Facebook Inc. on Thursday unveiled smartphone software that puts social-networking features front and center on a handset, stepping up efforts to boost sales of advertising on small screens.
The new software, which the company calls Home, makes it easier to access Facebook features — such as friends’ photos, messages and status updates — on a smartphone’s home screen, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said at an event in Menlo Park, Calif. The downloadable application, available on phones that use Google’s Android operating system, also boasts improved messaging tools, Facebook said.
Now that the majority of users access Facebook via mobile devices, Zuckerberg needs ways to keep them engaged longer while coaxing advertisers to pay to place promotions on small screens. The company is betting that a handset with Facebook-centric software will do a better job wooing users and marketers than the current approach, which emphasizes a downloadable application, Howe said.
“The problem with apps is they’re a click away from wherever you are,” said Carl Howe, an analyst at Yankee Group. “Facebook wants to remove that barrier.”
Home will have monthly updates, can be installed from Google Play, Google’s online app store, and will be available on tablets in the coming months, Facebook said.
Facebook isn’t building a smartphone or creating an operating system, Zuckerberg said.
Amazon.com Inc. uses a version of Android in the Kindle Fire tablet. In Amazon’s case, that means bypassing Google’s preloaded applications, such as Gmail, Google Maps and YouTube, which generate revenue for Google.