I had a chance earlier this week to try the new Facebook application for iPhone. The app, developed by Joe Hewitt, is a version of Facebook optimized for the iPhone. Many of the core features of Facebook are available on the iPhone, including your profile page, messages, pictures, status messages and your friend’s contact information.
It’s a very well done app that shows off the capabilities of the iPhone as well Facebook. (If you have an iPhone, go to http://iphone.facebook.com to try it out; you can also go to that URL in a Web browser to see the functionality.) A video demonstration is at the bottom of this post.
Currently all of this is done within the phone’s Safari browser; it’s not integrated into the phone’s contacts, pictures or other capabilities.
As much as I love my computer, my phone is where the most important “social networking” happens. The social network needs to be embedded deeply into the phone.
Here are some of the possibilities:
- Pick up a new phone and enter your account information. Your contacts are automatically populated, complete with pictures of your friends. No need to fiddle with re-entering all your data.
- Check the status of your friends before you make a call. If you see that your friend is on the phone, you can call later or send a text message. (Similar to presence on IM.)
- When a contact changes their phone number, the new information is automatically updated. You don’t have to worry about outdated phone numbers.
- Pull up a map of where your friends are when you’re trying to meet up.
- Take pictures and videos and upload them straight to your social network. (flickr, Facebook and others have developed workarounds that accomplish a limited form of this today.)
- Get reminded of events in your network without having to manually add them to another calendar. The reminder leads straight to maps and directions.
All of this is technically possible. The biggest challenges revolve around who “owns” the customer. In the U.S. market, this has historically been the wireless carriers. Some carriers deliberately make it hard to do things like move contacts because that raises the switching costs for customers. Most restrict access to key phone capabilities (such as the camera, GPS) to internal developers.
Doing something like this would mean breaking a lot of the traditional rules. But Apple has done that before.
(Video from Rodney Rumford)
- Interview With Facebook’s Joe Hewitt, iPhone God (TechCrunch)