Forget the 'Facebook Phone,' Give Me the Facebook Tablet

A Facebook Home tablet could be more useful than a Facebook phone.

ByABC News
April 5, 2013, 4:05 PM

April 5, 2013 — -- Mark Zuckerberg is right: I check my phone's homescreen about 100 times a day. But I don't check Facebook 100 times a day. I check my email, my text messages and this website and others. I check Facebook periodically on my phone, but it tends to be only when I have a notification or to see how many likes I got on my last post.

I check my tablet though about two times a day, depending on the day. Usually it's at night. And you know what my first or second stop is on my iPad? Facebook. And it's a long stop. I spend time going through my feed, clicking on links I see and hitting "Like" more than I should.

According to a number of data sources, tablet usage is heaviest from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and that's because people are leaning back during those times, rather than leaning into a computer or phone trying to work or get something done. During those evening hours, they are checking in on their friends, watching TV or reading or playing games.

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The focus of Facebook's event Thursday was the mobile phone, although it did mention at the end that its new Home Android software would come to tablets. Home, for those who might have missed the news, transforms an Android phone into a Facebook phone. Instead of a lock screen or homescreen, you get Facebook's Cover Feed, which cycles through images and posts from your Newsfeed.

There's also a new messaging feature called "Chat Heads." When you get a message from a Facebook friend, a small little circular icon pops up with your friend's profile photo in whatever app you are in. You can still use other apps in Home, including the main Facebook app, email and a web browser, but the focus is on Facebook.

"Tablets are going to be awesome," Facebook's Adam Mosseri, the lead product designer on Home, told me in an interview after the event Thursday. "Cover Feeds looks really good. It's a big beautiful social magazine. There are a lot of things we have to do to make it work, but just by testing it, it will feel really good. It is immersive content, the bigger it is the better it feels."

It sounds a lot like Flipboard, an app for the iPad and Android that allows you to view news and social media feeds in a attractive digital magazine format. It also lines up with what Mark Zuckerberg said at Facebook's News Feed announcement a few weeks ago: "What we want to do is give everyone in the world the most personalized newspaper."

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But Mosseri also revealed that the idea to put it on a tablet was actually just an afterthought. "One of the guys was just wondering what this looks like. He just dropped it on a tablet," he explained. Home won't be coming to Android until later this year.

Android tablet marketshare is nowhere near the levels of Android smartphone or iPad marketshare, but part of that has to do with the lack of strong Android tablet apps. And that's likely why Facebook didn't focus on putting Home on tablets. But it should.

Putting Home on Android tablets like the Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy Tabs might not only improve the experience of using Facebook on Android tablets but improve the experience of using Android on a tablet in general for many people. (The current Facebook app for Android tablets, by the way, isn't much more than an enlarged version of the phone app.)

The Home interface is extremely well designed, playful and the content lends itself to what people are already looking at on their tablets. So no, I don't check my tablet 100 times a day, but Facebook Home would have a much more useful home on my tablet than on my phone.