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Initial Thoughts and Notes on Facebook Home for Android

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All talk across the tech universe has been about Facebook today, and I’m sure you have had just about enough, so I’ll try to make this one of our last topics. As you know, Facebook unveiled Facebook Home along with a new phone that can run it, the HTC First. This is Facebook finally realizing that mobile is extremely important to the future of their company – well, either that or after feeling enough pressure from shareholders they had no choice but to start taking it seriously. And since Android is as “open” as it gets in the mobile space, they saw an opportunity to put Facebook first, if you will, and created a home replacement that should eventually work on almost any semi-current Android device.

As I watched the presentation and all of our coverage following, all sorts of things jumped out to me as either important or newsworthy and wanted to share. This is my early take on Facebook Home. 

Facebook Home is a Third Party Launcher

As we predicted when Facebook Home was first rumored by the Wall Street Journal, it is nothing more than a third party launcher that sits on top of Android and can replace the home experience you get on any device (eventually), whether it be an HTC One or Galaxy S3. When you think of Nova or Apex Launcher, Facebook Book is in the same category. If you install it, it’s not going to completely change your phone or wipe anything out – it’s simply a layer of sorts over the top of the experience that your phone manufacturer had initially envisioned. It will be available on April 12 in Google Play as an app that anyone with a Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, Note 2, HTC One, or One X can download and install. Should you install it, the first time you press your phone’s home button, you’ll be asked if you want to use Facebook Home once or as your default.

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Differences on the HTC First

There is one major difference from the app you’ll install through Google Play and the version that is running on partner devices like the HTC First – notifications. For Facebook Home to show Gmail or text message notifications through their lock screen or UI, they have said that Home needs to be installed natively. If you download the app through Google Play, our understanding is that you’ll only see the box-style notifications (pictured above) from Facebook. The rest of your notifications for other apps will appear outside of Facebook Home and in the notification bar.

Keeping that in mind, there is an option in Facebook Home settings to either hide or show the standard notifications bar. For Google Play installs you will likely want to keep this showing or you may miss out on alerts from other apps.

Stock Android on the HTC First

In our hands-on video of the HTC First (7:30 mark), you can see that the phone is running what appears to be stock Android underneath Facebook Home. What we’re not sure of, is if you can somehow disable Home through settings to then leave yourself with a 100% stock Android device. Since it has access to all Google services, you could still install a different third party launcher to turn it into one. The phone runs Android 4.1

I Guess I Should Mention the HTC First as a Phone

It’s a mid-range Facebook phone that should have been $99 without a contract. Moving on.

fb6

App Drawer

With Facebook Home, you still have a somewhat traditional app drawer. With a press and swipe up on your profile picture, you enter a first screen that is a folder of sorts for your favorite apps. If you swipe from that box to the left, you’ll enter the full list of apps installed on the phone that scrolls vertically. If you swipe back to the right, you return to your favorites folder. Should you fill up the first folder, you can swipe right to create more folders of favorite apps.

No Widgets

In Facebook Home, there are no widgets. Since your main screen is the Cover Feed, the last thing Facebook wants to do is cover up those beautiful photos and status updates with top layered widgets. Tim asked a couple of reps at the event and they confirmed to him that they are considering widgets, but that at this time, Facebook Home does not support them.

Compatibility With Tablets

As I mentioned earlier, Facebook Home will launch on April 12 to a select group of phones from Samsung and HTC. After that, we’ll probably be sitting by, waiting for Facebook to either update their app or announce new compatibility. As far as tablets are concerned, Facebook did announce that the experience is coming to bigger screened devices. Unfortunately, it won’t be for a few months at least.

fb18

Cover Feed is Too Simple

For me personally, the Cover Feed feature in Facebook Home is way too simple. As someone that likes to gobble up as much info as possible from one screen (admitted DaskClock addict here), seeing one status update and photo at a time from a friend just seems like future work ahead that I won’t want to do. If you look at any hands-on video today, Facebook has done some nice things visually with slowly moving HD-esque pictures on each screen, but to get between updates, you have to constantly swipe either right or left. I have yet to see a screen that will show me a summary or small updates of all new posts from friends. I guess I can get that from the actual Facebook app?

