AllThingsD recently reported on a forthcoming Facebook phone that is in the works with HTC. A follow-up article offered some thoughts as to why you might want one, but I’d like to offer up some thoughts as to why Facebook might want to get this phone in user’s hands.
One simple and apparent explanation is that as more people go online using their smartphones, Facebook needs to vie for their users’ attention on mobile platforms. They are currently accomplishing this through apps on iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone platforms. Running a Facebook app on those platforms essentially provides an app interface to the Facebook web site, but there would be a lot more benefit to Facebook if they were further integrated into the phone.
It is to Facebook’s advantage to better understand the connections you have with the different people in your social graph. The better Facebook understands these relationships, the more valuable it’s social graph becomes for marketing and social commerce. Currently, Facebook can only monitor the dynamics of your social interactions online. They know what you “like” and they know what your friends “like,” and this information helps them send targeted advertisements your way. But this information only goes so far. Whom do you call the most? Which of your Facebook friends has the most influence over your buying decisions? What retailers do you like to frequent?
Enter the Facebook phone…Now, Facebook can begin to peer into your offline life as well, seeing not just who posts on your wall, but how often you have personal, live contact with those people. That friend you call every few days probably has more influence over you than the people who just post on your wall. And what about those friends who aren’t active on Facebook? Now Facebook can see your interactions with those Facebook “sleepers”. With a built-in GPS, Facebook can possibly gain insight into the stores and restaurants you regularly visit, and if your friends are using a Facebook phone, it becomes possible to see the friends with whom you spend time, eat, or shop.
This is all speculation to some extent, but we should consider Facebook’s reasons for venturing into the realm of Facebook-branded phones – they want to collect more and better data about Facebook users. Could Facebook actually get away with gathering even more data about our personal relationships and interests? Whenever a Facebook phone actually arrives on the scene, it will be interesting to see what kind of privacy controls are offered to users and how Facebook begins to use the new data it will be able to collect.
What are your thoughts on why Facebook might want to enter the mobile phone market? Leave your comments.