Facebook Home for Android official with features like Cover Feed, Chat HeadsAlex Wagner - Deputy Managing Editor, News Desk
After a week filled with leaks and rumors, Facebook today finally took the wraps off of its new "Facebook Home" software for Android. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at Home's introduction that the software is designed around people, not apps, and the features that were showed off definitely appear to be focused on displaying content from a user's Facebook friends. For example, the Facebook Home lock screen utilizes a feature called Cover Feed to show photos and updates from friends, and a user can easily Like or comment on the updates from the feed. Notifications will also appear on the Cover Feed, and users can either tap on a notification to open the corresponding app or swipe it away to hide it.
Another major feature of Facebook Home is called Chat Heads, which is the way that a user will get their messaging done on Home. When a user's Facebook friend sends a message to him or her, the Friend's image will pop up in a small circle on the display, no matter what the user is doing on the phone. Tapping on that image will open up the message and allow the user to carry on the chat, right in the middle of the app that's currently being used. Facebook says that text messages are integrated into the Facebook Messenger system, so they'll be displayed in Chat Heads as well.
Of course, users are bound to have other apps installed on their Facebook Home-powered device, and getting to them is a tad different than on a typical Android phone. Normally a user would just need to tap on a small launcher button to get into the device's app drawer, but on Facebook Home, the app drawer is accessed by swiping up on the user's profile photo. Inside is a page of a user's favorite apps, followed by the full list of apps available on the device. While in the app launcher, users can also tap out a quick status update, upload a photo or check in to a location using one of the three buttons sitting above the list of apps.
One other detail of Facebook Home that's worth noting relates to ads. Many users are accustomed to seeing ads while browsing Facebook and creeping on their friends' profiles, and it sounds like they'll eventually start seeing ads in their Home as well. Zuckerberg confirmed at today's event that ads will eventually appear in Facebook Home, but that they won't be there when the software first launches on April 12. A Facebook employee explained to The Verge that the ads will show up in a user's Cover Feed, with Zuckerberg later saying that the ads will appear as another type of content along with friend updates.
Facebook today also announced a Home Program that phone manufacturers and carriers can sign up for to help bring Facebook Home-enabled hardware to market. Several companies have already signed up for Facebook Home, including AT&T, EE, Sony, Samsung, Huawei, Qualcomm and HTC. The first batch of companies to take advantage of the Facebook Home program are AT&T, HTC and Qualcomm, all of which have teamed up to create the HTC First, a phone that'll be launching on AT&T on April 12 with Facebook Home preinstalled.
Facebook Home will be available for download in the Google Play Store on April 12. The initial devices that will support Facebook Home are the HTC One, One, Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy S 4 and Galaxy Note II, with support for more devices planned for the coming months. Looking forward, Facebook says that it will update Home once a month and that tablet support for the new software will arrive "several months" after the initial launch.
What doesn't appear to be coming any time soon is support for Home on other platforms, as Zuckerberg explained at today's event that bringing Home to iOS would require a "partnership" with Apple due to iOS's "closed" ecosystem. Engadget notes that the odds of a Windows Phone port seem slightly better, as the Facebook CEO said that Microsoft's platform is "somewhere in between" Android and iOS because of the licenses that are a part of the OS.