Chat Heads is Very Cool

The Chat Heads feature in Facebook Home is awesome. It allows you to carry on conversations with friends without having to leave your current place or activity. It’s an overlay, that sits atop say your Chrome browser session or YouTube clip and allows you to respond to friends in real-time. You can quickly swipe away a “head” to the trash to remove it or grab all “heads” and rearrange them on screen so that they aren’t in your way. If Google could do this with Babel, their unified chat service, I’d be very happy.

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I’m Still Not Using Facebook

At the end of the day, Facebook Home is not going to get me to start using Facebook. I’ve gone this long without much participation on the social network and saw nothing from today that has me running toward it. With that said, Facebook users will likely love this new home replacement, assuming their device is compatible with it. If your days are filled with Facebook messenger conversations and constant updates from friends, this looks like a beautiful way to extend your Facebook world outside of the app.

Final Thoughts

For Facebook, Facebook Home makes a lot of sense. While I’m sure their app usage remains incredibly high by itself, companies are always trying to push numbers upwards. If you want Facebook users using Facebook more, make it the first thing they see when they wake their phone. The real success here, though, was finding a way to turn users’ phones into Facebook phones without sacrificing the benefits of Android, something they have managed to do. And whether or not I plan to use Facebook Home doesn’t mean that I don’t realize that Facebook has made a heck of a business move with Home, especially once they start putting ads on it.

  • Maxxmo

    Running a Galaxy GS3 and I’m wondering if I’m the only one Facebook Home isn’t showing up in Google Play. I updated both Facebook and FB messenger.

  • Martin Nilsson

    If you add a space to the left (so right for facebook, left for widgets) and borrow from Chris Lacys ActionLauncher “shutters”, you could squeeze in all the widigets you want. And then some! =)

  • http://geniousatplay.blogspot.com/ Bikram Agarwal

    Chat Heads is the only thing that got me interested. What if the Google Babel incorporates something like that…? *Fingers crossed*

  • http://twitter.com/JackMeoffski Jack Meoffski

    Facebook is for Fags

  • http://profiles.google.com/booboolala2000 Patrick Crumpler

    This has got to be a big blow to Apple.

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  • kirk Ngo

    HTC does not need a phone with facebook when they have a app or website for it.

  • Justin Howard

    I honestly don’t even care about FB

  • http://bit.ly/TylerHilliard Tyler Hilliard

    Make it my Google Reader (now Feedly) feed and Babel heads and I’m sold.

  • Brent Nichols

    Instead of the power of Android and its homescreen of wallpapers, shortcuts, folders, and widgets, you get a Facebook slideshow that will also display ads. That’s quite a trade off.

  • Ryan

    Why is everyone complaining like this is a bad thing? This is a great thing for android. Granted this is something most of us on this site will probably never use or have a need for (right now). This demonstrates the power of android vs iOS. This is a powerful statement that says to any company out there they can customize android user experience 100% to cater to their needs by building a system to fully integrate their application(s). If this had been google+ doing this I’d put money on it that most of you would be praising it. Think positive; This is a great thing for android no matter how much you hate facebook.

    • RaptorOO7

      I will agree this is good news for Android as an OS and Platform, and those of us who are tech savy enough to NOT get sucked into FB honeypot as well.

      I personally have no use for this launcher, rarely use FB other than to wish frieds HB, and occasionally check things, beyond that I really don’t visit it more than couple times a month.

      iOS is as closed as you can get and this will give users who LOVE FB a way to truly stay hooked into that universe and will simply drive more Android sales which in turn works for us as a user base.

