Dateline: July 26, 2013.
A gentle trilling on the bedside table rouses me from slumber; I fumble for the familiar blue-edged smartphone, and click its single button -- adorned with a thumbs-up logo -- to quell the alarm.
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The phone snaps to life; as per usual, it drops in a few notifications then takes me straight to my Smart Feed. I remember not so long ago, when my phone's default screen was a tray full of apps. Why, I wonder, did I ever want that terrifying level of choice? Just remind me about my appointments and to-dos, take me straight to the feed and be done with it. I can always swipe to the side to access my Facebook apps should I need them.
I spend a happy few minutes idly flicking through the feed. There aren't too many sponsored stories at the moment; it's mostly Instagram shots and the occasional news headline. The Facebook OS has learned my habits; it knows that's about all I can cope with first thing in the morning.
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As I fix the coffee and potter about the kitchen, one new sponsored story does get my attention -- it's a local flower store, reminding me about my wife's birthday tomorrow. (Evidently it waited until our phones were sufficiently far apart to pop up.) The store has grabbed a picture of her smiling, next to a bouquet it thinks appropriate based on past purchases.
Well, I don't want to put that little effort into it. So I tap a button to turn the ad into a reminder; later in the morning, I'll click on it again to call the shop, customize the bouquet, and send them a virtual card I've scrawled out on the screen.
On the train into work, I make a few quick moves in a couple of Zynga games -- didn't their fortunes turn around when the Facebook phone launched -- then plug in my headphones. Instantly, the Smart Feed transforms into a selection of Spotify songs and viral videos. I tap through the latter so I can get a jump on conversations at the watercooler.
At my desk, the feed transforms into news stories (with a special preference for ones it knows my colleagues have clicked on). There's nothing major; a couple more pieces speculating on iOS 7, and how much it can compete with the Facebook OS. Rumor has it that Apple is working with Twitter, its new best friend, to put a different kind of news feed front and center.
Makes a lot of sense, as the comments point out; the company is going to have to do something radical to restore the luster of the iPhone, especially after Facebook started swiping Apple's best mobile engineers last year. Besides, the Facebook phone is heavily subsidized by advertisers; it's hard to compete with almost free.
I make a few free calls throughout the morning, using the phone's Skype integration. It's as simple as holding the thumbs-up button and saying my contact's name. Most of my friends have a similar device; those that don't, I can still reach via their desktop. Everyone keeps a Facebook tab open these days in case they miss a call.
Lunchtime, and my screen fills up with coupons from local merchants. I dismiss them all with a tap, head to my favorite sandwich place, point the phone at a QR code reader. Hey presto: my tenth sandwich is free. The Facebook OS was rolled out with a massive small business partner program; Zuckerberg always said that was where the big money was.
I spend much of the afternoon responding to Facebook messages, which is slowly replacing email across the company. But old habits die hard, so I have to swipe up to the Gmail app, too. Google was smart to get on the platform early, and Facebook was smart to build its entire OS on a modified and fully licensed Android kernel. That helped keep the peace between the two tech giants.
On the train home, an "on this day in history" news item catches my eye. Turns out it's exactly a year since Facebook's first faltering earnings call -- the one in which Zuckerberg famously denied the company was "building" its own phone. Well, of course it wasn't building the phone itself, I smile to myself, turning the handset over and glancing at its HTC logo.
What we should have listened to was another quote from the call: "having a device wherever you are creates more opportunities for sharing and connecting." That was the understatement of the year.
But it gets me thinking, and after dinner I tap out a post on my Timeline, imagining an alternative reality in which Facebook didn't spring its compelling mobile OS on an unsuspecting world. Imagine it: the stock still slumped around the $24 mark instead of a few hundred dollars beyond it; the social network still getting dinged for its poor mobile apps; Apple and Google still ascendant. Perhaps it might be a better world, without this devilishly addictive device supported by just about every advertiser on the planet.
There's not too much time to think about it, though. The NyQuil app wants my attention, offering to set my alarm now for a perfect night's sleep. I yawn. Tomorrow is another ad-driven day.
1. The Facebook Phone
Image via Yanko Design
This story originally published on Mashable here.
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