The future of social networking on smartphones

The HTC First, the much talked about Facebook phone, will not be coming to the UK, following a largely nonchalant reception from the smartphone-buying public in other markets. Its lack of success is surprising considering its tie-in with Mark Zuckerberg’s company, so does this mean that mobile devices and social networking may not work together as well as is widely believed?

Firstly, let’s take a look at what HTC offered with the First, a handset that launched alongside Facebook Home and came with the social network-themed Android interface installed right out of the box.

A distinctly mid-range handset, the First is powered by a dual-core 1.4 GHz processor and has a 5 megapixel camera. What its spec sheet means primarily is that it has little to shout about other than the deep Facebook integration that won headlines for the device. Here is its problem.

Facebook Home has not been widely adopted, which is not what was expected of a high-profile innovation by the world’s largest social network. The app achieved 500,000 downloads within its first 10-days of availability but this is only a small percentage of the approximately one billion people who use Facebook daily, so this isn’t something for its creators to boast about.

Why it didn’t see widespread adoption is a subject that is still being debated but one flaw that is often highlighted is that Facebook Home may well have covered up too much of the Android interface. People downloading it could well have been doing so on contract phones that they have owned for some time and were comfortable with; radically changing the user interface may be something that they did not want to do.

So as it stands, Facebook Home has not taken off and if people aren’t willing to download a free app then they almost certainly won’t want to shell out for new handset on the sole-selling point that it runs said app out of the box.

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In steps the HTC One
However, where HTC may not have succeeded with the First it could well have done so elsewhere, at least in terms of creating new ways of delivering social networks to mobile devices. Its flagship HTC One has been almost universally praised for its great design and innovative features, one of which brings social networks to a smartphone’s UI in a way never quite seen before.

The HTC One’s homescreen is dominated by BlinkFeed, essentially a widget that pulls updates through from social networks and news sources and delivers them in a great looking, grid-like interface that brings the UI to life. Tweets, Facebook updates and LinkedIn messages can all be shown right on the very front of the device and there is even an option to quickly post to these networks from BlinkFeed itself.

While many mobile platforms feature social network integration, HTC One takes this one step further allowing photos to be shared to Twitter and Facebook without opening a separate app. BlinkFeed can be tailored to your own way of using it too, so you can set it to only show updates from specific networks and sources and even choose how often it will refresh itself.

Maybe it’s this option that offers an innovative way of connecting to social networks on a mobile device without giving precedence to one service over another, that will prove more popular. BlinkFeed is also said to be coming to other HTC devices in the near future, meaning that its use could become even more widespread.

Facebook Home and the HTC First may have suffered by putting too much focus on one social network, something that will be unappealing to those who use many at the same time. However, it could be that the same firm, which has had to backtrack on its rollout of a Facebook-dedicated handset, could well be pushing well ahead of other manufacturers when it comes to bringing social networks to your smartphone.

The guest post was written by Chris Helsby of Dialaphone, the home of all the latest smartphones.

The future of social networking on smartphones