April 4, 2013
Zuckerberg Announces Facebook Home, Not A New Phone
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Facebook´s CEO Mark Zuckerberg wasted no time today in getting to the point of today´s meeting. “We´re finally going to talk about that Facebook phone,” said Zuckerberg as he took the stage in Menlo Park.
But just as the rumors predicted, HTC will be the first to release a phone with Home natively installed. The HTC First will be available exclusively through AT&T and both the phone and Home will be available beginning April 12. AT&T will begin taking pre-orders for the HTC First today.
Since this is a family of apps and not a forked version of Google´s OS, Android-wielding Facebook fans will be able to install Home on their HTC One, HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III and 4, as well as others.
Installing Home will be easy; Facebook will place a shortcut to the Google Play store right in the Android version of their app. From here, users only need to click install.
“We think that this is the best version of Facebook there is,” said Zuckerberg after announcing the phone, as cited by USA Today's Brett Molina.
When Facebook sent out invitations to members of the press last week, chatter about a Facebook phone picked up steam. Yesterday, leaked images of the Facebook phone hit the web, and as it turns out, they were spot on. Facebook executives were on point with their message, citing the phrase “people, not apps” like a mantra. Facebook Home isn´t necessarily a new phone or a new operating system, but a family of apps which brings cover photos and status updates directly to the home screen.
From the lock screen, Facebook Home users are able to not only see the latest news from their friends, they can also “like” a photo and comment on it as well. Though these stories will automatically cycle through, users can swipe through to see more. Notifications will also pop up on the lock screen, and users can either reply to them directly or swipe them away. This swiping gesture is used throughout Facebook Home, either throwing away notifications or pulling up the app selector. Though Facebook Home appears pervasive throughout the entire experience, it still allows users to install their own apps. A swipe up on the phone calls up a shortcut selector filled with the most used apps or Facebook friendly apps.
The social giant also showed off a feature called “Chat Heads,” a clever little feature which brings messages to the forefront of the phone. Tiny, circular icons of a profile picture pop up when you receive a text message. Tapping this icon brings up the chat window. Once the reply is sent, tap on the icon again to hide the dialogue. Chat Heads hover on the screen no matter which app you´re in and can be moved to any part of the screen should they be in the way. If you´re done talking with this person, another swipe gesture will remove the Chat Head from your screen.
The Facebook execs spent much of today´s event focused on placing people first, not apps. It´s a decidedly different approach to smartphones. Going into today, many assumed Facebook Home would be a separate fork of the Android OS, something which would ship natively on select phones. While Zuckerberg did mention that Home will be available on some of Android´s largest players, he was careful to mention that creating a fork of the OS would not have been the best way to get Home in as many phones as possible.
By making it freely available to Android users and easy to install, Facebook has a better chance of not just driving traffic to their site, but nearly forcing their users to spend hours upon hours perusing the site and digesting the content. For a company who needs to focus on mobile and become more attractive to potential advertisers, this is likely a very good move.