      So long as this does not become the default launcher on devices I don’t mind, I do not want to have my processor using cycles to run this crap in the background while I run a different launcher all day.

    • MicroNix

      That is exactly my thoughts. Did anyone here actually listen to any of the announcement? It was quite possibly the biggest plug for Android from a popular figure EVER! Zuck said everything us techies have been saying for years about the ability to customize Android to do whatever you want it to do. Facebook pulled off quite possibly, the best customizable job of ANY developer (whether you hate facebook or not) and created a total system experience that can be run on just about any Android phone. For those that live and die by Facebook (and there are a lot out there) this just might be one of the most popular magnets to the Android OS that there ever was.

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      • Beezer 12 Washingbeard

        Just about every phone? You mean five, right?

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  • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

    I think what most people didn’t realize are:

    1) Facebook Home shows that how open the Android platform is w/o resorting to skinning and forking. If you can’t live without Twitter user, fine — it’s time to e-mail Twitter and express your desire for a “Twitter Home”. It’s time to show companies that the Android platform is a better place to get their messages out.

    2) For the first time, an internet power house is willing to invest a lot of money and man power into a project that is essentially Android-first, and possibly Android-only. iOS? Moves away — a closed ecosystem is so outdated.

  • Dorian Brooks

    Full one screen widget. Maybe.
    Whole ***** UI. NO.

  • David Dudovitz

    Does the First have Google Now?

    • Kehin Faux

      yup

  • Dylan Patel

    kellen, have you really never used FB or did you just delete your account?

  • http://profiles.google.com/k3gman Keg Man

    has lots of potential and I’ll probably give it a shot, but I can predict that it will be more annoying than the feed itself. Instead of beautiful pictures scrolling by, I’ll be getting pictures of memes and “look what I cooked” pictures on my homescreen. Huge turn off

  • Mike_Cook7

    Seriously for everyone do we need to have our friends info that in our face? I really don’t want blurry pictures of everyone else’s drunken nights or their kids on my phone. People will have HD screens with horrible pictures of someone else’s family or the dam eCards. Just doesn’t make sense to me.

    I am sure their are plenty of people that are all up in Facebook every ten minutes but seems crazy to me to base you whole phone experience off of it. The just need to make the app better not take over the phone entirely.

  • mgamerz

    If only the main app didn’t suck hard still.

  • Dain Laguna

    If the htc first could have the fb portion disabled….. Id enjoy it as a stock android htc device :-)

  • hldc1

    Is it just me, or does it look like the guy in the first picture (the one with the dog) is dropping a deuce? Just sayin’…

  • Guest

    Can’t wait to hear about ads being sent to the cover screen

  • http://twitter.com/armus75 Armus

    Boring. Last thing we needed was another launcher. I doubt even my facebook addicted wife would go for this

  • Bionic

    Hmm, should i spend my money on this? Or X phone? hmmmmmm thats a tough decision

    • Matthew Merrick

      You must really love Facebook to even consider this o_O

  • ChristianJohnson

    I honestly like the UI of Facebook Home. I don’t think I’ll use it though because all it has to do with is Facebook. Give me a UI like that without the Facebook influence and I just might be interested.

  • Dillon Brown

    I think that a major oversight is that it seems the status bar is hidden by default. How do they expect you to tell the time! and the people that this is mainly for will have a tough time figuring out how to show the status bar. Also, will the cover feed be the low res photos from facebook?, because I can’t imagine many good looking photos on the screen that often, which will suck.

  • Jroc869, Nexus-Life

    This is probably gonna go over like Facebooks IPO

  • Daniel

    Just wait for the home screen ads, hooray!! I’m going to stick with ADW EX and certainly have no desire for MORE Facebook all over my phone..also I like widgets, and lock-screen widgets so throwing all of those out is a shame

  • Austin Warren

    Get Facebook for god, or ignore and go to hell.

    • Tim242

      When are you going to add an avatar? You can’t add it from your phone. It is too finicky.

