Facebook Home passes 500K installs in over a week

Home's numbers are lagging, and Facebook should be concerned over poor user reviews

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
April 22, 2013
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It took a little over a week but Facebook Home has passed half a million installs. The news is reflected on the app listing on the Google Play website, which reports that the number of downloads is now 500,000 - 1,000,000, where as it previously said 100,000 to 500,000 on Friday. 

The news was also tweeted by telecoms analyst Benedict Evans on Sunday:

Reaching this milestone does not seem impressive when compared to the over one billion strong userbase that Facebook has, and it seems to pale in comparison to other Facebook released on Android, most specifically Instagram, which passed one million Android users in a single day. But to compare the two is actually quite unfair, and it does not tell the whole story.

First of all, Home is only available on some Android devices at the moment, including the Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy Note II, HTC One X and HTC One X+. But, more importantly, the nature of Home means that it will be less popular, at least at first.

Home, which was first introduced on April 4th, is a UI that is meant to change the way people use their phones: by changing them to be centered around people, instead of apps. It was released in the United States on April 12th and then to the rest of the world on April 16th.

It comes with three features that make the phone centered around people: Coverfeed, which gives users a scroll of stories from Facebook on their homescreen; Notifications, which pop up on the screen with that person's face and name, instead of an app icon and name; and Chat Heads, a small bubble with a person's face that pops up when they send a message.

Home is a skin that completely changes the look and layout of both the home screen, and the lock screen, of a user's phone. It is not just another app that the person might download and then never open again, like Instagram. Many fewer people are going to jump at the opportunity to put something on their phone that they cannot easily ignore. And that means that people will be giving it more thought before they decide to put it onto their phone.

But, while I do not believe that Facebook should be worried about the relatively slow growth of Home, at least not yet, the company does have something it should be worried about: the app's very poor user reviews, which could spell doom for it in the long run.

It has been over a week since its release and the response from those rating Home on Google Play has been less than enthusiastic. Right now it has an average rating of 2.2, which is actually lower than it was on the 16th, when it had a rating of 2.3. The app has 5,717 one star ratings, out of a total of 11,107. That means that 48% of those who have rated the app think it is awful.

Here are some sample one star reviews:

  • "Poor effort. A very basic set of features, especially compared with the interfaces shipping by default with modern phones."
  • "Cool way to use facebook, but with no support for my other widgets, it limits my phone. If I wanted a single company to take over my homescreen appearance, I could use an iphone."
  • "Where did this idea come? Why would you want to drain your battery? Be on facebook all of the time? I don't have my mobile data on all of the time so it's practically useless.. very silly idea"
  • "Not intuitive and it makes my phone butt ugly. Major fail. And Facebook is starting to grow pretty tiresome; I don't really want to have to look at it every time I pick up my phone. Uninstall."

If people really hate the interface, they will tell everyone they know that they shouldn't download it, so Home's reputation could sink very quickly. 

So, while Facebook is already reportedly looking to bring Home to new platforms, including Microsoft and iOS, the company might just be getting ahead of itself. Before it start expanding the interface to yet more devices, the company needs to start fixing the problems that its current users are already having.

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