Smartphone owners are already checking Facebook 14 times a day, but apparently that’s not enough. This week, the social giant is holding an event where it is expected to show Facebook’s “new home on Android.” Based on reports, it looks like Mark Zuckerberg will debut a new Facebook home screen for Android, for which the company’s apps (camera, messages) will be the default options. It also looks like Facebook could be creating a device in partnership with HTC with mid-range specs. However, a fancy skin and a stand-alone device won’t be enough. Here are five ways Facebook can create a much more immersive experience and win over the skeptics.
Trade Likes for Discounts or Facebook Points
Say you walk into Panera and you get an alert on your Facebookified Android lock screen to check in and like the business. In exchange, you could get 10 percent off that day’s order. Alternatively, you might be able to earn Facebook credits, which you could use to purchase power-ups for games like "Candy Crush." I never click on Facebook ads for brands that my friends like, but I would do something like this for real-world benefits. I could also see getting birthday reminders for friends and family (with their wish lists attached) from Facebook when I walk in the door of certain retailers.
Exclusive Facebook Camera App with Instagram Inside
I’ve been wondering how Facebook was going to leverage Instagram ever since the former acquired the megapopular photo-sharing service for $1 billion. What better way to debut the Facebook Camera app on Android (it’s been iPhone only up until now) than by combining the best features of the two apps? Although the iPhone app currently lets you apply all sorts of filters, the new Android app would use Instagram’s filters and you could choose to share to Facebook, Instagram or both. Facebook would also include an automatic upload feature, which Google and Dropbox already offer, and free cloud storage for up to 50GB.
Facebook Gaming Hub and App Center Front and Center
If you open the Facebook app on a phone today, you’ll see a link to App Center on the left side that I think most people ignore. And even when you get to the App Center and find an app or game you like, pressing Play sends you off to Apple’s or Google’s store to download. Facebook Home on Android would have its own App Center that would let you download apps directly via your Facebook account. If Facebook was smart, it would also create a separate gaming hub that highlights not only what’s popular with your friends, but what they’re playing now. That way, you could just jump into a game. This hub would also enable users to tweak their settings for game invitations so you don’t get pinged every 5 seconds to play “Dragon City.”
Supercharged Graph Search
Facebook’s relatively new Graph Search has a lot of cool potential uses. You can easily find out the interests of your friends (or friends of friends), whether those interests include restaurants, music or activities. With Facebook’s new Home on Android, the search box on the home screen would immediately tie into Graph search, letting you find out everything from what restaurants your friends in San Francisco like to who wants to get together for an impromptu “Game of Thrones” party.
Find Your Friends Without Searching
I never use Find My Friends on my iPhone for two reasons. First, not all of my friends are on iOS. Second, it sounds kind of creepy. According to reports, Facebook is working on a smartphone app that would help you find nearby friends and even run in the background. That means when you turn on your handset, you’ll automatically know where your closest friends are — assuming they opt in and want to be found. The challenge for Facebook is to make users want to broadcast their location at all times, which could be accomplished via location-based offers and finding places of interest while you’re on the go. I could easily see Facebook Messenger (unobtrusively) suggesting things to do during a messaging session between two friends that Facebook knows are in the same city.
Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark’s SpoonFed; column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on Twitter; and Google+.