After years of Facebook phone rumors, and a week of abundant speculation on Facebook’s “new home on Android,” we’ve finally seen what all the fuss is about. Thursday at the social network’s Menlo Park headquarters, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook Home, a launcher for Android phones that provides an immersive social networking experience throughout your handset’s UI.
Facebook Home is a home screen replacement launcher that anyone can download from the Google Play Store when it becomes available April 12th. A launcher controls the look and feel of an Android phone’s home screen, app menu and persistent navigation.
If you have Facebook Home installed, when you wake up your phone, you’ll see Cover Feed, which shows photos and updates from your friends. You can easily comment on someone’s update from your phone’s home screen by tapping the comment icon or double tapping the photo to like it. Once you’re finished looking at an update, you can swipe it away. Cover Feed will also show you phone’s notifications, messages, and your most important Facebook updates.
Another feature of Facebook Home is Chat Heads, small icons with your friend’s photos that appear on the right side of your screen to show an incoming message, no matter what app you’re using. If you click on someone’s Chat Head, a messaging window with your full conversation will appear on top of the UI.
Facebook Home will be available for download initially only on six phones: the HTC One, HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy Note II. Home for tablets will follow in the coming months. A link to download Facebook Home will also show up in the latest version of the Facebook app.
Once installed, hit your Android phone’s home button and a dialogue will pop up asking if you want to use Facebook Home or your phone’s pre-installed launcher. Select Facebook Home and the launcher will control your home screen and launch apps going forward.
Instead of building its own phone, Zuckerberg said it was better for Facebook to build something that anyone with an Android phone could use. The company is trying to change the way we interact with our phones and stay in touch with our Facebook friends. “Today our phones are designed around apps, not around people,” said Zuckerberg. “We’re flipping that.”