Why Facebook Forces A Bunch Of Its Engineers To Use Terrible, Low-End Phones

You might not expect to find many flip phones in the high-tech and free-food laden Facebook offices, but your expectations would be wrong. 

Facebook is creating a special lab filled with low-end Android smartphones,”crappy old flip phones,” and weak networking to help the company study the computing conditions in parts of the world like rural India that either have limited internet or none at all.

Developers have to try to use Facebook’s apps on super-old versions of Android so they can understand what it’s like for people in areas without good network connection. 

“It’s easy to not have empathy for what the experience is for the majority of people in the world,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Time’s Lev Grossman of Facebook’s employees.

So, the team manufactures empathy.

“I force a lot of the guys to use low-end phones now,” Javier Olivan, Facebook’s head of growth, says. “You need to feel the pain.”

And Facebook employees aren’t the only ones getting the terrible-phone treatment. 

“We brought in some phones, like very low-end Android, and we invited guys from the Valley here — the eBay guys, the Apple guys,” Olivan says. “It’s like, ‘Hey, come and test your applications in these conditions! Nothing worked.”

That pain is of one of the things motivating Zuckerberg’s work on Internet.org, an initiative which aims to bring internet access to everyone in the world. Facebook recently released apps in Zambia and Tanzania with content like Wikipedia, Google Search, and AccuWeather that local people can get and use for free. 

Read the rest of Time’s profile of Zuckerberg and Internet.org here

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