Facebook introduced Facebook Home on Thursday, a new home screen for your Android phone that integrates the Facebook experience into other functions on your device.We had the opportunity to spend a little time with Facebook Home following Facebook’s event running on both the HTC First –- a phone that will come with Facebook Home pre-installed – as well as the Galaxy Note II, which had Facebook Home installed from Google Play.
The experience on both devices was exceptionally similar — so similar in fact that we couldn’t tell any real difference between the two.
A New Homescreen
The phone’s home screen, called Cover Feed, displays a constant stream of your friend’s status messages, and uploaded photos. For messages posted without a picture, Cover Feed will pull in your friend’s Cover Photo to use as the backdrop.
At launch those message will not contain ads, but Facebook mentioned at Thursday’s event that ads will eventually be included in the mix. Though likely a battery hog, the feature is pretty slick.
Tapping on something in Cover Feed brings you into an experience not unlike your traditional Facebook experience. Double tapping on the screen allows you to like a photo, bringing up a nice thumbs-up icon on the screen and a popping sound effect in the process.
Buttons at the bottom of the screen allow you to also leave comments on those photos.
Traditional notifications are supported as well, and show up in the center of the screen. Swiping a notification dismisses it, while tapping on it will launch the app.
One awkward note: currently there’s no way to disable a specific friend from showing up in the Cover Feed display. Facebook uses an algorithm to determine what photos show, so you won’t see everything. But if you’re friends with someone who often takes less-than-desirable pictures, you run the risk of those pictures showing up –- in large form –- when you least expect them.
Launched From You
Facebook Home uses your Facebook profile picture as the lock button. Swiping a finger up from your face will bring up an app menu for your phone, which Facebook has conveniently updated with quick-access buttons for adding a status message, photo, or checking –in.
Swiping instead to the right on your profile picture will bring up the least app you were using, be it Facebook, Chrome, or anything else.
For Facebook enthusiasts, swiping to the left will bring up Facebook Messenger.
Chat heads is probably the most intriguing part of Facebook Home, and adds the most functionality for Facebook fans. When friends message you either through SMS or Facebook Messenger, their head shows up on your screen as a notification in a small, movable bubble.
Tapping on the bubble will launch the conversation with that person. If you’re not interested in talking, then you can dismiss the chat by dragging the Chat head down to the bottom of the screen.
Chat heads are also movable. So, if your friend sends you a message while you’re reading an email, you can move him to the top of the screen while you finish reading, and then tap on him once you’re done.
Chat heads are as easy to move around as that description sounds, and can be put wherever works best for you. If you dismiss a chat head, the next one will pop up in that perfect spot you found for the last. The feature learns what you like, and takes that into account.
How Do I Get It?
For those people who want to stay on top of Facebook constantly, Facebook Home will be available in the Google Play Store starting April 12. Android users who already have the Messenger and Facebook app installed on their phone will receive a notification suggestion they download Home.
At launch, Home will only work on a handful of preselected phones – HTC’s One X, and One X+, and Samsung’s Galaxy S III and 4 – as well as the HTC First, a phone that will come pre-installed with Home.
What do you think about Facebook Home? Will you be installing it on your Android device, or picking up an HTC First in a few weeks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.