At a press conference in their headquarters, Facebook unveiled a deeper integration with Android as well as a new HTC phone that comes with it pre-installed.
The integration with Android comes via a home screen replacement called Facebook Home. The Android lockscreen is also replaced with Cover Feed and shows live updates from your friends.
When you turn your phone screen on, Facebook Home shows full-screen images of your friends’ statuses. Swiping the screen left or right allows you to flip through the statuses and even ‘like’ or comment on them. If your friends post a text-only status, their cover photo appears behind the text to maintain the full-screen look.
The most eye-catching feature is called Chat Heads and this changes the way you are notified of incoming messages. When receiving a message, your friends picture appears in a small circle that you can move around the screen or simply tap to open the chat.
The circles ‘float’ on top of the app you are currently using but don’t appear to be obstructive. Multiple chats can be displayed at the same time meaning you don’t even have to exit your current app to reply to a message.
Also at the press conference, Facebook revealed a phone called the HTC First, which has full integration with Facebook Home.
The HTC First is not a ‘Facebook phone’, but rather a mid-range Android handset (compared to the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4) with Facebook Home fully integrated. It comes with a 4.3-inch display, runs Android 4.1 Jellybean and has a 5-megapixel camera.
The phone looks sleek and is sure to be a hit with Facebook fans.
You’ll be able to download the Facebook Home app, from the Google PlayStore, on 12 April. Initially, it will only be available on the HTC One, One X+, Samsung Galaxy S3, S4 or Note 2. The HTC First will be in US stores on 12 April, but no UK prices or dates have been announced yet.
Facebook promise the app will be made available to other Android phones in due course, and a tablet version is also on the horizon. Unfortunately, there will be no iOS version.
Mark Zuckerberg said the reason they chose Android for Facebook Home is because:
It is so open.
Android is known for it’s customizability and an iOS device just wouldn’t let them integrate this deeply.
The first advert for Facebook Home has made an appearance on YouTube and shows people using it on their phones in day-to-day circumstances. Chat Heads is the feature most prominent in the video.
Facebook have finally realised that most people access the site via mobile phones instead of desktop computers. It showed when they revamped the News Feed, but Facebook Home is the clearest indication of this.
They’ve been the undisputed king of social networks for a long time, but now Facebook faces intense competition from the likes of Twitter and Google+. This means they have to keep improving the experience, or get left behind.
We already know millions of people use Facebook every day, but do we really need this level of integration? The answer is probably ‘no’, because the current apps on Android and iOS can do pretty much everything we need.
Facebook could have simply improved the existing apps and given everyone an equal experience. Instead, they have taken a bold step by releasing Facebook Home and it could be a huge success for them.
Would you use Facebook Home? Let me know in the comments below.