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Initial Thoughts on Facebook Home and the HTC First #2

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As you have already seen, today’s coverage mostly focused around the announcement of Facebook’s Home launcher for Android and their partnership with both AT&T and HTC to create the HTC First. This size of an investment in the mobile space is what Facebook has been needing, given that the mobile experience for their service on Android is somewhat lacking.

Kellen already ran through his initial reaction, but since I was actually at the event, thought I would go over my initial reaction to today’s announcements as well. 

Facebook Home is neat, but not really

I am a pretty heavy user of Facebook. While sitting at my desk, I have the social network open at all times, skimming my friend’s updates and chatting using their IM service. My initial feelings towards having Facebook this heavily integrated into my smartphone is not very positive, but at the same time I could see this being great for someone else. To give an example, someone like my mother, who keeps track of her children’s lives through Facebook and only has us as friends will definitely get a kick out of this.

With Home, as soon as she turns on her phone she can see our latest pictures and status updates. For me, that’s completely acceptable, given as long as she isn’t calling me for those things and yapping my ear off for an hour. In short, if this helps someone feel more in touch with the people in their lives, so be it.

The point is, Home is a very neat idea when looking at it from the outside, but I just can’t imagine myself being this involved with Facebook.

The HTC First is pointless

As for the First, the specs are as some would put it “outdated,” but it does come with a pretty intriguing price point of $99. At that price, and with full Android operability, it does seem nice. Although, to develop a device just for Home is something I have not yet wrapped my mind around. Once the announcement of Home was official and we saw that it was merely a launcher, not a forked version of Android or some Facebook OS, it just seems that the resources spent on the creation of this device were misplaced.

The only aspect of Home that requires a system-level integration is notifications. For me, that just isn’t enough to justify buying a separate device. Sure, a tween could totally afford this device and get themselves into it, but as an Android fan and superior hardware diehard, this phone serves zero purpose to me.

Chat-Head-Preview

Chat Heads is the only aspect I’m excited for

While most of what Home brings to a device doesn’t really interest me, Chat Heads is easily what I came away most impressed with. The ability to be in any app, playing a game or whatever else you’re doing and still have the ability to receive and send messages without backing out of said app/game is huge. While 3rd party Android apps do provide pop-up services for this (only text messages though), they’re just that, pop-ups. Pop-ups are flippin’ annoying.

Chat Heads rest on the side of the phone’s UI, allowing you to still accomplish the task at hand, but serve as a gentle reminder that your friend needs your attention. You can choose to pay attention or not to pay attention. Pop-ups on the other hand, do not.

Please Google, kang Chat Heads and throw it into the next version of Android.

A win for Android

While this device and service might not interest me, what does make me happy is the fact that Facebook showed so much love for Android as an OS. It is flexible and can take the shape of whatever developers need it to in order to get the job done. Facebook wanted to create a launcher/skin that made someone feel as if they were using a phone purely built for Facebook. And with Android, that was easily accomplished.

During the Q&A session, after the live feed went dark, a reporter asked if they could expect to see Home for iOS. Not anytime soon, buddy. The level of what is need for Home to function as it should is more than Apple allows on their devices. With Home, there is a new lockscreen, overlaying IMs, and don’t forget the entire launcher aspect of it. While Zuckerburg didn’t completely rule out the possibility, iOS just isn’t made for applications such as Home. For that, this is a major score for Google and Android.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, Home is simply a 3rd party launcher. While it brings a new list of features and nifty tricks to your device, it is no more than just a tool to creep on your friends and exes. While I am happy to see Android getting the big thumbs up from Zuck, I would expect to see hype over the HTC First and Home die out within a month. This isn’t revolutionary and it certainly isn’t going to change the way we as a general public use our smartphones. Just wait till they begin to integrate ads into your Cover Feed.

I will stick to just using the regular app, thank you very much.

  • Granted

    Yo, I done be goingz twooz “creep” on my friends and exes wit dis sun, yaw gnaw meen?! Unghhhh! Dis be da winz for duh androidz sclun, ungghhh!

