Facebook’s iPhone Culture Builds An Overzealous Home On Android

 In News & Press Releases

Facebook didn’t realize just how important widgets, docks, and app folders were to Android users, and that leaving them out of Home was a huge mistake. That’s because some of the Facebookers who built and tested Home normally carry iPhones, I’ve confirmed. Lack of “droidfooding” has left Facebook scrambling to add these features, whose absence have led Home to just 1 million downloads since launching a month ago.

Josh Constine, writer for TechCrunch wrote in November, Facebook has been desperately trying to get more employees “droidfooding” — carrying and testing Android devices. You can see the posters encouraging employees to pick up a droid below. The issue was that Facebook handed out iPhones to employees for years. Facebookers could request an Android handset, but otherwise would basically get an Apple phone by default. That wasn’t as dangerous years ago when the iPhone still had more marketshare and Facebook users, but since then Android has rocketed into the lead. If Facebook wants to reach the largest audience, it needs employees living and breathing Google’s mobile operating system.

The lack of droidfooders didn’t have serious consequences until Home, Facebook’s new “apperating system”. It replaces the lock screen, homescreen, and app launcher of compatible Android phones with a Facebook-centric experience. It offers Cover Feed, a big, beautiful way to browser the news feed the second you bring your phone out of sleep. It’s missing the ability to build real-time information widgets, put your most used apps in a persistently visible dock, or organize your collection of apps into folders.

When I first tried out Home, I admit I was wooed by Cover Feed and Chat Heads, while those absent Android personalizations didn’t phase me. Why? Because I’m an iPhone user.

First off, the iPhone doesn’t offer widgets at all, so I didn’t really know what I was missing. Second, I was running Home on a brand new loaner “Facebook Phone”, the HTC First. I didn’t expect to be able to port my iOS dock and folders to Android. I accepted that my experience would be somewhat unpersonalized. I was naive.

The real problem? Facebook’s developers were just as naive. Employees I’ve talked to admit that iPhone users testing Home made Facebook fail to see how wrong it was to overwrite people’s widgets, docks, and folders. Unlike working on some standard app, sticking a new Android device in an employee’s hand to test Home wasn’t sufficient. It needed long-time, diehard Android users — something Facebook doesn’t have as many of internally as it would like.

On Thursday at Facebook headquarters, VP of Engineering Cory Ondrejka and Director of Product Adam Mosseri admitted this is a critical flaw in Home — one that’s dissuading people from downloading or actively using Home, and that’s inspiring the 1- and 2-star reviews dragging down Home’s rating the Google Play store. Those reviews, and people’s unwillingness to trade their personalized Android launcher for Home has caused Facebook’s apperating system to slip far down the charts. It’s dropped out of the top 100 apps according to several analytics providers, as Sarah Perez detailed yesterday.

Read Josh Constine’s full article, click here.