Thanks to several apps and massive HD screens on smart phones today, most of us prefer to go through our Social Networking engagements while mobile than waiting to power on the desktop or laptops. And no other social network is bigger than Facebook at least at this point of time. So it made a lot of sense when Facebook invited everybody to come and see it’s new ‘Home on Android’. All the major tech sites were flooded with intense speculations as to what this Facebook Home would be just like you expect before a major product launch. Thank God we know what Facebook Home is now, so let’s quickly dive in to check out what the fuss was all about.
Facebook Home is nothing but a Facebook Launcher
Android Launchers may be one of the best ways to customize and Android device, but apart from maybe one or two not a lot of development has gone into making a truly unique launcher experience on Android. But this is all set to change with Facebook home. Facebook Home comes as a Home replacement for your default launcher, be it Touchwiz on Samsung devices or Sense UI on HTC ones. It aims at skinning your Android device with everything Facebook. At first this sounds pretty daunting, imagine you are quite literally living inside an environment of Facebook. This maybe alright if you are a regular Facebook user or extremely enthusiastic about everything that goes on in the lives of hundreds of your Facebook friends, if not, then it just may be a waste of space on your Android phone.
(Image credit: Appleinsider)
Since Facebook Home is a launcher, if you are on an iPhone then this is an experience you will miss out on. Home is all set to roll out officially on April 12th across the globe, but at the moment only six devices are supported. These devices are HTC One X/X+, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S III/SIV and Note II. More devices will be added over the period of time and you can expect Facebook home to be rolled out on your Android tablets too in the coming months. What is interesting though is that despite partnering with Sony, the current flagship Sony device Xperia Z would not be getting access to Facebook Home when it launches. We do not know what to read in to it, but at least specs wise, the Xperia Z is pretty similar to the likes of HTC One or the Galaxy S IV, both of which have been supported.
The Creepy Chatheads
Chatheads is one of the major features of Facebook Home. It aims to provide you with one unified inbox for your Text messages and Facebook Messages. As a result even though you might be in the middle of an application or playing a game, you will not miss out on a message somebody has sent you. You would also get a nice numeral on the top of a small circular profile image of the person indicating exactly the number of messages you have unread.
Although, the idea of a unified inbox is a good one and one we are crying out for on Android but to imagine small bubble heads always popping up when say you are watching a video or trying your best to beat the high score on Temple Run 2 is not a very appealing prospect.
We do hope that there could be some way to turn off chatheads when you do not want to be disturbed cause unless that happens, not only would chatheads look extremely creepy, it could be a massive battery drainer as it would constantly push new messages to your device.
Unlock Your Phone to Coverfeed
Coverfeed basically is a social feed for your Android devices. So what this means is when you boot up or unlock your device, you would be bombarded with pictures your friends have uploaded or just about every random status somebody enjoying a good holiday or having a rough day at work has updated. The background of coverfeed is the Facebook header and it changes as you scroll across the various stories on the device.
Coverfeed also provides an easy way to like or comment on the stuff you like. Although It is a media rich experience, be prepared to fight through some of those annoying Facebook ads cause they definitely will make a sneaky guest appearance. So, no more you need to be logged into Facebook to be able to see what everybody on your network is upto, you will be automatically logged in ready to browse Facebook as if to say, you anyway had nothing better to do on your Android phone.
So basically coverfeed becomes both your Lockscreen and Homescreen which changes dynamically with little to no control of yours. Though we would like to see if there is anyway we can set only a certain group of people to appear on coverfeed or not, at the moment though, our guess is you cannot do that.
Notification Notification Notifications!!!!
If Facebook notifications ain’t your thing, look away cause Home is all about quick access to your notifications. All your notifications such as likes on your pictures, comments on your recent status update or simple warning that somebody has dared to ad a picture of yours you did not want anyone to see on Facebook would be accessible right from your lockscreen. Facebook is aiming for bigger and better notifications, the sort of stuff, you just cannot miss out on.
If you do install Facebook Home, there is no way you can miss out on a Facebook Notification now. However, since Facebook wants you to pretty much live inside the environment of Blue and White of Facebook, Home tends to hide away your status bar as well. As a result, there are chances you might miss out on other important notifications such as your E-Mails, Reminders, Battery or even Weather alerts. Although, there is a way to make sure your status bar is visible, it would have been so much better if they had pretty much all the notifications of a device covered. As a result, to access your other notifications outside the Facebook world, you will have to exit Home.
App Drawer is Here too
Just like any Android launcher, Facebook Home too comes with a dedicated app drawer. But there is a twist to this tale as well, in fact two. The first being, when you fire up Home, the only applications added to the app drawer are Instagram, Facebook Messenger, camera etc which are directly related to Facebook. You need to manually add other applications that you wish to use frequently when within Home such as maps, or Music etc. The other catch is, unlike a normal app drawer, the app drawer on Home comes with three handy short cuts on top. You can add a picture, update your status or check in to a place directly from the app drawer.
You can also add in your Android widgets in an alternative Android Homescreen, and although you can still access Google Now and Google Search, you have to do that via an application shortcut instead of just directly typing your query in a search box or tapping the mic symbol. You can re arrange the apps simply by tapping and moving them around. All in all, although everything is there in your app drawer, things are a little more complicated now.
Facebook App v/s Facebook Home
Facebook Home is not a substitute for your native Facebook application on Android. You still will be directed to the app on board every time you want to read a notification. So the idea here is for both of them to work in sync. Athough features such as local search are currently available only on the application, we do feel that with promised incremental updates every month, more and more features of the dedicated Facebook app would head over to Facebook Home. For now though, there is no getting rid of the Facebook app.
A Facebook Phone?
We have seen in the past Facebook trying to push out a dedicated Facebook phone when they launched the HTC Chacha or the Salsa. Needless to say, both the devices failed to gain any substantial traction in the mobile market. However, Facebook did announce yesterday that it would be teaming up with EM’s such as HTC, Samsung and Sony to produce phones which would come with Facebook Home out of the box.
The first true Facebook Phone with Home out of the box is the HTC First. It is a light weight, 4.3 inch 720P HD device which would be running on Android 4.1. The device is an AT&T exclusive in the United States and is already up for a pre-order for $99.99 on a two year contract. Out of contract you can pick the device for $450, but it has to be via AT&T. The device will support LTE and is available in four different colors. The device is powered by a 1.4 GHz dual core CPU and has 1 GB of RAM on board. Facebook did announce that there are plans to add more such devices.
How To Get Home and When?
Facebook Home would be available to download starting April 12th. We have already mentioned that it would be available on only six devices initially though more will be added in due course of time.
It is also pretty surprising though, that out of the six devices none of the Nexus devices are featuring at the time of launch. You will get a notification for the availability of Home in your Facebook application which would direct you to the application in the Play store where you simply have to download it like any other app. And from then on, simply a tap on the home button would bring up an option to launch Facebook Home and set it as your default Launcher.
Concluding Daunting Thoughts
Just like any other product in the market, Facebook Home is not for everybody. If you do not check your Facebook more than say twice a week, it is pretty much useless for you. But if you are a Facebook addict, then this might be something you will totally love. Personally, living in a Facebook environment with random updates and messages popping up every second is not my thing, but if you have a huge social circle and like to be connected then that is exactly what Facebook Home would allow you to. Having said that, we are pretty excited to try out Home ourselves, and would be following up with a full review once we get the launcher on our personal device. Till then though, head over to the website or the Facebook app on your Android device and enjoy surfing through Facebook, and if you have any comments or queries don’t hesitate to fill in the section below.
(Images via: Flickr)