Facebook Home is finally here, and after a week or two of speculation the reality is just about exactly what the more sensible voices were predicting: an Android software “experience” comprising a family of apps that sit just above the OS itself.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg himself took to the stage at the company's Menlo Park HQ to announce Home, before handing over to HTC boss Peter Chou for the hardware-focused announcement – the much-leaked HTC First.
Zuckerberg immediately dealt with the endless “Facebook Phone” rumours, at once confirming and denying them by saying pretty much what he's said all along – Facebook doesn't need to build a dedicated smartphone, as it already has more mobile users than one device could ever hope to reach.
Instead, Facebook Home is an Android-wide software release, more deeply rooted than your standard app but short of a full-blown forked OS.
With Facebook Home, your FB notifications are fed straight to both your homescreen and lockscreen automatically. The basic Cover Feed interface allows you to post comments straight from the homescreen, and double-tap to Like a post. Notifications are laid against a backdrop of a full-screen image, which is actually taken from your Facebook's image feed, which can be browsed through in this full-screen fashion.
It's all about people, Zuckerberg revealed. Notifications are delivered with the source's picture next to them, while to get to your ordinary Android apps, you stick a digit on your own mugshot at the bottom of the screen and swipe upwards.
The theme continues with Chatheads, a messaging system that rolls Facebook Messenger and conventional SMS into one, wrapped up in the same Home delivery method. Pics of your contacts are displayed on the top right, and tapping on them brings up the chat interface (chat + heads, see?).
The bad news is only a handful of phones will be available at launch: the HTC One X and One X+, the Samsung Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II, plus the incoming HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4. And the HTC first, which will have Home pre-loaded and optimised.
A tablet version is apparently also coming, but won't be ready for a while yet.
Image via The Verge