  • http://profiles.google.com/morganfboyle morgan boyle

    Facebook makes really bad software. for the size of the company and their influence, they should be crafting much better software.

    • Liderc

      It is very odd that they often fail miserably with their software considering their company prides themselves on being “geeks” or hardcore coders. It’s almost ironic really.

  • alex drum

    you should do a poll on how long we think this thing will last before it falls flat on its face.

  • rosssimpson

    I admit, chat heads is pretty cool!

  • http://twitter.com/vdefender Taylor A.

    Spot on review! I Especially like your Chat head, and A win for Android sections.

    Android is just so versatile! And that is what is great. It can evolve to do just about anything a developer wants it to do, WITHOUT having to Fork the OS completely.

    iOS is a joke, never ever would Apple let a company do this with their precious home screen. Android is all about options!
    That being said. Most of the people I know are completely clueless about how to use their android phones, and if they managed to install Facebook Home on their phone, they would NEVER be able to figure out how to switch back to their original launcher. *facepalm*

    I like iOS… because it’s super easy for complete ID10T’s to use, which in turn makes my life easier.

  • Brian Wolfman

    I still dont see the point of the chat heads. i have a notification bar that has the icon reminding me…hey, remember to respond. You can even use something like lightflow to have repeat reminder notifications, hey, you forgot to respond! Dont want this circle icon floating around my screen getting in the way.

    • http://twitter.com/vdefender Taylor A.

      I agree to a point. But unfortunately, most android game apps go full screen and hide the notifaction bar (which hate!!) Then they don’t even offer an option in the settings to always show the notifaction bar. So at that point I get an email, or a text while playing a game and I can’t see what it is or who its from. I don’t want an intrusive popup that takes focus, and I don’t want to completely leave my game just to look. The face bubble thing solves that problem completely. However… It would be much better and easier for google to just say “you either need to always have the status bar shown in your app or game, or you need to have a setting that will always show it in your app.”

      Then it would be great if i could swipe down my notifaction drawer, and respond to the text or email right in the drawer rather than have to then leave the app and come back.

      So do I like chat heads? No. Nore do I like the facebook home app. But they did manage to solve one problem with android I’ve been having.

  • brandon jewell

    well its definitely nor for me,I don’t even use facebook. And honestly even if I did this just reminds me of a polished motoblur. But that said..as was pointed out, its a win for Android as a whole. I could see tweens and older people using this. I’m interested to see how things go for zuck and co.

  • Nick Moi

    hehe, i like it

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  • Christopher Riner

    Spot on report Tim, nicely done. I honestly haven’t even really cared enough about this Facebook thing to read half of these articles, but I did read the reactions and I feel like I got the most important things (I needed to know) to decide if I was gonna like this or not.

    Probably not. BUT! The chat head thing sounds awesome. I read an article about one of windows old engineers talking about os’s, and he said android will never be quite as “smooth” as apple or windows devices BC their OS’s handle tasks differently. Basically, android is the only true multi tasking os. It makes scrolling/other stuff slightly more choppy, but now that companies like LG and Samsung are putting in software like pip screens for videos while you go through other apps, or running two apps at once on the same screen– the way they architected the os is finally paying off now that the hardware is catching up. A chat service like that would absolutely showcase that ability, and Google should definitely use it as a general platform for how their ui should handle multitasking. Looks badass.

    • Granted

      You can have picture in picture on your phone, without having an LG or Samsung device. There is a great application called “Stick It!” that accomplishes this wonderfully on my Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Rezound.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.debow Jordan M Debow

    I wish I could run some of the features over my current Nova launcher like the pie control app

  • MikeCiggy

    It’s an entry level device for facebook users. We are all tech geeks here, and we don’t find this very exciting however. A 99$ smart phone with decent specs with the facebook F on the back looks mighty tempting to facebook users who are buying their first smartphone on a budget.

