February 23, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Android users have long been able to merge their Facebook and Google contacts, a genius way to quickly get phone numbers, emails, and photo ID’s when available. But that privilege has been stripped from the latest update to the Nexus S and future lead devices from Google.
Facebook was previously granted an exception from Google’s requirement that developers use the Android contacts API, but Google has revoked that access in the name of “data portability.” Regardless of the reasons given, this is really about Google’s effort to gain more user data, and this play for power will do nothing to hurt Facebook. Why? Because Facebook is already teflon in the mobile arena.
Google’s decision to revoke Facebook handling on lead devices will affect only 0.8 percent based on the most recent Android platform charts. That’s chump change when consider the millions of other smartphone users who already use Facebook for everything from check-ins to chat. Want to tell your friends where you are or see where they’re going? There’s Facebook Places. Looking for a deal once you get there, want to share a photo or comment about the place, chat with people who haven’t arrived yet, or check event listings? It’s all on the blue site.
Facebook is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped (for now, at least). It has ingrained itself into the lives of millions of people and it’s only going to entrench itself deeper. I got some brief hands-on time with the INQ Cloud Touch that relies on Facebook for practically everything. The Cloud Touch is an Android phone but its layered with Facebook at every turn. While its not the powerhouse device of a Nexus S, the Cloud Touch has low costs and appeals to a younger audience that’s likely to put it in front of more people.
That is the problem for Google: while it has control of your hands, Facebook has control of your eyes. Google’s reversal of policy was probably done just to make a point about sharing data, but it only reminds us that Facebook has become so ubiquitous that a little thing like being blocked on a device a sliver of its users have won’t hurt the social network much. In fact, it probably won’t hurt them at all. People will still be able to download the Facebook app but won’t be able to merge their phone contact data with that of the social network. It’s a minor inconvenience that hurts Nexus S users more than it hurts Facebook.