Facebook’s New App Aims to Bring Local Search to Calls
In a clear bid to try and carve themselves out a bit more of the local search market, Facebook have released a new app called “Hello”. This new app works by allowing Facebook users to search for people and businesses through the Facebook database.
There have been many experimental Facebook apps in the past, with many of them falling by the wayside as unnecessary and badly designed – Groups, Facebook Home and Facebook at Work to mention but a few. As a result of this we can be forgiven for approaching this new app with a degree of scepticism.
Having said this, this app does look fairly promising. Facebook boast about a range of features that it offers and if it delivers on these, then it could be an extremely useful app indeed.
What does the app do?
The “Hello” app connects to your Facebook profile, in order to access your contact information and also the information that other people have shared with you on Facebook.
Andrea Vaccari, Product Manager for Facebook Hello, had this to say:
When you get a call, Hello will show you info about who’s calling you, even if you don’t have that number saved in your phone. You will only see info that people have already shared with you on Facebook.
You can also search for people and businesses on Facebook and call them with just one tap. So if a friend tells you about a new restaurant in your neighbourhood, you can use Hello to find their hours, make a reservation and get directions, all without leaving the app.
Hello makes it easy to block unwanted calls. From your settings, you can block specific numbers and adjust whether you want to automatically blocks calls from commonly blocked numbers. Blocked calls go straight to voicemail and can be reviewed in your recent calls.
Facebook are clearly aiming for this app to become your primary port of call, both when communicating with friends and when searching for local businesses.
It definitely does look like it could makes one’s life easier in a number of ways. But at what cost?
There have already been a number of concerns raised about this app when it comes to the vast list of permissions that it requests from your phone. These permissions include some very unnecessary and undesirable looking things. The app asks for permission to “take pictures and video”, “record audio” and perhaps the most unsettling of all – “download files without notification”.
Whilst many apps ask for a few of these abilities, it is hard to see why a dialling app would need to do many of these things. Many users may want to think twice before allowing Facebook so much access to all phone’s features, especially as Facebook are yet to offer an explanation for many of these requests.
The app also boasts about its ability to show you who is calling without having the number saved in your phone. This may not be the gravest of concerns but it does raise the question of why you would want this feature in the first place. It is worth noting that this feature works both ways and you don’t have to be friends with someone on Facebook for them to be able to see who you are.
Many users will be put off by the idea of their information being sent to people they have never met – not everybody creates their Facebook profile with the intention of broadcasting it to the world. If you are making a business call, do you really want your Facebook profile picture being broadcast to each potential associate?
Is this app necessary?
The answer to this has got to be a “no”. The local search features could undoubtedly be helpful, but they rely on businesses being signed up and active on Facebook. There are many business that are not and therefore won’t be viewable on this app. This renders a large amount of the search features useless unless participation increases drastically.
The ability to see who’s calling, even if you don’t have their number, is also questionable. If you don’t know the person calling well enough to have their phone number, then it is unclear why knowing their name will be of any use to you before you answer their call. If you do know the person who is calling and don’t have their phone number, then the first thing you will likely do after the call has ended is save their number.
All in all this app seems wholly superfluous, no doubt it will gain a niche following – as many of their previous apps have done. But in terms of local search services, this app is not a game changer by any stretch of the imagination.
All it seems likely to do is the clutter the way in which you make phone calls, by presenting you with two tasks to work through before you can answer a call – you will still have to answer the call through your phone’s standard interface as well.
It remains to be seen how successful the “Hello” app will be in the long run, but at the moment it looks like it’s going to join the ever growing list of failed Facebook apps.