Facebook's Account Kit Offers Alternative to SMS

Facebook released Account Kit, which has been in testing for some time, to developers earlier this week. The basic idea is to minimize the pain of logging into mobile applications, particularly in instances when SMS and other tools may not be available. Facebook calls Account Kit a "complementary product" to Facebook Login; it is an instant verification component that is part of the Facebook SDK for Android.

Account Kit should solve some headaches for developers. Consider the use of SMS as a way to verify user credentials. SMS can be slow and isn't always available. This lack of reliability is one of the problems Facebook believes Account Kit can help surmount.

"When a person enters his/her phone number into an app using Account Kit, via Android services, we attempt a match with the verified phone number listed on the person's Facebook profile," explained Facebook's by Ethan Goldman-Kirst in a blog post. "If there is a match, we can complete the verification without sending a one-time password (OTP) via SMS, making the sign-in flow more seamless."

There are a couple of catches. First, the person must already be logged into the Facebook app on the same device. Second, if there isn't a successful match Account Kit falls back to the SMS-based verification code, which may or may not go through. Facebook says Account Kit together with the existing SMS tool should give developers the best opportunity to get users verified and signed in.

Early tests proved successful. Facebook partner Familonet says Account Kit phone number login increased registrations by 40%. The instant verification component lifted conversion rates by 5% -- and the rate is still rising. "Account Kit has allowed us to replace the complex service architecture we originally built for SMS-based phone number verification with a one-stop solution. Now, with instant verification the experience for users is more seamless," said David Nellessen, Co-Founder and CTO at Familonet.

Facebook firmly believes Account Kit will improve phone number-based app registration, particularly in areas where SMS is not reliable.

“Reducing the number of steps in the signup process is something important to developers and people," said Facebook Software Engineering Manager Olga Kuznetsovain a statement emailed to ProgrammableWeb. "By adding instant verification to Account Kit’s phone number login solution, there is also no code change needed from developers to take advantage of this new feature. And we’re encouraged by the early results we’re seeing with the overall lift in conversion rates after adding instant verification for Android."

Developers need to download the atest Facebook SDK for Android to get started. Account Kit isn't available for iOS.


Be sure to read the next Smartphone article: Apple to Improve App Review Experience For Devs and Users