Facebook Home entirely replaces the home screen that Android smartphone users see when they turn on their devices.
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Facebook on Thursday debuted Facebook Home, new software for Android smartphones that brings the Facebook experience to the home screen in a way that widgets and dedicated apps cannot. Facebook said research shows people spend more time using Facebook on their phones than any other app or service. So, why not make that experience better and more immersive?
Facebook Home entirely replaces the home screen that users of Android smartphones are used to seeing when they turn on their devices. Instead of a clock, the weather, and app shortcuts, Facebook Home users will see their Facebook newsfeed and all the doings of their Facebook contacts.
Cover Feed, as the new home screen treatment is called, offers an attractive presentation created from the photos, status updates, and links shared by the user's contacts. Chat Heads presents a new way from which to interact with those you tend to message the most by placing a floating mug shot on top of the screen. Notifications are enriched with contact details and provide direct access to the incoming content. And the App Tray offers a bit of familiarity to those seeking access to their regular old Android apps.
It is an interesting approach that is sure to appeal to some users, but it's certainly not something that most users will adopt right away.
First, it completely subjugates the Android home screen setup. There are no widgets, no app shortcuts, no quick inbox nor quick calendar access, and no folders. There is one home screen, and it is Cover Feed. Anyone who values having specific, non-Facebook information available on the home screen will not like Cover Feed.
Second, Facebook is in control of Cover Feed. Unlike the main Facebook mobile app, which allows users to choose what type of content is at the top of their feed (Most Recent or Top Stories), Facebook chooses what reaches the home screen of devices using Facebook Home. That could be a problem if your friends or contacts share sensitive photos or other information. Speaking of which, images are front and center in Cover Flow. Pictures and Web content have preference over other types of content.
Third, Facebook Home prioritizes messaging. The Chat Heads feature encompasses both SMS and Facebook Messenger. If you prefer another messaging service, such as WhatsApp, ChatOn, Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, and so on, you're going to have to dig to find your messages.
Control freaks who like everything "just so" on their smartphones will not like Facebook Home.
So who will find Facebook Home appealing? Social networking fanatics. People who live in Facebook all day every day will probably enjoy some of what Facebook Home has to offer. Those who perpetually want to be "in the know" will like the cascading imagery and information that flows across the home screen. People who've never used another social network, or who don't care all that much for Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn or others, might find it appealing.
As someone who values having certain information on the home screen that can be grokked in the blink of an eye, Facebook Home is not for me.
Facebook Home will be available in the Google Play mobile store on April 12 for select Android phones.
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