    • Liderc

      Exactly, this is exactly who they made this phone for. We are the last people on the planet that they looked at when making this one. I don’t know if it will do well, but it does have an audience.

  • BRIM

    ChatHeads. If Android doesn’t bring something like this (with ‘Babel”) to intergrate unified messaging at this year’s I/O I’m going to be an angry man. Excited to see what FB did to show how seamlessly it could be on Android.

  • Bionic

    Yuck

  • Austin Warren

    iPhone clone. That’s all I’ll say about this atrocity.

  • Dillon Brown

    chat heads interested me a lot, it looks really nice and functional, but for me I’d like to see google just implement a persistent notification bar or at least one that would appear with an initial swipe down and then add reply to a message directly from the notification shade. I don’t want some ones face there the whole time while I’m doing things.For a full convo list they could do something like swipe down the notification bar directly from the message icon brings up the full convo and a swipe down everywhere else shows regular notifications.

    With Babel integrating almost everything under one icon for everything this would be clutch.

    • http://twitter.com/kashtrey Trey W

      I’m also not a fan of the persistent head cluttering my screen. My ideal would be a “pop up” with a good transparent affect, something that has a little circle with a profile pic and a rectangular snippet of the message that flashes briefly over the screen before being tucked away into the notification bar. You could also toggle the pop ups to show just the message, just the profile pic, or both for those who want to manage the intrusiveness of the pop ups.

  • James Jun

    Chatheads, Chatheads, Chatheads. That’s all we’re talking about.

  • Carley H. Young

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  • jeff laird

    i like the idea just not the concept

  • master94

    Im okay with this since they didn’t fork Android and cause fragmentation. It’s nice to know the big players are supporting Android first, and finally moving away from a ios addictied world. This is will increase adoption rate of Android among first timer smartphone users and even the elderly since everyone uses FB, despite G+ being better.

    • Tim242

      While it is nice to have such attention for Android, they only supported Android first because it was their only choice. They will never be able to have this on iOS or WP.

  • Brent Cooper

    How about a Google Now centric phone? I mean very heavy Google Now development and integration. I’d love to see that

    • tyguy829

      it’s called a nexus

      • michael arazan

        The Best Part of this is The facebook app is not compatible with Nexus, first time I’m happy about something not being compatible with nexus

        • tyguy829

          LOL

    • Tim242

      Nexus, and any Jelly Bean phone really

    • DroidFTW

      Google+ is dead. The usage has gone done since its release and the likelihood of that reversing is doubtful. Social networks grow organically, you can’t just make one up and expect it to take off.

      • Daleos

        I’m using G+ more than Facebook at the moment. However, there’s definitely a different demographic who use it so perhaps it’s the way your prefer to react socially that makes you think it’s dead.

        Every time Facebook adds another layer of ads and non-personal features, I get more friends joining me on G+.

        Facebook is it’s own worst enemy.

      • Granted

        Funny how Facebook just made one up when Myspace was king, and it more than “took off”, while destroying Myspace in the process. I am not so sure that your theory is sound. While Google+ may not have had the same effect, I would not say that it cannot happen then.

      • Liderc

        I don’t use Google+, but it is very much alive. 400 million people have a Google+ account and I believe they hit 100 million unique visitors a month a few months back. Can’t link you to the data, but google how many people use google plus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dominick-White/642535026 Dominick White

    I think the reason for the HTC first, was to show off how well Facebook home will be able to run on a android hardware /software

    • moelsen8

      it would run much better on my nexus 4, or on an sgs3.. or any current device. the htc first is just a money-grab on yesteryear’s hardware for people who don’t know any better.

      • Tim242

        I’m not sure about the Nexus 4. Scrolling and zooming on it is like nails on a chalkboard.

        • moelsen8

          no complaints here whatsoever. although i did come from a gnex!

          • Tim242

            I had a GNex for a year. It had some issues, but the display was not one of them. I tried two Nexus 4′s. When I would pinch to zoom, it wouldn’t start zooming until my fingers were 2 inches apart. This is a widely reported issue. Supposedly there is some calibration tool that can help a bit.

