Facebook has moments ago launched Facebook Home which basically turns any modern Android phone into the much vaunted “Facebook Phone” people have been talking about for years. It is essentially a skin (or launcher) that carries some brilliant integration tricks that hooks Facebook into many corners of the Android experience.
Even though HTC did indeed launch a new midrange phone called the “First”, Facebook’s new Home software will eventually also launch for the HTC One X, One X+ and also the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note 2. The first is just the first (get it?) phone launching with Facebook Home. But Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that it is not Facebook’s strategy to build a dedicated Facebook phone, and they would rather focus on decent integration into the existing Android operating system.
What Zuckerberg made clear is that Facebook’s strategy is about a whole lot more than a dedicated device, and instead harnessing the massive 1 billion users who will slowly but surely move towards smartphones. And with Android’s significant (and ever strengthening) hold on the smartphone market, it was only natural for Facebook to embrace Android. Facebook will also be updating Home on a monthly basis, something that should make many Android fans happy who might not always get too many operating system updates. At least the Facebook skin should now improve over time…
So what is new about Facebook Home? Instead of the typical Facebook app, Facebook Home will take over your screen from the moment you wake the screen. You instantly see what your friends are sharing, and you can quickly see pictures without unlocking the phone. Because its so tightly integrated into the OS, you will also see things like messages and missed calls from the same interface.
The other cool feature is “Chatheads”. If a message arrives, it will simply slide in from the left of the screen, and allow you to quickly reply to the message, without ever leaving the current app you are busy with. Once you are done, swipe the Chathead away. Chatheads will also integrate into Facebook’s notification system which replaces the current Android notification tray – and it will handle notifications from other apps.
Your homescreen unlock button is actually your picture, and to unlock you simply sweep it to messages, apps, or last apps. Simple – but we would like an option to have the brilliant Google Now there.
After seeing how well Facebook has taken its app and enhanced it to something so much more, it is becoming easier than ever to see what kind of potential Android has, provided it is combined with smart developers. Facebook has essentially taken Android and actually improved on it. Instead of focussing its efforts on hardware, Facebook has built a software layer that is just made to leverage some of the best phones out there.
We cannot wait to try it out.