There are plenty of good reasons for Facebook to offer a branded phone, as Liz pointed out here last week, but producing a Facebook phone isn’t necessary for the company to better leverage mobile. In my weekly column over at GigaOM Pro, I take an in-depth look at four things the social network should do to capitalize on the exploding world of mobile data:
Open its own app store. As I wrote more than a year ago, Facebook already has a massive developer community, a payment system and tremendous traffic — three components that are key for any distributor of mobile apps. While it obviously couldn’t deliver applications to iPhone users, Facebook could certainly tap into the booming Android space, not to mention the huge Symbian market.
Leverage its vast library of contact information. While Android automatically syncs contact information for Facebook users, the company’s iPhone app does little more than add profile pictures to the address book. Facebook has a chance here to expand that integration and add features like presence and location.
Compete with Google Voice. Improving the sync of contact information paves the way for a user’s Facebook ID to become more important than the phone number itself, as Om noted last week. Opening up a mobile address book — which is essentially a user’s network of Facebook friends — would allow one to call, IM, text message or email anyone in their network with just a couple of clicks and would be a competitor for Google’s voice service.
Allow users to share information with specific groups. Facebook has a few hard-to-find settings that users can tweak to give friends varying levels of access to their information, but the company should enable users to create customized groups of friends (like colleagues, family members and college buddies) that would see different kinds of information. Once those settings are established online, they should be easy to find and use on the phone, making it simple to send the right content to the right people without exposing others to it.
Read the full post here.