      • Austin Warren

        How do I add one?

        • Tim242

          Be sure you are signed in on your computer, like from DL. Then go to Disqus.com/your Disqus user name. Then click the arrow in the top right corner. Then choose edit profile, then choose avatar. When you choose your file, just click once, then OK. Double clicking messes it up. Then hit save changes on the right, then scroll down and save changes.

  • newtong1

    This isn’t a new idea, and in fact, it has been tossed around quite a bit in the comments section of droid-life before, but it would be great for the Android platform as a whole and consumers alike if the major OEMs went this route in the future with regards to their custom skins/launchers (TouchWiz, Sense, Blur, LGs whatever it is, etc.) If this approach was implemented down the road, then there exists the possibility that all Android phones are shipped as Nexus-eque devices, with the ability to toggle on or off and/or add/remove the custom skin developed by the major OEMs for their respective smartphones/tablets. This will likely never happen on its own, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Google requiring this option in the future. Even if the manufactures are permitted to ship their devices with their custom UI already installed and even as the default launcher, everyone wins in this situation knowing that they could have a stock experience simply by removing the APK. With the capabilities of the Play store as is now, users would have the option to re-download the UI the device shipped with at anytime again after purchasing the device. The biggest argument I can see against this, from the OEMs perspective, is the worry that their proprietary UI gets side loaded on a handset by another manufacturer, IE Sense UI on a Samsung phone. I would surmise this could be prevented by requiring an authentication code to be used to verify APK is authorized for use on a particular phone, similar to what ‘Launcher Pro’ used to unlock the paid features before it hit the Play Store. Thoughts??

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    I will never use this but surely this illustrates the flexibility Android provides… And it will probably sell a few android handsets.

  • Bionic

    initial thought? its a piece of crap that no one i know would want except for my 13 year old cousin.

    • PhoenixPath

      … And maybe a few more of their 1.06 billion users…

      • Bionic

        LOL no

        • PhoenixPath

          You’re not the only one with 13 year old cousins, you know. :-P

          • Dorian Brooks

            But your cousins know it’ll suck too. Not his.

  • Patrick Cedrowski

    What about notifications from other applications? Since there doesn’t seem to be a notification drawer, where the hell do they show up?

    • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

      but facebook is the only application you need!

    • MotXphone_May31

      +1

      I have NO IDEAS:

      1) what this Facebook’s crap replaces OR hides OR disables OR interferes with
      2) what data it will access
      3) how deeply it places itself in Android
      4) why I should start using Facebook.

    • http://geniousatplay.blogspot.com/ Bikram Agarwal

      The video that Verge showed, it has notification pull down like normal android. But the notification bar is hidden by default. You have to swipe down from top of the screen to make notification bar visible. Another swipe to pull down notification drawer.

  • s23

    Why call it Home when its Motoblur 2.0 (Cliq Edition)

  • http://www.facebook.com/lola.craftt Lola Craftt

    Looks pretty Dumb… Who is on facebook this much?
    What about widgets?

  • http://twitter.com/Defenestratus Defenestratus

    Burn it with fire.

    • 4n1m4L

      Burn it with fire and hide the ashes from the world

      • michael arazan

        Dissolve the ashes in acid

  • Nexus_FrEak

    Maybe… Just Maybe Google will let something from Babel slip into the wild to get us all excited :)

    • Droidzilla

      I bet they’ll keep a fairly tight lid on leaks (not Apple tight, but those pricks are too tight) leading up to Google I/O.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Schmucker/1498547350 Chris Schmucker

    The launcher looks really smooth. Theres no excuse for the constant lag in the app then.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25102119 Daniel Lewis

      And on 4.1 at that. Was told by a Facebook designer today that they are indeed working on the lag and visual bugs for the normal app. Hopefully we’ll see results soon.

