Facebook's Home for Android makes heavy use of user photos.
Mark Zuckerberg has unveiled a new piece of software called "Home" at a press event in San Francisco. Zuckerberg stated that Facebook wanted as many people as possible to be able to use the new software, which means that it is based on Android and is essentially a skin. "You don't need to fork Android to do this. You don't even need to modify the operating system," said Zuckerberg. The new software puts "people first," and shows a variety of information about your friends when you switch on the phone.
The software, which is a "family of apps," can be installed on any Android phone and acts like a skin, hiding the current version of Android with new features, like "CoverFeed". According to Zuckerberg, Facebook is trying to combat the app-centric world and turn it into a people-centric world. "Since home is the lockscreen, in addition to the lockscreen, you don't need to do any more swipes to see content," said Zuckerberg. The system looks a lot like Flipboard, which offers personalised news based on things you have followed.
While the phone is very people-centric, apps are still present. The UI looks very much like Windows Phone or WebOS, with an app drawer which can be "swiped" up or down from the homescreen, depending on when the user needs it. Zuckerberg also said that Facebook is looking to improve messaging, by creating an omni-present message drawer. The messages are always on the screen (if you have an open conversation), and are called "Chat heads." These include a small icon with the person's head which can be dragged around the screen. Chat Heads are compatible with both SMS and Facebook Messenger.
When the phone is unlocked, the user experiences "CoverFeed," a service which shows what your friends have been up to in a big, full-screen picture. As we speculated in yesterday's leaks, the new skin puts big photos first. Everything is fullscreen and incredibly visual, just like Windows Phone or iOS. When you delve deeper, the experience is core Android. Facebook have only created a new homescreen, lockscreen and messaging application.
To get "Home," simply update your version of Facebook and visit the app. From there, you are taken to Google Play and will have the option to download "Home." You can then choose to have "Home" on your device all the time, or as a trial.
Facebook "Home" is certainly good for heavy Facebook users who currently have an Android phone and want to see what their friends are doing from anywhere in the phone.
HTC will also be offering the HTC First, which will arrive on April 12th for $99.99. The First will natively include Facebook Home, will support LTE and will come in four colours: red, light blue, white, and black. The First will be available on AT&T's network, with the AT&T CEO saying the First offers the "most immersive engagement I've ever seen."
In addition to HTC, Samsung and Sony have also signed up to be Facebook Home partners, which mean that the Home Android skin will be preloaded onto the device. Whether Sony or Samsung will follow HTC's lead and release dedicated phones is still unclear. The Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, and Galaxy S4 will all support Facebook Home on April 12th.
Watch the event live right now. The event is now over, but there is more information on Facebook's website.