HTC First puts Android last

From the Android Developer documentation:

Significant changes in Android 3.0 included:

  • Deprecation of navigation hardware keys (Back, Menu, Search, Home) in favor of handling navigation via virtual controls (Back, Home, Recents).
  • Robust pattern for the use of menus in action bars.

Android 4.0 brings these changes for tablets to the phone platform.

And the HTC First (image from Engadget) ->

HTC First

They don’t look like soft buttons.

Despite Facebook Home being built on top of Android, rather than being a replacement for Android, it’s clear where this is heading.  You unlock the phone, and it’s Facebook, you want to send a message, it’s Facebook.  It’s fundamentally changing the way Android deals with notifications, with photos and with communication in general.

Facebook home may not be a fork of Android in the same way the Kindle Fire is, but it’s potentially more damaging to the Android brand.  When you buy a kindle, you’re not left with the impression that you’ve bought an Android device.  But Facebook Home runs on Android, and it appears that it will be marketed as such.  However, it’s a fundamentally different experience to using a standard, vanilla or OEM tweaked version of Android.

Potentially the biggest losers here are the OEM who use Android customisation as a selling point.  I’ve complained about these “skins”, “takeovers”, “customisations” or whatever you want to call them before.  Anything that puts these misguided attempts at trying to create a distinctive experience is a positive in my book, but it makes the Android handset market even more cut throat than it already is.  I expect margins to plummet even further among Android device manufacturers as it dawns on them that they are dumb partners in this set up, and not providers of an experience as they would like to be.