Facebook is finally moving into the smartphone market, and in a big way, with their announcement of Facebook Home this morning. The unveiling of this new mobile operating system also included the announcement of a new phone, the HTC First, which is the first device to run Facebook Home out of the box.
At the event this morning, both of these new products were showcased, with Mark Zuckerberg talking about the operating system, and HTC’s Peter Chou taking the wraps off the phone.
Home is based on Android, but looks nothing like the stock version seen on Google Nexus devices. The lock screen, home screen, and many of the mechanics are completely different, in order to place emphasis on the hugely popular social network.
“Home is a completely new experience that lets you see the world through people, not apps.”
Facebook is at the core of this operating system, with integration seen in most aspects of the operating system. From the second the phone is awaken from sleep, images from the user’s news feed are shown. As the lock screen is on, images will cycle through, similarly to how they would be seen in the news feed. Facebook calls this the “Cover Feed,” expressing how perfect it is for the small moments that users look at their phone, whether it be in a grocery store or between classes.
“Chat heads” are another feature Facebook is introducing in Facebook Home. The idea with chat heads is that any of the user’s Facebook friends can be shown permanently on the screen in a small circle. Tapping on said circle will bring up Facebook messaging/chat with this person. The people who are shown in this manner can be selected and omitted to the user’s personal preference.
All other Android apps are still present on Home, with the App Launcher being the central point for them. It is somewhat similar to the home screen layout of iOS, with icons seen in a grid, with swipes navigating through pages. As of now, there is no support for widgets, arguably a staple of Android, although Facebook claim that they are looking into the idea, and that there will be monthly updates to the operating system to ensure it is of a good quality.
Although the HTC First is the only phone to come pre-loaded with the software, Facebook is making Home available for other Android handsets on April 12. Such devices include the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note 2. Facebook Home for Android will be released on the Play store, allowing users to download it, and install the entire OS on their phones.
It goes without saying that Home will not be available on iOS for the foreseeable future. Doing so would make iOS obsolete, and this is the last thing Apple would want. While there are a number of Facebook applications on iOS that have the same functionality as Home, the overall integration will not be seen in iOS.