It has only been a month since Mark Zuckerberg introduced his company's new "Home" mobile software, but it's already looking like a failure.
Facebook Home, the Android app that turns your smartphone into a social portal, has garnered poor reviews on the Google Play store. Home has a two-star rating, with over half of the 17,000-plus reviews having one-star ratings. The app has also sold poorly; it took close to a month to reach one million downloads at the Play store, which is mediocre considering the fact that Facebook has 1.1 billion active users.
To make matters worse, BGR is now reporting that AT&T will soon be dropping the Android-based HTC First, the first official "Facebook Phone," which was just introduced at the start of April.
According to BGR's inside sources, sales of the HTC First have been so horrible that AT&T will discontinue the HTC First and return unsold inventory to HTC. Despite a drastic price reduction to $0.99 with a two-year contract from $99, AT&T reportedly only shifted a miserable 15,000 units of the HTC First in the US last week. Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S4 -- and even the HTC One -- far outsell the first Facebook-branded phone.
The problem for Facebook, Enders Analysis mobile analyst Benedict Evans told Businessweek, is that Home was too disruptive for customers used to the Android interface.
"One of the big complaints from users was that Home upended the traditional Android environment with its widgets and app folders. Those all disappeared when you installed Facebook Home."
And why did Facebook not realize the importance of widgets, docks, and app folders to Android users? TechCrunch reports that it could be because many of the company's Facebook Phone testers are normally iPhone users. Since iPhones typically do not feature widgets, for example, the Facebook Phone testers thus could not see the problems with the changes made by Home that would affect the Android experience.
Despite the less-than-enthusiastic response to the app thus far, Facebook says it is standing behind Home.
During its May 1, 2013 earnings conference call with stock analysts, Zuckerberg said that the Home app will be updated every month. He said.
"This product is still very early and this is just a first release in a long journey."
Also, the HTC First is perhaps not quite dead in the water. After BGR's report on its imminent demise, CNET said that AT&T has yet to make a call on dropping the First.
An insider source told CNET.
"I am not aware of any discussion ever taking place about sending the phones back or to stop selling the First."
HTC and Facebook have both declined to comment on whether the First will live on, but an AT&T spokesman said.
"We have made no decisions about future plans."
COMMENTARY: Home, the free Android app, which hogs your phones display at startup, hit half a million installs a week after it launched on April 12, 2013. It passed the 1-million installations mark on Google Play late last week, but, as the app store’s installation graph shows, the popularity of the app has largely declined after the initial spikes in mid April.
Home is hardly compatible with every Android phone out there — it’s currently only available for the Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S IV, Samsung Galaxy Note II, HTC One, HTC One X and HTC One X+ and comes pre-installed on the HTC First — but with an average 2.3 star rating and a million+ installs from a social network with a user base of 1.1 billion active users, the app is not what you’d call a smash hit. In fact, it never came anywhere close to ranking in the Top 25 (barely reaching the Top 100 only) according to Google Play.
Insights from app analytics services like App Annie and Distimo. App Annie’s data suggests that while Home quickly rose in popularity soon after its launch — reaching the top 100 on the Google Play charts in countries like the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, South Africa and Brazil — it quickly lost its place as the month progressed. While it varies from country to country, Facebook Home isn’t even continuing its streak in its home nation — it is currently ranked 211 in Google Play, while it holds even lower positions in countries like Brazil, where it has slipped down to position 401 in the app rankings. Home hasn’t been able to return to the top 100 mark in any country as yet.
In a blog post dated April 14, 2013, I informed my blog readers that brand marketers had mixed reactions and that Facebook users who downloaded the app were reacting to Facebook Home, and it wasn't a pretty picture.
For an app that was only downloaded about a million times, this is a major disaster for Mark Zuckerberg. He had hoped that by hogging an Android phone's display at startup, this would keep users logged into Facebook longer and that this would increase mobile user engagement and ad impressions. What he didn't count on was that user's don't want this level of disruption and inconvenience to their enjoyment of the Facebook experience.
Sorry, Zuck, next time do a thorough market test before rolling out any new Facebook feature.