Facebook Unveils a New Home Screen for Android

Stephanie is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

As Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) teased yet another exciting announcement, rumors began to run rampant through the investment community. Many were saying the announcement was that the company was debuting a "Facebook Phone," a device that centered around a Facebook-centric operating system.

When the announcement came, Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg simply unveiled the latest smartphone software goody--owners of Android-based devices will now have access to a shiny new version of Facebook built specifically for certain Android devices, called Facebook Home.

The announcement is an interesting partnership between the social media giant, HTC, and AT&T (NYSE: T) to incorporate Facebook's features into the operating system of the phone itself. Zuckerberg has made clear that he has no interest in getting into hardware, so this partnership is ideal. But the real surprise is that all of this is happenin on Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android browser, raising eyebrows among analysts who have watched the love-hate relationship between the two tech giants.

Facebook stock immediately began to rise following the announcement, which was a relief for investors since the announcement of Facebook's Graph Search saw a slight loss for the company. Seems the financial industry is a little more impressed with Zuckerberg's bold move into the smartphone space than their decision to tackle better search technology.

Google and Facebook: Rivals?

What seemed to surprise analysts most, however, was Facebook's decision to employ its technology on a Google-owned browser. Android is Google's shining star, helping the company continue to rake in billions each quarter. Facebook Home gives Android smartphone owners the opportunity to add Facebook functionality to their home screens, potentially occupying a person's entire front screen.

Analysts are emphasizing the fact that Android is handed over at no charge to mobile providers because the operating system increases Google's visibility on devices. This puts Google's ads in front of more people, resulting in ad revenue for the company.

By giving Android users the opportunity to choose Facebook newsfeeds, messages, and other content from the social media site to be front and center on their phones, AT&T likely hopes to attract more consumers to buy its devices. But Facebook also increases its own ad visibility at the expense of Google's, which may result in a counter-strike by Google.

AT&T's Gain

In an ever-competitive smartphone market, AT&T is still not a clear winner. In fact, AT&T continues to try to expand its 4G LTE marketin the wake of losing its iPhone exclusivity. The war between AT&T and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) wages on, with each company scrambling to win smartphone customers by staying at the forefront of technology.

Being part of the deal with Facebook gives AT&T that exclusivity that gave it the advantage during the early days of the iPhone. Still, not every person on the planet lives and dies by Facebook. The new functionality will likely only appeal to those Facebook users who are avid users of the site and even then, attentions turn to other pasttimes. If a Facebook user switches to Twitter or Instagram or whatever other social media trend that is next on the horizon, Facebook Home will become just another fun tool that AT&T and Android offer users to lure them away from the latest iPhone.


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