Facebook announced Friday at its Menlo Park headquarters plans for its new “skin” software designed to put Facebook front and center on any Android device.
The journalists gathered Friday for a Zuckerberg led press conference to get the first look at Facebook’s new heavily hyped app Home on Android – the long-rumored Facebook Phone. While most of the tech crowd was expecting an actual device in of itself built from the ground up to feature the social networking giant. The social media giant had other plans up its sleeve.
Facebook finally made a public statement about their plans for the Facebook phone. But that phone, the HTC First, is really just a reference model for the best integration of the Facebook Home software that can be downloaded onto any modern Android phone starting April 12.
Facebook Home consists of a few key capabilities designed to put people, not apps, first. He compared the change to adding Newsfeed to Facebook’s website, where people started consuming twice as much content overnight. Home brings this experience right to your phone, and delivers it to as many people as possible.
The new App, currently only compatible for Android phones, features three key components: Cover Feed, Chat Heads and Notifications.
The Cover Feed will replace the home and/or lock screen of an Android device giving users an immersive experience from the moment they turn on your phone. Instead of seeing a clock and maybe a snippet of a notification, you see your Facebook Open Graph stories with large images cycling across the screen. News shares and status updates are visible right from the start. Users can even add comments right from the home screen.
The little round bubbles with images of your friends, Chat Heads, are the metaphor for Facebook Home’s way of keeping users up to date on what friends are saying. Incorporating Facebook messaging and texting, users simply tap on the Head to join the conversation. The key here is that Chat Heads show up everywhere on the phone, not just in a dedicated app. They’re always available – the little Heads show up in the corner of the screen no matter what else you’re doing.
Notifications are there to make sure users don’t miss critical information – along with the name and face of the person who’s sending the message. Unfortunately, with the download version at least, Facebook Home will not support notifications of emails, but you can still use the native Android notification bar.
Finally, Facebook Home will add a new app launcher, for when users still want to use the phone’s old-fashioned features. Apps are really important too, so Facebook has made it just as easy to access apps. The app launcher is just one swipe away from the home or lock screen. Many, but not all, of these features can be switched on or off.
While Facebook home is not a complete mobile operating system, it’s not some lightweight app, either. That’s critical, because people spend a lot of time on Facebook on their mobile phones. Some 20% of the time people spend on their smartphones is spent with Facebook – 25% if you include Instragram. And that’s three times as much as with any other app.
Still, while Zuckerberg claimed that people look at Facebook 10-12 times a day, they look at the home screen of their phone 100 times a day. Facebook Home brings the social network much closer to the user – and could be expected to seriously up Facebook’s engagement time for those who use it.
Facebook Home will be available for free download from the Google Play store on April 12, but that’s only part of the story. Facebook Home is also on HTC First, available the same day for $99.99 exclusively from AT&T, with pre-orders starting today.