When Facebook announced the Home, it’s Facebook centric skin for Android, it turned plenty of heads. The Facebook enthusiasts jumped with joy that they can stay connected with their social network 24*7 while the ones who are not intensive Facebook users scratched their heads in disbelief that they have one more place to contend with the ever expanding claws of the social networking giant.
We were more in the second category of people but one week since the launch of Home on April 12th, a lot of water has passed under that bridge. Yet, the question remains the same, is Facebook Home a useful addition to your Android device or just a mere gimmick which you can ignore? Let’s try and answer it for you in our review of Facebook Home.
How To Get Home?
Facebook Home is currently available on just three devices in the mainstream market, five if you want to count in the likes of HTC One and Galaxy S IV which are not available for everybody. So, you would be needing an HTC One X/X+, Samsung Galaxy S III or Note II to run Facebook Home. If you do own the above listed devices then you can go to the Google Play Store and update your existing Facebook application which would automatically install Home. You will also need to install the Messenger application of Facebook to get the Chatheads Feature which is one of the most talked about features of Facebook Home. Once you are done updating your Facebook app and Messenger, go ahead and install Facebook Home Launcher from Play Store or here.
However, even though you do not own the device, and you want the Home, you can download the apk after a quick Google Search. We have not included the link in the review keeping in mind the right cyber ethics. But, it is possible to run Home on just about every device out there which are on ICS or above.
Once you have installed Facebook Home, you simply need to tap on the home button of your device and select Home from the popped up options. If you want to set Facebook Home as your default launcher, just select the check box to complete the action using Facebook Home always, this is completely undo-able in case you do not like the experience. That’s all, you are all set to experience Facebook Home on your device.
Facebook all around me, where do I Hide?
While using Facebook Home, you can feel a little exhausted, we have warned you already. This is primarily because the app pretty much takes over your entire device. You are quite literally swimming in the sea of Facebook friends. Although, if you love Facebook, then there is little chance that you would even to get out of the application. Once activated, you have all the things you need on your device right inside the application. Let’s look into everything that you can do inside the Facebook Home one by one.
Facebook Takes over your Lockscreen
Yes, the first thing that Facebook Home changes is the lockscreen of your device. No more do you have the fancy pull the ring to unlock or swipe to unlock gestures. Your lockscreen background is replaced by updates from your friends. These updates may include status updates, or images they might have recently uploaded or articles shared by them. In case of status updates, the background space is taken away by the cover image of their Facebook profile. The lockscreen also doubles up the Home screen of your device.
You can swipe on the images from right to left to move to the next story, or simply unlock to get into your device. You get a small circular button on the bottom of the screen which is your profile picture and you have to move that button around to unlock to your desired option. You can basically unlock your device to only three things. You can go to the app drawer, the messenger or the most recent application that you were using before locking your device. However, the most recent application update was very hit and miss.
Also, if you browse content from the lock screen (by swiping , the button to unlock disappears alongside the time displayed on the top, leaving you a clean experience to watch the updates. Tapping anywhere would bring the lock button back, but sometimes we accidentally ended up tapping the image twice after it did not register the first tap to bring back the lock button which automatically liked the image. It is a minor bug but one that really irked us as we ended up liking pictures we did not remotely have an intent to like.
Also a long tap on the image in the lock screen would display the image without the update text on it for a second till you release the finger. This did not make much sense to us either and we would have much rather if the image stayed the same way until an action triggered it to do otherwise rather than returning to the full screen mode.
You also get all your notification on the lockscreen of your device when you get one, and in case you have multiple notifications, you can group and swipe them away. However, if you click on the notification, it takes you to the Facebook Application on your Android device rather than opening it within Home. However, the notifications do not show up in case you are browsing or rather swiping through the images which meant we ended up missing a few notifications until we single tapped to bring the unlock button back.
Liking and Commenting on Posts
Let’s face it, every time we log in to Facebook we end up liking countless images and writing what we consider cool remarks on them. All this now is possible straight through Facebook Home. You do not have to open the Facebook application as just a double tap on the image on your lockscreen will make sure your friend knows you liked his cool image he recently posted while on a vacation in Mali.
You can also post your comments or simply view the comments directly on the lockscreen by tapping on the small text icon on the bottom left of your screen. You can simply choose to read the comments others have posted or add on if you have something interesting to say. Both the features of liking and commenting worked brilliantly and we felt it was one of the best features of Home.
The Inbuilt Application Drawer
Facebook Home gives you a dedicated app drawer in a simple 4×4 grid. Although by default the drawer has two pages and some of the applications such as your Gallery or Whatsapp are present, you can add your other favorite apps present on your device to this drawer too. All you need to do is a simple swipe to the right from the first page page of the Facebook Home app and you will have the entire app drawer of your device.
