Facebook Conducts Empathy Experiment By Forcing Employees To Replace Their iPhones With Droids

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SILVIA IZQUIERDO, FILE
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SILVIA IZQUIERDO, FILE

Facebook is big on experiments if they further the company’s goal to better engage and connect people. But instead of experimenting on its users, the social network is testing its employees — taking away their iPhones and replacing them with Android phones so they can better understand how most of the world uses the internet.

Facebook’s chief product officer, Chris Cox, announced the move during a Thursday media meeting at the company’s Menlo Park, California headquarters: “I am mandating a switch of a whole bunch of my team over to Android, just because people, when left up to their own devices, will often prefer an iPhone,” Wired reported.

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The experiment will affect an undetermined number of Apple-loving employees, and shouldn’t be misconstrued as a political move to support one device maker over another. If Facebook wants to reach its goal of connecting the world through its Internet.org project, it has to thoroughly understand how users — future and current — in developing countries experience the internet.

There are 1 billion Android users with 80 percent of the world’s phones using the mobile operating system. Moreover, those users don’t access the internet at the same speeds as U.S. users.

Those statistics prompted Facebook to slow down employee’s internet access to 2G on Tuesday. The opt-in program allowed participating employees to experience snail-like mobile internet speeds that cause a high-resolution photo to load in three minutes. Typical mobile internet connections at least on 3G or 4G connection speeds can load similar photos in less than five seconds.