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Facebook Home - what is it and should you care?

Tom Morgan
5 Apr 2013
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We take a closer look at Facebook's radical new Android launcher, which was officially announced last night

Facebook Home is official - it's a new app for Android which replaces your smartphone's default launcher with one designed entirely around Facebook and the apps owned by the company. Although not the "Facebook Phone" many people were expecting, it's a major departure from the apps we've seen from Facebook in the past - but is it right for you? We've taken a closer look at Facebook Home's features, to bring you everything you need to know

COVER FEED

Cover Feed will be the first part of Facebook Home you see - it replaces your existing lock screen and home screen with full-screen pictures culled from your friends' uploaded images. You can swipe left and right to see Facebook content, zoom in and out, or double tap to like it.

Facebook Home

Facebook feeds also appear on the lock screen, and can be swiped through without having to put in a password. If you don't like the idea of anyone being able to see you or your friends status updates, there's an option to turn this feature off.

APP LAUNCHER

Naturally for Android, Facebook Home retains the familiar App launcher - you access it by tapping the circular icon containing your profile picture at the bottom of the Cover Feed. As well as storing all your apps, it also has links to update your status, upload a photo, or check in at a new location.

Facebook Home

CHAT HEADS

Chat Heads (which we think is an absolutely terrible name for a feature) combines regular text messages with Facebook conversations, to keep all your messages with friends in one place. Friends appear as circular icons, popping up alongside a preview of any incoming messages then sitting at the top of the screen when you reply back. When you're done with a conversation, you can flick it to the side of the screen to hide it from view.

NOTIFICATONS

With Facebook Home, all your Facebook notifications are pushed straight to the Cover Feed or Lock Screen. YOu can swipe them away once you've read them, or click them to jump straight to the relevant app.

Facebook Home

The downside to Facebook Home's notifications system is that you won't get Android system notifications if you install the app from the Google Play store. Although it will work with the HTC First, and presumably other smartphones which have Facebook Home installed out of the box, it's a major blow for anyone looking to replace the default launcher on their existing smartphone.

FUTURE UPDATES

When he unveiled Facebook Home, company founder Mark Zuckerberg promised there would be monthly updates to the software - quite what new features will be added remains to be seen, although the news suggests that the version we'll get in the coming months is far from finished.

HOW DO I GET IT?

If you're in America and keep your Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps up to date, you'll be able to download Facebook Home from Google Play from the 12th of April when it officially launches. You'll need to own a Samsung Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4 or Galaxy Note 2, or an HTC One, HTC One X or HTC One X+ until Facebook updates the app with support for other devices. Currently tablets aren't supported, although a tablet-compatible version is in the works.

HTC Fiirst

Currently, the only smartphone confirmed to ship with Facebook is the HTC First - it's a mid-range device with a 4.3in 720x1,280 display, behind which sits a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 dual-core processor, five-megapixel camera and a 4G LTE modem. Pricing and availability has yet to be confirmed, but expect it to cost significantly less than the current crop of high-end Full HD smartphones like the Galaxy S4, HTC One or Sony Xperia Z.

SHOULD I CARE?

Facebook Home is a radical new take on traditional App design. Whereas it currently sits side-by-side with Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ in your smartphone's app drawer, Facebook Home takes priority by completely integrating itself throughout your phone. It's the first thing you see when you unlock it and is accessible from almost every screen.

If you mainly use your phone for Facebook, we can certainly see its appeal, although the lack of features in the freely downloadable version may put some people off adding it to their own device. It's essentially a third party launcher, of which there are already many on the Google Play store - but this has fewer features and less customisation. We don't doubt that tweakers and modders will steer clear of the uniform interface.

Until Facebook Home launches in the UK, it's difficult to know how popular it will be - custom user interfaces are a major part of what separates different smartphone manufacturers, and might prove unpopular unless Samsung, Sony and HTC can retain their existing skins alongside the new interface. Not everyone puts Facebook top of the list of what they use their smartphone for either, although we're sure it will find a place among dedicated socialistas.

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