This article originally appeared on 60 Second Social.

Facebook has launched a new app called ‘Hello’ in select countries which replaces the stock caller ID on an Android phone in favour of their new caller ID system. The app instantly matches phone numbers of incoming calls and outgoing calls to Facebook profiles to show more information about who you are talking to, blocks calls from commonly blocked numbers (numbers that cold call) and allows you to search for businesses to call.

The app is Android only as iOS does not permit apps that interact with phone calls or in fact any phone feature on the iPhone. The app was first spotted by Android Police last month when they saw Facebook experimenting with an employee only version of the Hello app which was codenamed ‘Phone.’ Facebook is now launching the App publicly and project manager Andrea Vaccari had the following to say to Techcrunch.

“More than 1 billion phone calls are made in the US ever day. But the experience of the phone call hasn’t evolved in a long time.”

I have mentioned several times before (the most recently being yesterday!) that Facebook wants to spend as much time in your life as they possibly can. Whether that will ultimately end up being a good thing or a bad thing I don’t know to be honest, however their approach to the phone dialler is an interesting one. Here is a video from Facebook promoting the new phone dialler they are launching.

Remember when Facebook tried launching a Facebook branded smartphone? Not many people do, most people have forgotten because the phone was a flop. The HTC First which was run by AT&T in America was soon dropped in price from $99 on bill to 99 cents. The phone used a skin of Android called Facebook Home which was integrated all over the device from top to bottom. You could turn it off and have stock Android but that somewhat defied the point of getting this particular phone and it was soon dead and buried.

Facebook clearly believes that it can influence other elements of the phone experience and has more than likely realised that launching their own device just won’t work. The market has such high end companies making top devices that it would be hard for a new comer to break in like Facebook.

The Hello app is their attempt to influence phone elements on the Android device you already have. Access is currently rolling out to the US, Brazil and Nigeria. If Hello is successful in these countries then the app will be expanded to other areas. Once downloaded, the app asks for permission to sync with your contacts and then you are away. Here are some of the features which are outlined by Facebook.

Synced Phone Book:

With permission, Facebook will sync with the contacts on your phone to add and update profile pictures of the contacts in your address book. It will also display more information at a glance about contacts when you scroll through them in the Hello app as opposed to the stock app on your phone.

Caller ID:

When you receive a call, Facebook will reference the phone number against its database. If a caller has left their “Who can look you up using the phone number you provided?” privacy setting to the default of “Everyone” or even if you are a friend of a friend, it will show up the callers name and profile picture.

If they share other bio information with you such as current city, home town, employer, job title, education, website or birthday then you will see all of that information in the caller ID as well. All the information appears on the screen as a card while the phone rings which you can swipe away to answer the call or decline.

VOIP Calls:

If a users has Facebook messenger installed then you can make a one-tap Voice Over IP call to them for free from the Hello app. So if someone calls you on a standard call you could ignore it and then call them back over VOIP at no charge.

In Facebook’s Q1 2015 earning, Zuckerberg revealed that Messenger now makes 10% of all global VOIP calls. He expects VOIP via Messenger to grow quickly since it has settled in to the service and is cheaper than standard calls. Hello could propel that growth.

Business Search:

Hello will also feature a smart search bar at the top of its screen which can be used to search for Facebook friends, contacts or businesses. Facebook imports information from businesses such as the opening hours, address, and general information into the Hello app.

Call Blocking:

Hello can also tell you if an incoming number has been blocked from other users and will tell you how many times that number has been blocked. If enough people have blocked the number then Hello can prevent your phone from ringing at all and send the call straight to voicemail. You can of course block the number too if a number appears on the screen that you do not know and is commonly blocked by other people.

So the only real question then is can Facebook actually make the phone part of your phone…better? Well on first glance things are looking pretty good. It certainly seems to be an improvement on the stock phone dialler provided you actually use Facebook which many people do these days.

There are no plans to monetise the platform at the moment however there is potential for business ads to be permitted in an app which heavily integrates into the page information of Facebook for companies. Of course as well as the usual monetisation streams the simple fact that you are spending time on another Facebook service will mean they are making money anyway.

Vaccari tells Techcrunch that the team have learned from the experience of Facebook Home.

“Hello is more of a targeted experience. Home was more integrated with your phone. Something Hello is doing right is that we’re not trying  to reinvent the way you use your phone. Hello is very gentle…it simply adds relevant information when it can.”

It is a well built app however that does not mean it will be necessarily popular, time will soon tell as ever if people will opt for Facebook’s dialler or decide to stick with the stock dialler on their phone.

About The Author

Mark is the founder of 60 Second Social media where he provides social media news and digital marketing analysis. You can follow him on Twitter here. You can also follow 60 Second Social on Twitter here. Or you can drop Mark an email at, [email protected]

 

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