Apr 4, 2013
Facebook today announced Facebook Home, the first step in making the most personal computer in your life more personal.
During a special event today, Facebook announced a new initiative to make mobile phones more personal. The first step is to release Facebook Home, a launcher replacement for Android that puts Facebook content front and center on the device. From the lock screen, to the launcher, to even what Facebook is calling Chat Heads floating persistently above other apps.
The goal with Facebook Home is to change the way we use our most personal computer, the smartphone. The typical interface on a smartphone is not that much different from what it was 32 years ago when Windows 1.0 was released. A series of windows with icons. Home is the first step to try to flip how we think about our relationships and data and put the interactions first. It’s a good first step, but like most things will need a few revisions to be widely popular.
For one thing, at launch on April 12, only the latest of the latest phones will be able to access the app. The Galaxy S III is the oldest phone on the list, three of the devices on the compatible list aren’t even out yet. Here’s the list of compatible devices for launch: HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung GALAXY S III and Samsung GALAXY Note II. The upcoming devices that Home will work with include the GALAXY S IV, HTC One, and HTC First. The HTC First will be the first phone to come with Facebook Home as the default launcher, pre-installed.
There are three main parts to Facebook Home. The home/lock screen, the chat heads, and the launcher. The home/lock screen allows viewing of the latest of Facebook News Feed stories, at least the ones with large enough images to look good. Swiping left and right to view more stories, double touch to like, or hit the comment bubble to add thoughts to the post.
When in home screen mode your avatar will be shown at the bottom of the screen. This allows opening apps, going to Facebook Messenger, or quickly accessing the last app used.
Above, Facebook Home, Home Screen / Cover Feed In Action.
The Chat Heads feature is a system-wide persistent floating bubbles showing avatars of friends that have send Facebook Messages. The chat heads allow interaction with their message, replying, ignoring, etc.
Above, Chat Heads in Action
And finally, the launcher. This replaces the standard launcher in Android and allows both a full, alphabetized list of apps along with the default view, a grid of bookmarked apps. The launcher also has buttons to quickly post a status update, photo, or check-in.
In the short time I had with it, Facebook Home actually works surprisingly well. It has been specifically optimized to deliver the quick response that is expected of a system level app. Apparently a new physics engine was created to support the animations and keep everything smooth.
Facebook looks to open up Home to other applications in the future. This would allow access to notifications from other apps, viewing updates from other apps in the cover feed, and even interacting with other apps while the phone is locked. This is all coming and no specific details were announced.
Facebook also took a bit of time to announce the HTC First. The first device that will ship with Facebook Home as the default launcher. While this does give Home a few extra features, the phone itself is a wholly uninteresting mid-level device.
Facebook Home will be available for download on April 12 to users of the phones listed above. Others will be rolled out, hopefully quickly, in the coming months.