Will forcing employees to use Android actually improve the miserable app?

Will forcing employees to use Android actually improve the miserable app?

Summary: Facebook made headlines today by requiring employees to use the company's Android app. Will it help?

TOPICS: Android, Apps, Google

More often than not, I use the mobile version of Facebook on my phone and Nexus 7 instead of the Android app. Although Facebook updated its iOS app this week and finally brought together the separate camera, messenger, and platform apps, the Android incarnation of the app continues to stink. It's slow, eats resources even on a speedy phone like my Razr, lean on useful features, and is generally, as BusinessInsider so diplomatically puts it, "subpar." Subpar is one way of putting it. I can think of other adjectives that are probably a lot more appropriate, but they aren't exactly fit to print here.

Now that the completely revamped iOS app is out, ReadWriteWeb predicts that we should

...expect an Android app update in line with yesterday’s iOS update. Facebook will probably continue to work increasingly closely with Apple, in part because Google is a competitor of both companies. But neither company can ignore Google and the market demand for its products, so it’s unlikely any of the three will break off ties with either of the other two.

It appears that, while Facebook went after the lowest hanging fruit with an iOS update (heavy Facebook use among iOS users along with standardized hardware platforms that ease development), they are taking the Android issues seriously. The BusinessInsider article notes that many employees are being "nudged, cajoled, and even ordered to give up their iPhones for Android devices." The goal of this so-called dogfooding (where employees use their own products or "eat their own dogfood", so to speak) is to drastically improve the Facebook experience on Android.

Will it work? Perhaps. I certainly hope so and it can't hurt things given how awful the app is right now. The problem, though, is the inherent difference between Android and iOS users. If Facebook is asking iOS users to deal with the Android app, they'll be approaching it from the perspective of iOS users, which means that the fixes may not actually sync up with the expectations of Android users. I'm going to make some very sweeping generalizations in the Venn diagram below, but I think most people will agree that those who gravitate towards iOS are often demographically different from Android users, as well as different in their approach to technology.

Android vs. iOS users

Obviously there is some overlap and there are no hard and fast rules about who can buy what sort of phone. But it would seem to me that simply shoehorning iOS users into Android devices and expecting them to fix the app in ways that make sense to Android users (particularly Group 2 in the picture) isn't going to get the job done.

Dogfooding works when the folks at Google only use Google Docs internally, for example. They are the target market for Google Docs, so of course can address how to make it better and will use it to its full capacity. There probably aren't too many developers and product managers at Facebook who fall into Group 2.

We'll see, but I can't say I'm holding my breath on a great Android Facebook App emerging anytime soon. Focus groups, anyone? Or better yet, how about a Facebook page where Android users leave comments and concerns and then Facebook uses their social graph to break out Android user subgroups and address features appropriately? That would probably make too much sense, though.

Topics: Android, Apps, Google

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • If it's wrong for governments to tell people what to do,

    should companies be allowed the freedom to deprive others of freedom in the way we berate governments over?
    • The man with the gold makes the rules...

      If your job is designing apps for platform X, I don't think it's out of line for that company to ask you to use platform X.

      You get crappy application software from lazy devs who don't care about what they do and have no pride in their work. Forcing them to 'eat their own dogfood' is not just economic justice -- it might actually provoke the lazy slags to do a better job.
    • It isn't right or wrong, it just is.

      A lot of companies either A: pay for the cellphones for their employees or B: reimburse them. If either A or B is the case, then Facebook as every right to ask them to use the app.
    • It's a little easier to switch jobs

      than to switch countries.
      Michael Alan Goff
  • Who made that graphic?

    Someone should teach them what a Venn Diagram is, because that is most definitely not a Venn Diagram.
    • glad someone mentioned it

      You mean including users from hardcore, Android-using, Apple hating circle in the iOS circle is a mistake? Putting people who "wish they had iPhones" also in the iOS circle? lol
  • No news here. Almost all android apps are crap.

    Very lame. Can't blame the devs for not wanting to put more effort in when they know they're just going to be ripped off though. That's why the ios versions are better and the WP versions are yet even better than the ios ones.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Another iDiott comment

      Get a life. Get out of apple fanboy cult
      Van Der
      • respect opinions

        Only an idiot will call another fellow talkback user an idiot. He is entitled to his opinion.
      • I thought Vegas was a WP user

        how would it make sense to refer to him as an iDiot?

        Also, you spelled idiot wrong.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • Almost All IOS Apps Are Crap

      Apparently about two thirds of the apps on the Apple App Store have a download count of ... zero.
      • Doesn't he use WP?

        I didn't know he used iOS.
        Michael Alan Goff
  • doh!

    If you don't know how to use a venn diagram don't use one, venns show an overlap of groups, for example how can there be an overlap between people who have an iphone and people who wish they had an iphone? trying to look smart by adding a graphic then using it so incorrectly just makes you look stupid. plus you described iphone users as savvy, maybe a few are but the majority of them just get the iphone because they heard it was good and everyone else has them.
  • Iphone user info incorrect

    Iphones are for the technologically impaired. That's why old people like them. They are real just dumbphones with apps. A dull UI. Its so easy a monkey could figure it out. The other types of people who use iphones think skinny jeans are cool and ones who like shiny things
    • Must bug you

      @ehenry818 - most of the systems engineers in my organization prefer iPhone. If you honestly think iPhones are only for the technically impaired, how exactly do you reconcile that with your world view?
      Mark Hodge
      • There's an obvious answer to it if you think about it...

        You're assuming you have *good* system engineers...
        The Werewolf!
    • Actually .... it is one of the Android sides that is wrong

      Android users are mostly geek wannabes. Completely tech illiterate, but they want to appear like they know stuff and get Android (because it is the cheapest crap they can buy) is the only way for them.
      • HA HA!! That sure put me as an Android user in my place.

        First off I paid $300 for my Note. I am not sure what cheap actually means but $300 is not cheap to me. I would have purchsed it for $700 if I had to off contract.

        Secondly, this illiterate geek wannabe Android user will go head to head with you on tech speak anytime you feel ready. You are showing your ignorance with statements like that. Typical of a person living under the shadow of the fruit.

        iOS does seem remarkably easy for me maybe because it looks and feels like Windows 95. I did use it for a few years.
  • No thanks to FB for Android...

    Unfortunately, either my carrier or phone maker decided to grace it with the Facebook Android app. It's so poorly written and recent versions are so big that it makes my phone pretty much unusable. And takes up a HUGE part of my limited RAM, not to mention storage.

    I can't uninstall it, so I did the best I could by removing all the updates, logging out of it and never using it. I'd nuke it if I could.

    When I got my Nexus 7 tablet, I almost unthinkingly started to install the FB app -- but when I saw that it was going to access just about every conceivable facet of my tablet, all but taking control, I said, No thanks. I get all the privacy invasion I could ever want from the web browser version. Thanks, but no thanks.

    As a software guy myself -- as well as a very wired up consumer -- I've often used consumer facing software that makes you facepalm in disbelief... do the developers even know what the software is intended to do? Many applications seem to be cobbled together by uninspired lackies who have little clue as to usability and seem to often not even understand the purpose of the software. Slot A sort of fits in slot B, kind of. It must be ready...
  • PS, the diagram is even stupider than FB's Android app...

    What I said. And throw in the author's ill-considered and unsupported assertions about the demos of the user groups.

    Facepalm time. Big.