After all the rumours and hype Facebook have finally announced their version of a Facebook phone. Called ‘Facebook Home’ it’s able to turn selected new Android phones into a Facebook phone via a launcher app.
HTC have jumped on board to provide the first Facebook Home device. The HTC First is available in matte black, white, red and pale blue for $US99 which is pretty cheap, I must say. (Edit: After signing a 2 year contract with AT&T, so it’s only available to US readers unfortunately)
Whether this move will help both Facebook and HTC out of their current lull remains to be seen but it’s certainly their aim to get people interested in both companies again after many reports of users growing tired of their products and user statistics falling.
What’s interesting about Facebook Home though is that it doesn’t seem to bring anything new and exciting to the table. It’s almost as if Facebook have copied already popular functions of the Android OS and branded them to get the Facebook name in front of people. Worried more about their public image and popularity as opposed to developing new features with a ‘wow factor’.
So let’s take a look at ‘what’s new‘.
Facebook Home’s ‘Cover Feed’ puts your news feed in front of you constantly and you can like, comment and browse your news feed with the press of the ‘Home’ button. That’s great news for those Facebook fanatics who are constantly checking their facebook feed to see updates but for the rest of us who have better things to do, it seems that it would get in the way of all the other great things your Android can do.
What about ‘Chat Heads’ which allows you to keep chatting to your contacts while using other functions. Most Android users can already do that with the multitasking power of the Android operating system so unless you really need to see the picture of your friends overlayed onto whatever app you’re using at the time, it’s not that innovative really.
Personally I know what my friends look like, they actually don’t change their appearance that often, if at all and sometimes I’m using an app because I need to use that app at the time. Messages can wait a minute or two.
With Android’s new messaging system I can quick reply, mark as read and see their picture while doing so and once that’s done I’m back to business.
Sorry Facebook, this isn’t a new thing and Android’s notification system works well enough while at the same time not presenting everything I have waiting for me, for the world to see when my device is sitting on a table around others.
Another Facebook Home function is the ability to launch functions from the lockscreen. Handy yes, but JellyBean users already have that ability and with the continuing increase in users upgrading to Jellybean most users aren’t going to find Facebook’s new function to be anything new and exciting.
What’s more, I don’t really have the need to see myself on my lockscreen all the time, if I did then I’d change the lockscreen wallpaper to my own face and bask in my narcissism in between looking for the nearest reflective surface to check on my appearance and pure beauty.
Did I forget to mention that it only has 3 choices? I didn’t did I?
Okay I’ll explain. Since Jellybean was released, users who upgraded now have the ability to place any apps of their choice in 8 points around the lock icon on the lockscreen for quick access to their most used or favourite apps.
Facebook Home let’s you do the same although in a very limited way by only letting you access Messenger, all installed apps or the last app you were using before the lock, that’s it.
Yep, you read that right. Limited functionality for the win.
Just like their new ‘App Launcher’. That’s right, an app launcher that you can place apps into so you can quickly access them.
Wait… isn’t the whole Android OS one big app launcher and isn’t that what your home screens are meant to be for? Well yeah, with the standard Android OS you have an app drawer which holds all of your apps and when you find an app you use regularly you can copy that icon onto any home screen you choose so it’s easily accessible.
See where I’m going with this? It all seems like one big disappointment to me. It’s as if they’re targeting the users who aren’t even familiar with the basic functions of their Android device.
Or maybe they’re targeting iPhone users, who knows. Some would say they’re the same people.
One thing we do know is Mark Zuckerberg has stated that he ‘wants Facebook Home to be on as many phones as possible‘. Well Mark, you’re going to have to come up with something a little more innovative than copying and limiting already existing Android functions in my opinion, otherwise users are just going to start to get more tired of the hype than they probably already are.
But then, Apple does pretty well by over-marketing already existing features and tricking it’s fanbase into believing that it’s exactly what they need and that it took a company like Apple to think of the idea.
Pffft, you don’t need video calling. You need Facetime!
Point made, let’s move on.
Advertisements are prevalent in our society and Facebook Home will be no different. It’s said that even though initially Facebook home doesn’t contain advertisements, it will soon and will try to take advantage of the full screen aspect of the launcher.
While ads are really only seen in free apps on Google’s Android apps, Facebook Home aims to change that with their eventual implementation of ads in Facebook Home’s ‘Cover Feed’. Remember ‘Cover Feed’ is full screen so it will be interesting how much screen real estate these advertisements take up as opposed to the banner adverts Google includes in their free apps.
Why they didn’t include them from the start only indicates to me that they want to hook their users into the experience before bombarding them with things they see enough already. Smart users will abandon the project once it gets to be too much (while smarter users never got hooked in the first place), and while Facebook’s stock may have risen 3% with the announcement of Facebook Home, only time will tell how many stick around and enjoy being exploited.
Let’s not reminisce about their disappointing stock market debut.
Facebook Home is expected to be compatible for Tablets but Facebook says that’s still ‘several months’ away. There’s no reason yet as to why but I would assume that their development focus was on the more popular phone demographic before focusing on the secondary tablet market.
Facebook Home will be available directly from the Play Store from April 12th and they’ve mentioned it will receive monthly updates with new features and redesigns. Some would argue that redesigns aren’t needed every month but at the moment it’s unclear which parts of Facebook Home will be regularly updated. Regular redesigns would certainly annoy their users I would assume.
The list of compatible devices includes (but not limited to) the HTC One, HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
If you’re interested in Facebook Home then you only have less than a week to wait. In that week myself and many other Android users will be enjoying our already available and more versatile functions.
Facebook fans of ‘Home’ should probably let us know what they like about the new functions, in the comments section. We’re interested, we really are!
written by: Anoma