Facebook launches “Home” experience – leaves us wondering…

Right well – we have had time to digest and soak in the aftermath; now its time to analyse the goings on at Facebook. As scheduled the event kicked off at 1PM Est inside the Facebook HQ – to the unsurprisingly there was a sense of uncertainty in the room. Facebook had flouted with the likes of a smartphone for many years – and this industry critics had suggested that Facebook would indeed produce a ‘Facebook Phone’. But now the ideal time has passed and still we have not seen a robust and solid ‘Facebook Phone’.

Mark Zuckerburg stood unnerved in front of the baying crowd of press and technology gurus and announced that the social networking giant would now be moving into the mobile phone arena in a rather awkward fashion. The Californian company took the wraps their “Home” suite of applications that will be available for Android Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean from the 12th April. Facebook Home has been ushered out of the Facebook development labs as the world waits to for the next step in mobile communication. But has Mark Zuckerburg and his ace team delivered?facebook-home-stock

Well to some extent yes, it can be said that the predications mostly turned out true. But on the other hand, those expecting a dedicated and home bred Facebook Phone will be left with a nagging sensation for something better. Primarily Facebook Home is a ‘wrapper’ for the Android based OS that can be downloaded from the Play Store on compatible devices such as the Galaxy S 3 and S 4 as well as the HTC One X and the HTC First, later to be released. The skin then controls the functionality of the phone and masks the original Android UI in a more blueish Facebook likened scheme. Replacing the app icons that can be currently found in Android, Facebook Home aims at engaging a more socially orientated user with the content and update:

“We have our phones with us all the time, and we just want to know what’s going on with the people around us.”

Zuckerburg went on to say that currently mobiles are designed around applications and how the user may access these, therefore Facebook Home is centred around the idea that a users Social Feeds are the priority. The software replaces the Android lock screen with a Cover Feed that can introduce latest updates, notifications and events. The idea Zuckerburg explained was that the software would be: “putting people first in your phone,” – and so far this seems true. Notifications are organised by friends and not applications, the user is constantly in communication with friends via Facebook Chat and it is noticeable that the UI is definitely centred around a persons photo collection.

Facebook has deeply integrated all of their services into Home, for example the implementation of Facebook Chat us very ‘cool’ – labeled “Chat Heads” upon receiving a new Chat notification the friends head will pop up in a bubble to the side of the screen that you can manipulate, but most importantly reply to without leaving your current foreground task. Tapping on the heads ironically provides a chat dialogue for you to converse in chats over IM and text messaging. Navigating the devices can be done with a touch of the home button at the top of the screen, represented as the users Facebook profile picture. But also there can be noted that Facebook has included several home screen pages for the storing of your apps, nothing major – but nice to know – especially since the whole Facebook Home UI does eliminate the Android’ness’ of your phone, locking you into Facebook’s ecosystem until you somehow remove the software.

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Either way Facebook has dished out a lot of new tech for the world to play with in the upcoming days. Available as a free download or purchased as preinstalled on the the HTC First smartphone – it remains untried and unpredictable how the world will react to Facebook Home. Facebook’s partnership with HTC will undoubtedly be a success, by means that the a little of HTC’s reputation may rub off onto Facebook Home to bolster their sales. But nevertheless I think the move  that Facebook has made is a logical one. The move towards Android and lack of IOS is down to Apple’s strict control over the operating system. IOS needs a refresh end of – but that is another story. Facebook has shown that it wishes to move into the mobile market, if not to continue to grow and appeal in user strength. But as they do s0, they must tread carefully amongst those concerned with privacy. The features, such as Cover Feeds on the lock screen could potentially pose a major risk to personal privacy – and Facebook doesn’t need a scandal.  Currently I do not believe Facebook to be on the paths of producing a real ‘phone’. They are unquestionably a software firm and find themselves with little experience in producing hardware – look at Microsoft for example. But if Home proves a major success, I see no reason for Facebook to make a meaningful and collaborative deal with the likes of HTC or any other leading manufacturer. Facebook has begun to realise that the desktop experience can not be their only priority, and that they better catch up with the portable revolution – or risk losing friends.

[Update 11.35AM BST] – We’ve attached a few videos below from the official launch, just so you can make your own mind up. Enjoy

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