly won't buy it. But instead of coming right out and saying you shouldn't buy this thing, they're preparing for the moment if and when the Facebook phone sells millions of units in the U.S. (Another theory, by the way, is that Facebook made this phone for its overseas markets.) In that case, they can look back and say: We knew this would happen to you people.
If you really want to know if the "Facebook Phone" is for you, you might consider the following questions posed by The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal:
Will it be worth opening up every part of your phone interaction to Facebook in order to access that experience? Do you want your definition of a computer to center on Facebook Friends and the limited set of actions you can take with them? I can't answer that for you, but I can say that it is a tradeoff, and the more you think about it, the better.
Maybe you don't care about any of those things. And in that case, the HTC First is pretty, pretty cheap, and Facebook sure has built in some nice features.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.