  • http://twitter.com/Rage06 RaY [HTC One]

    Have the same feeling as you guys on this: ‘Cover Feed is Too Simple’

    They should’ve used the advantage of having HTC as their partners by implementing a modified version of Sense 5.0s Blinkfeed. Like rather than having one large feed/post have 2/3 in a page where you can scroll as well (if it’s lika group chat).

    What do you guys think? Any thoughts Kellex?

    • http://twitter.com/dvschnk dvschnk

      Which might work for the masses. I love the ability to display whatever and however much info i want for my phone…but a common complaint I hear from non tech people jumping into smartphones is that android is too complex for them. This phone and launcher i think are really not geared towards most readers of DL or anyone that really reads a tech blog. That’s why when this comes out on the 12th, I think it’ll get ripped to shreds but it’ll have its own success. There’s a reason why mid tier phones are still being made…most of us on here wouldn’t touch one when you can run a flagship phone. It makes sense that FB home is being put on a mid tier phone since that is the market they’re going after.

  • XphoneTroll

    HTC LAST.. Nuff said!

    • Tim242

      √√√

  • http://twitter.com/belogical2 Be Logical

    Everyone wants to complain about Facebook doing this, but honestly, it’s a nice looking launcher. Not sure I would ever use it, but it’s nice. I like FB seeing the potential of Android and not seeing the potential in iOS.

    • Treknologist

      I was just goint to make a comment about that. So here we are and Facebook now has this integration with Android that does not and will not exist on iOS. I wonder how many Facebook users currently on iOS will this pull over to Android just because they want the Facebook phone.

    • Travis Shepherd

      The only problem is, the “facebook phone” is a phone centered around 1 “thing,” why buy that phone, when you can buy a phone, download the app, and do everything the facebook phone can do? on top of that, you would be paying for 2 year old specs, when you could have the latest and greatest.

      • http://twitter.com/dvschnk dvschnk

        I think for the majority of the less tech savvy phone users, this phone may sell. If they market this well, it could capture the market from the Walmart/Let’s talk crowd that really doesn’t use their phone to the fullest like most people on DL. Those people need to be told what their phone can be used for, since they usually do not try to discover it for themselves. I know a lot of the current smart phone adopters are like this for both ios and android. The “early adopters” of cell phone tech know what they want out of a phone…those that are jumping in now are more or less told that they need smartphones for whatever reason. We know that this is just a launcher like nova, apex, go, etc. For most people…they have no clue what a launcher is and think their phone can only behave a certain way (brainwashed by the closed ecosystem of the fruit brand)…that’s why a phone like this could work…give the masses something that they are familiar with.

    • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

      that was my thought watching the videos — i would personally never use it, but it looks good, and has neat transition effects.

    • PhoenixPath

      I’m betting the launcher will work as intended on the First with any device so long as it is installed as a system app in /system/apps or pushed via adb.

      Even if that’s not the case, I am certain the development scene will figure out how to get that working on all devices in no time.

      So personally,even just to check out out, I’ll wait until we get full functionality.

  • P3droid

    Blah!

  • Tommy Thompson

    Google needs to implement those chat features into Babble.

  • fortheloveoftech

    Agreed. Especially with the google babel part.

  • qmartman711

    I just love that people are commenting and asking where the nexus love is…haha- yes people, facebook will intentionally develop facebook home for a device that has google+ baked in! I do fear however that the partnership of Facebook and HTC only pushes away their relationship with the Google Nexus program. :(

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25102119 Daniel Lewis

      Nexus support will be coming, just not on launch. I know that a few of the designers there have this running on Nexus 4’s.

    • KatsumeBlisk

      The HTC First probably has Google+ baked in since it’s a Google app. The First comes with Now, Gmail, etc. I don’t see why Google would let them exclude another app that is installed by default.

      • qmartman711

        Yeah I’m curious to see how this plays out…facebook home will use facebook contacts, facebook dialing, facebook chat- all competing services to Google. Implementing ads as well? I don’t think this will roll out with G+