Facebook made its most significant foray into smartphones Thursday, a bid that enables it to gain a far better understanding of what consumers are doing in the increasingly prevalent world of mobile technology.
TThe company introduced a new suite of software programs, called Home, that put a user’s Facebook page on the home screen of Android smartphones. Consumers would be able to instantly see updates from their Facebook friends, quickly reply to network messages, or easily use Facebook’s suite of apps.
If widely adopted, the move would allow Facebook, which has struggled to make money on mobile devices, to significantly expand its trove of social data that it sells to advertisers.
“By creating a deeper integration with mobile software, Facebook is looking to compete at the same level as a starting point for consumer behavior — which is increasingly where the big tech titans do battle,” said Clark Frederickson, vice president at the ad analytics firm eMarketer.
The company said the information it can collect with Home is the same as what it gathers when people visit its site through Web browsers on desktop or laptop computers. No ads will appear on users’ home screens at launch, though Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company will look into that option in the future.
Facebook also said that Home will be able to document which apps users open. But it said it will collect that data from only a small subset of users and will use it only to evaluate how the software is working.
By putting its hub of apps front and center on smartphones, the company hopes people will spend more time on its social network.
“The phone will help them become a more powerful data landlord in the mobile marketplace,” said Jeffrey Chester, director of the Center for Digital Democracy.