Facebook has unveiled Facebook Home, a new “family of apps” that integrates Facebook software into a variety of Android smartphones and, eventually, Android tablets. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed the software after months of speculation during an event at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters.
To start, no, Facebook Home is not a “Facebook phone.” Instead of creating dedicated hardware, building a dedicated OS or even forking Android, the company is attempting to create an integrated software suite within Android that can effectively turn any compatible handset into an aforementioned Facebook phone.
Zuckerberg opened today’s presentation by declaring his intent to make smartphones about “people, not apps,” and visually Facebook Home appears to be doing just that. It replaces both the lock screen and home screen with what Facebook dubs the Cover Feed, which displays full-screen pictures and statuses from a Facebook user’s news feed directly onto the home screen.
Upon signing into Facebook, users can swipe through new photos and updates and leave comments right from the Cover Feed, and can double tap on those statuses to leave a “Like” as well. Statuses that are just text are placed over that particular Facebook user’s cover photo, making it so the home screen is never too visually barren. Facebook notifications will pop onscreen as well, and can be removed with a simple swipe downwards. And yes, Zuckerberg has announced that there will be ads in the Cover Feed.
Messaging looks to play a big part of Facebook Home, as expected. The app here is dubbed Chat Heads, and lets users view and reply to messages without having to leave whatever app they’re in at the time. Both Facebook Messenger messages and regular SMS texts are supported, with a blue text bubble representing the former and a green one representing the latter. A small circular picture of the messenger will show up onscreen upon him texting you (hence the name “Chat Heads”), which can then be moved around the screen or, again, discarded entirely with a quick downwards swipe.
All of this is still taking place over Android, though. Home comes with a launcher for accessing all apps on the fly, but also makes it so users can post a status update or photo from within a given app.
It looks and sounds different than what most Android users are used to, but Facebook Home more or less appears to be a new Android skin that effectively replaces the standard UI with a much more mobile-friendly Facebook news feed. It should be a dream for regular Facebook users, but TG will give more detailed impressions once it spends more time with the software.
Either way, Facebook Home will be available as a free download in the Google Play store beginning April 12. Facebook says it\’ll be updating the software on a monthly basis. The just-announced HTC First will come with it baked in, while the HTC One, HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy Note II will be compatible with Home from the get-go.
Zuckerberg and company do plan on bringing Home to more handsets later on, however, and various Android tablets are set to get the software a few months after its initial launch. There are no announced plans to bring Home to another OS any time soon, which makes sense given Android\’s open nature.