You can now long tap on the application and move it to either the first or second page so you can easily access it when you unlock your device to the application drawer. The app drawer we felt was a little small as it leaves a lot of screen estate free, maybe an added row of icons could have better utilized the space better on the mammoth 4.7 inch display of our HTC One X.
Apart from the applications installed on your Android device, the app drawer also has three shortcuts on the top. You can update your Facebook status, upload an image directly or even share your location by checking in. The image uploader is not the most refined feature of Home. It does not present you with the folders you have made in your device but presents a page with all your images at one place. So in case you have over 10,000 pictures on your device, you are going to have a very hard time picking that one image that you want to upload on Facebook. Often we gave up on uploading the image cause it was simply too much of an effort to find one image. We do hope in the future updates, Facebook allows us to pick images directly from the Gallery so we can cherry pick the folder where the image is located.
The status update and the Check in worked absolutely flawlessly like we had hoped. The best bit we felt was that all the desktop features of updating the status are present in the application. You can tag your friends, and even choose which group could the status update be visible or simply select to make the update visible to just you.
These Chat Heads are all over my Screen!
Chat Heads was the feature we were looking forward the most to try out when Home was released. Facebook Messenger now basically integrates your Text Messages as well as Facebook inbox in one unified inbox. And chat heads is the feature of this Messanger application. So you may not be running Facebook Home but still get chat heads by downloading the Messenger application, which is kind of neat. Chat Heads keeps you updated with all your incoming messages no matter what you are doing on your device.
You could be inside Facebook Home liking pictures or simply passing time on Twitter, the moment you receive a message on either Facebook or a Text, a chat head would pop up with the profile picture of that person with a small unread count of the messages he sent. This is a very neat feature as it lets you carry on having the conversations without leaving the application. You can either delete the chat head by simply dragging it to the bottom of the screen to the trash, re-position it anywhere else or tap on it to open and reply. All your other conversations too are present in the tab like arrangement within the popped up window which was a very handy feature.
Chat heads though were a bit of an annoyance when they popped up say while watching a movie on the device or while scrolling through a long article. They did disrupt the flow a little bit. We also wish there was some way where we could be selective about the friends or contacts whose chat heads we would like appearing all the time and turn it off for the rest. Perhaps one of the future updates could address the concern. All and on, chat heads works brilliantly and is a standout feature of Home, funnily even though it is technically not a part of Home. Though wishing Chat Heads to even integrate the likes of Whatsapp and Hike or even Gtalk in it, would be pushing our luck a little bit.
What all can I change?
There are not a whole lot of customizations that you can do with Home currently. There is a settings icon by default in your app drawer once you install Home to play around with whatever little options you have. You can choose to make your status bar visible which is by default hidden so that you do not miss out on notifications from other applications. You can also choose from High, Moderate or Low data usage for Facebook Home consumption, but you cannot put any concrete figure on the bandwidth the application cannot exceed in a day. And Facebook Home is an absolute Data Hogger.
You can also directly turn Facebook Home off, in case you have had enough. There is also an option to disable Facebook Home from launching right when you turn your device on, and this helped us restore to our original lockscreen and still use Facebook Home when we need to rather than forcing us to unlock our device always to our social circle. Apart from these, you can turn play around with your location settings in the messenger app. However, we do feel that these options pretty much satisfied our everyday moderate usage needs.
Facebook Home Absolutely Kills Your Battery
One of the major issues with Facebook Home is that it is an intensive application that is always running in the background. The application is always updating the statuses and pushing notifications to your device. As a result, it totally kills your device battery. We ended up losing more than 6% battery every half an hour even with phone on standby and data connection running. Not just battery, but if you are cautious about the data consumption, the Facebook Home absolutely batters your Data consumption count. This is still a lesser issue when used with a Wi-Fi connection, but on 3G the application totally kills the phone.
Battery stats via GSam Battery Monitor
This maybe down to the fact that HTC One X has never had a great battery back up, so maybe the results would be a little better on device with larger battery capacities such as Samsung Galaxy Note II.
The Final Verdict
Overall, Facebook Home wasn’t much of a surprise. It is a wonderful experience for those who like to stay logged in on Facebook all day, but for a moderate to light users, it is not of too much utility. And the trade off with the device battery is too big a blow, at least to us personally. We ended up disabling Facebook Home on our device but persisted with Chat Heads, and are loving it. Browsing Facebook from the default application, for now at least is the way we like it.
However, do not let our opinions cloud your judgement go ahead and try the application, if it rocks your boat, sure keep it, otherwise uninstalling the application is just as easy as installing it. Till then, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to fill up the section below.