    • http://twitter.com/kashtrey Trey W

      It’s really more of the fact that HTC or any other manufacturer for that matter wasn’t going to put Facebook Home on top of their own skins on one of their flagship devices. No way would HTC promote a One with Home instead of Sense or Samsung promote an S4 without Touchwiz. So HTC pumped out a bargain barrel phone to showcase Home just because Facebook needed some thing (really anything) to launch on. I don’t understand why people don’t get this (not you, but various tech writers).

  • ChristianJohnson

    If there was a YouTube Home…I would be addicted forever.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joeyklatzko Joseph Klatzko

    I will probably install Home, use it for a few minutes and then switch back to Nova Launcher. I’ll probably let it sit in my app drawer for a while because I’ll think “Eh, I’ll play with it again when I’m bored”. Eventually I’ll just uninstall it though

    • hdhfh

      So why install it in the first place if you’ve already judged it.

  • JetBlue

    I’d rather people move to G+ so I could stop using Facebook but that won’t happen.

    • MiMo1986s

      i did this but still need some friends that still stuck with fb lol

    • jim

      Why? Facebook is pretty much the same thing.

  • El_Big_CHRIS

    I think FB started like this and not do the Amazon rout from the get go because ppl want to have Google services. I can see them doing the Amazon route very soon after the numbers from the adoption of home and First come out.

    • NIGHTSCOUT

      WOW, learn English……

      • JetBlue

        It wasn’t that hard to understand what he said. Sure, he didn’t use punctuation and such but you don’t know if he’s from another country or something where English isn’t the first language.

        • NIGHTSCOUT

          Ebonics is a disease that needs to be cut from the flesh with a cold sharp blade

          • http://twitter.com/Belatukadro Justtyn Hutcheson

            Not one single word of El_Big_CHRIS’s comment was ebonics. Ebonics is a sub-dialect of American English, similar to the hundreds of regional dialects of the Chinese language. If you are going to condemn something, at least learn how to identify it properly first.

            Also, I agree with Jet, they sound more like they learned ESL, and simply don’t grasp the language usage all that well. It takes many many years to learn the proper form of any language’s grammatical nuances. Some people dedicate their lives to that study and still don’t understand all of it.

            And, while we’re on the topic, it is a much kinder and more respectful move to actually help correct someone’s grammar than say “learn English”.

          • Granted

            Amen and I concur. Retardbonics is a half a step up from infant babble and gibberish. Yaw gnaw whut I dunn beez sayungs?

  • KatsumeBlisk

    This phone is Facebook’s entry into people’s lives. People aren’t going to go out and install the launcher. They’ll buy the phone and accept the defaults. Most people don’t change their home screens like us. When friends see it, they’ll find out that they can install it on their Android phones. It’s about getting a foot in the door of non-tech savvy consumers’ lives.

    • PSU_DI

      Most consumers find there way to the play store to download Facebook. If they can do that then they will certainly be able to install “home” especially if it comes up as an app when you search for Facebook. The better question is what will people do after its installed. Will they be okay with this over say sense or touchwiz? Will they even know how to uninstall it?

      • Christopher Riner

        Well, its only going to be available for like four or five phones. Yeah, there are a lot of s3′s and note 2′s and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of HTC ones, but still a minority for the overall android population.

        • PhoenixPath

          I guarantee the apk for this will be on XDA within seconds of its release to the Play Store. Within moments of that, someone will figure out a way to get complete integration, lock-screen widget and all, possibly as simply as installing it to /system/app.

          It will be on a hell of a lot more than 5 phones. Unofficially, at least. ;-)

          Aside: I’ve never understood how anyone can claim there will be no interest for an app created for a service used by over 1 billion active, unique users a month.

  • ace

    So I’m guessing Twitter is next. Smh

    • NIGHTSCOUT

      Reddit! LOL