Mark Zuckerberg’s globally popular social network Facebook has come a long way since it’s inception in 2004. The company has recently shifted its focus to mobile – over half of it’s pageviews come from smartphones and tablets. While the HTC ChaCha and Salsa in 2011, which were the first Facebook phones to be announced, flopped miserably – the folks at Menlo Park decided to restart its efforts with the release of Facebook Home and the HTC First.
Facebook Home is a top-layer to select Android phones. Download it on Google Play, and it will replace your standard home and lock screen with a steady stream of friends’ posts and photos. The app launcher is still there—simply drag your profile picture up to open the launcher. You can also keep Facebook messaging with your friends while you’re using other apps with a feature dubbed “Chatheads”.
You install Home like you would any other app. A popup will ask which launcher you would like to use – the default or Facebook’s. Choose your pick, type in your Facebook credentials and voila – you are presented with Cover Feed and all it’s social glory. The notifications bar is hidden by default, but can be revealed by swiping down over the Cover Feed.
Facebook home is also available for android. Check here
The Cover Feed
Cover Feed is just Facebook’s fancy terminology for the lock screen. It displays the photos and statuses of Facebook friends from your News Feed. Switching on your phone will temporarily show the time at the top and then pan subtly through the photos displayed. Photos look impressive in the Cover Feed, taking full advantage of your smartphone’s 720p (or higher) display, provided that they are high resolution, and equally appealing. Any photo or status can be liked by double-tapping the screen, and the whole photo can be viewed by long-pressing. Statuses look much better than just plain text, displaying the person’s cover photo in the background. Notifications are displayed as narrow white rectangles, and can be dismissed individually by swiping to the side or together by holding and swiping. A small bubble of your profile photo is at the bottom of the screen and can be shown or hidden by tapping once. Facebook calls this the bobble.Touching the bobble gives shortcuts to Apps, Facebook Messenger, and your last used app (back). I would really like to see the addition of a refresh button.
The App Drawer
Swiping your profile photo up to “Apps” takes you to a customizable App drawer with the Status, Photo and Check in buttons across the top. Swiping right from the first page scrolls through your custom app pages, and the number of App pages in the drawer are seemingly unlimited, with widgets omitted. Swiping left from the first page takes you to a more conventional App list. At the end of the App list lies a More… shortcut that takes you to your default Android launcher.
A terrible name for a great feature.Ignoring the strange naming convention, Chat Heads is the most notable feature in Facebook Home. It’s already integrated into Facebook for iOS and Facebook Messenger for Android. As opposed to throwing Facebook messages as notification banners, Facebook opted for tiny bubbles that slide onto the side of your phone. It’s extremely useful for replying to ongoing conversations without leaving the app you’re using. Chat Heads can be used for talking to multiple people and Facebook groups you are in and can be easily thrown around the screen or closed by dragging it to the bottom of the screen. The animations seem very Apple-esque, and I like it a lot. Tapping on the “heads” reveals the conversations between your friend(s) and new messages can be composed by tapping the box at the bottom of the screen. It’s really Facebook’s version of iMessage, combining text messages and Facebook Messages into one entity..
While it’s an extremely cool concept that shows lots of potential, The Facebook Home experience is fairly limited. Obvious features – like Facebook contact integration (think iOS) is strangely omitted. Within the app, the excitement gets old in a few minutes after browsing through the Cover Feed and launching apps from Facebook Home. Or probably more accurately, you’re going to use Facebook more than you want to. Minor drawbacks like lack of widget support, and having no way to hide/fag certain Cover Feed posts become apparent after a few minutes of use. But with regular updates being released on a monthly basis, the app can only improve with time, and problems associated with it will hopefully be addressed. If you tend to always be in the Facebook app on your phone, you’ll have an excellent Facebook experience, but for everyone else, I would hold off for now.