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Comeau: Facebook gets its mobile wings

Facebook employee displays an HTC phone with the

Facebook employee displays an HTC phone with the new Home operating system. (Getty) Credit: Facebook employee displays an HTC phone with the new Home operating system. (Getty)

Facebook has gone from zero to hero in mobile.

Back in early 2012, Facebook’s Apple iOS and Google Android apps were slow and clunky, and frankly, quite painful to use. And in fact, the company’s IPO flopped because too much of its traffic was coming from the mobile side, which didn’t make much money.

But look how quickly things turned around.

In August 2012, Facebook launched a spectacularly improved iOS app, and followed that up with an Android equivalent in December 2012.

The improved apps, combined with a more aggressive mobile ad push, resulted in Facebook taking in $305 million in mobile ad revenue — 23% of total revenue — in the fourth quarter of 2012.

And now Facebook is taking its mobile efforts to the next level with two all-new initiatives that carry zero risk and huge growth potential.

First, it created the surprisingly well-reviewed Home app for Android, which basically transforms several popular Android smartphones into Facebook-centric devices.

For example, while a Home-equipped phone is locked, it displays Facebook updates, which is a great way to induce people into spending more time on Facebook.

And secondly, it collaborated with HTC to produce the HTC First, which, courtesy of its pre-loaded Home app, is effectively a Facebook Phone.

On Friday the HTC First, the first phone to feature the Facebook Home, will be available in AT&T stores, the communications company announced on Thursday.

Now, there is a small but vocal group of techies criticizing the idea of a Facebook-centric smartphone experience, but they’re missing the point.

These initiatives can fail, and Facebook won’t be hurt one bit. People will still use Facebook on desktops or via standard mobile apps.

However, if the Home concept can further entrench Facebook into users’ everyday lives, then it’s an absolute home run for the company.

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