Facebook Home for Android: everything you need to know
4th Apr 2013 | 18:25
A new enhanced overlay for Facebook on Android
Facebook has unveiled an enhanced experience for Android, taking things beyond the standard Facebook app. Facebook Home essentially acts like an overlay for Android phones.
Among other things, it replaces the lock screen and the home screen of your Android phone with the Facebook 'Cover Feed'.
Facebook Home is essentially a Facebook OS by stealth.
Facebook Home release date and devices
After Facebook Home is launched on April 12, you'll be able to download it from the Google Play store. You can opt to just use it once or have it on your phone continuously. Facebook says that Home will have a new release every single month.
And, naturally it will also be available on the brand new HTC First, which has Facebook Home preloaded.
Mark Zuckerberg opened the event by joking around the Facebook phone rumours before explaining the event was about "how you can turn your Android phone into a great social phone...we're not building a phone and we're not building an operating system, but we are building something that's a deeper experience than an app".
Zuckerberg said the reason for developing Home that people spend 20 per cent of their phone time on Facebook, a figure that rises when you consider Instagram - incredible when you think about it.
This is essentially how the overlay works - a layer between apps and the Android OS.
Facebook Home will launch on tablets "within several months" - the company is working on it.
Facebook Home Cover Feed
The cover feed is what you see when you turn on or open your phone, and it shows a continuous stream of your friends' Facebook updates.
From the Facebook Home cover feed, a finger swipe accesses apps, phone calls and the other functions you expect from a phone.
Cover Feed is essentially a stream of stuff - status updates, new Instagram photos, event invites and more - all navigable with photos. If you see a photo you like, you can Like it or add a comment. Comments are all in-line. Cover Feed relies on simple gestures - "it's the content first" said the demo man.
As Facebook says, it "lets you stay up-to-date on your friends' latest activities in real-time, all the time.
Facebook Home Notifications and app launcher
While Cover Feed aims to show you the most important things, Notifications still show you the crucial things. Facebook wants to shift focus away from apps and onto content, but it has also built an app launcher. Apps can be bookmarked or organised by alphabetical order. You can even post a status or check-in from here, too.
Notifications from apps and friends appear right on your home screen. It's easier to see when you have a missed call, calendar reminder or new message. Open a notification with a double tap or clear them away to see your Cover Feed.
You can choose what's on your app launcher - press and hold an app then drag it anywhere.
Facebook Home Chatheads
Chatheads are a way to take away the dilemma of switching away from an app when a message comes in - you can pop right into the conversation over the app you're using or webpage you're browsing.
Previous Facebook Home rumours
Various reports before the event suggested that Facebook Home might or might not debut alongside a handset built by HTC running a forked version of Android or more likely just a special version of its Sense UI that puts Facebook front and center. It looks like it may be called HTC First.
Zuckerberg has previously said that Facebook wouldn't launch a phone itself, saying that a smartphone "really wouldn't make much sense for us to do."
"We want not just to have apps that people use, but be as deeply integrated as possible, where other apps can build on top of Facebook," Zuckerberg said.
A batch of images leaked of Facebook Home yesterday. The images show an all-color UI with an expected focus on photos.
It seems almost like your photos take up the entire screen, with bubbles of info - missed calls, Instagram alerts and messages - floating above.
Android Police previously got its hands on the below system dump for "the Facebook phone," and while the information may make you go "eh," it does give us details about what we might see later.
Is the HTC First the Facebook phone?
We've been here before, of course. The concept of a Facebook phone isn't new, while HTC Myst is a name that's been rumoured for some time as a follow-up to the HTC ChaCha, which had a specific Facebook button.
Some analysis conducted by The Verge discovered that the HTC First logo was likely Photoshopped onto the image (you can also see a faint line bordering the words, as well) - not exactly a great sign of authenticity.
All that @evleaks has to say about the phone is: "HTC first, 2013."
According to the build.prop specs from Android Police and previous leaks from @evleaks, it seems the handset codenamed Myst is destined for U.S. wireless carrier AT&T. Its skin is the old Sense 4.5 and it runs Android 4.1.2. There's a 4.3-inch 320ppi display with 720p resolution, on which you can see the snaps you take with either the 5MP rear camera or 1.6MP front camera.
It looks as though the phone lacks an SD Card, though it has 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi. The processor is pegged as a dual-core 1.5Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960.
That's a mid-range handset if ever we've heard of one, but it's probably the level of specification we'd expect from a Facebook-orientated handset.
Facebook Home details
Yesterday's images matche with the phone shown yesterday, so at least @evleaks gets points for consistency.
There's little in the way of distinctive markings to say whether this is an HTC phone - or device made by any specific manufacturer - or simply a generic rendering.
You may remember that before the Galaxy S4 was announced, an image supposedly of the phone popped up online (posted by @evleaks, no less) before it was found that it represented a false hope. We get a glimpse at what might be the app launcher, and while it looks like any Android app center, you'll notice the Status, Photo and Check In options along the top.
Another leaked image presumably shows a photo and the various share options users can hit to get their pic on their various social networks - Instagram, Messenger, Picasa, Google+, Twitter, Messaging and, of course, Facebook - as well as Gmail, texts or trash.
We'll know if all the images - and all the leaks - are legit later today. Tune into TechRadar for the lowdown on Facebook Home, HTC First, or whatever it is Facebook has in store.