Earlier today, Facebook lifted the veil from its Facebook Home. It’s not a smartphone, but rather a new suite of apps that include Cover Feed which replaces the default lock screen application and allows users to access Facebook data more efficiently, with less friction, thus fulfilling Facebook’s goal of keeping people more connected. The demo above shows how Facebook Home runs on the new HTC First, the first smartphone to feature Facebook Home out of the box.
More information about the HTC First and Facebook Home in the full article.
Cover feed replaces your home screen and get you immersed in your Facebook friends photos right from the start. From there you will get notifications and you will be able to like the photo by simply double tapping on it (the like icon becomes blue) or comment by clicking on the bubble icon palced at the bottom left of the display.
When pressing and holding your profile thumbnail placed at the bottom of the screen, three new icons appear and the one at the top gives access to the App Launcher where all your regular Android applications will be displayed. I wish my timeline would be accessible by double tapping on this icon, instead of having to click the Facebook app icon from the App Launcher (three clicks and one swipe away).
Chat Heads and Notifications
Because it replaces the lock screen and home screen, Facebook Home also needed to introduce a new way to access and launch apps, and it’s fair to say that the launcher is pretty quick to access. Chat Heads is the major feature of Facebook Home. It basically keeps one or more chat threads one tap away on the screen at all time, regardless of which app you’re currently in. This is handy if you want to chat on an ongoing basis and it cuts down on the time it would otherwise take to switch between app and FB chat. When you don’t need to have Chats Heads, you can make those threads go away by dragging the heads icons to the bottom of the screen.
Notifications from apps and friend appear directly on the home screen, you can open them by double tapping on them or clear them away.
Now, you also want to use you regular apps, and that’s why Facebook made sure that a simple “swipe up” would reveal a classic list of apps, which looks very familiar to all smartphone users. You can access the app launcher by pressing on your profile thumbnail displayed at the bottom of the screen, it will reveal three icons, including the standard Android app screen icon that gives you access to the App Launcher that contains all your regular Android applications. At the top of the App Launcher, you can directly access those three Facebook features: status update, photo, and check-in (see picture). Just like any other Android devices, you can flip through several screens of applications from there.
HTC First Hardware – Hands On
On the hardware side, the HTC First is very slim and light, with a rubber covered chassis featuring rounded edges. The build quality is good although less high end than the HTC One, which is one of the most beautiful smartphones on the market to date. The 4.3-inch glass touch display is bright and provides high contrast, the Facebook Home user interface was very responsive when I tried it briefly at the press conference. Under the hood, you will find the latest generation mid-range Qualcom processor, a.k.a. the Snapdrago 400 processor with dual-core CPU and 3G/4G world and multimode LTE.
The HTC first will be exclusively available in 4 colors (black, white, red, pale blue) from AT&T on April 12th for $99.99.
Facebook Home on other Android devices
So far things looks slick and feels good, but we will need to use Facebook Home for a bit before deciding if it’s something that we would keep. The final question is how you can get it… at the moment, Facebook has planned to make Facebook Home available to a short list of devices via Google Play. The Samsung Galaxy S3, The Galaxy Note 2, The HTC One and the HTC One X made the list.
According to a Facebook representative I met at the event, the only difference between the pre-loaded version of Facebook Home and the one you can download from Google Play is the system notifications feature: on the HTC First the system notifications will show up right inside Cover Feed on your home screen, while on the other devices, they will be displayed in the system notifications bar that you can choose to display at the top of the home screen (see picture with the Samsung S3).
Facebook stated that Facebook Home for tablets will be released in a few months.
At some point, Facebook Home illustrates very well what Jolla’s CEO explained to me last month regarding making custom phones with deeper integration of the content and the applications’ specific features within the operating system.