Facebook had its big April 4 event, which teased members of the tech media with an invitation that simply read, “Come see our new home on Android.” As expected, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook Home, a collection of apps that together work to transform a person’s Android phone into a “Facebook phone.”
Updates from a user’s News Feed will now dominate the phone’s lockscreen and homescreen, allowing users to like or comment with a simple double-tap. A feature called “Chatheads” integrates Facebook’s Messenger with SMS texts to display a person’s face in the upper right corner of the screen when they send a message. You can move them out of the way, stack them together or tap to respond. Notifications work similarly.
The user’s own face appears at the bottom center, and swiping this icon brings up the user’s other apps. It will be available in Google’s Play Store on April 12 for a select few Android devices with support for tablets coming soon.
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HTC will also release the HTC First on April 12 for $99.99, the first phone that comes pre-loaded and optimized with Facebook Home. Peter Chou, HTC’s CEO, said the phone will also include notifications for email and calendars, and will be available in black, red, white and light blue.
However, there weren’t many surprises apart from the launch date and cost. All of the Facebook Home’s capabilities were leaked earlier this week, down to the “Chathead” function. The images tweeted from @evleaks correctly identified the look, name and colors of the HTC First. Android Police even leaked the correct names “Facebook Home” and “Chathead” correctly.
In fact, the only real surprise came from Facebook updates taking up the entire homescreen and lockscreen, rather than a feed-like homepage similar to SO.HO. Oh, and this odd video featuring a guy in an airplane with people stuffed in the overhead compartments.
The event did little more than confirm all of the rumors about the device, and many more questions remain:
· If the phone’s homescreen and lockscreen are continually displaying Facebook updates, won’t that completely annihilate a phone’s battery? Social apps that run in the background are already a major energy drain.
· What are the specifications of the HTC First? Plenty about this has already been leaked, but why didn’t Chou or Zuckerberg mention anything about the physical phone other than the fact that it’s small. Why not confirm screen resolution, processor speed or camera quality?
· Will Facebook Home utilize Bing or Google? Zuckerberg avoided this one, saying simply that people can use whichever they want. Is there not going to be a native search function?
· How much information about apps, calls, and websites will Facebook collect? What about information given to phone companies? Zuckerberg says Facebook Home will collect data at first for analytics, but it will be all anonymous eventually. What kind of data it collects, and for how long, remains a mystery.
· What about Ads? Everyone knows Facebook makes money from advertising. Zuckerberg said Cover Feed, which displays Facebook updates on the homescreen and lockscreen, won’t have ads at first, but they will eventually. How invasive will they be?
· Finally, do people really want Facebook at the front and center of their mobile phone? Seriously, anyone else besides these people?