With new software, Facebook seeks to be mobile 'home' of Android users
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg introduced Thursday a software suite for Android phones that fully integrates the social network into the rest of the phone's apps.
Facebook Home is not an app or a complete overhaul of the Android operating system but a shell that works over the OS so that the social network is the first thing users see when they turn on their phones.
"We think this is the best version of Facebook there is," Zuckerberg said during a media presentation at Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters.
The software will be available through the Google Play Android app store beginning April 12 and initially will work with only several Android handsets, including HTC One, HTC OneX, Samsung Galaxy S 3, Samsung Galaxy Note II, and the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S 4.
Facebook Home includes three central applications, Cover Feed, App Launcher, and Chat Heads.
When the phone is turned on, the user is greeted with Cover Feed instead of a lockscreen. Cover Feed which is both the user's lockscreen and home screen shows all friends' Facebook postings and fullscreen photos. From there, users can swipe through different postings in the news feed, double-tap a posting to comment on it or give it a "like."
Users can still go to all of their apps through App Launcher. From the Cover Feed, users can press and hold on a circular icon at the bottom and then swipe up to see all of the apps. The most-used apps can be set up as favorites.
Finally, Chat Heads allows the user to see Facebook and SMS messages on a phone from whatever app is running or while surfing the Internet. A circled icon with a friend's face pops up on the screen when a message arrives and allows the user to read it and respond no matter what function is being performed on the phone.
"With Home you see your world with people, not apps.," Zuckerberg said.
Although Facebook Home will launch with several handsets on April 12, the software suite will expand to more phones and with more features as time goes on. It will also be available for Android-based tablets in several months.
Also Thursday, Android handset manufacturer HTC announced a new phone, the HTC First, that will be sold with Facebook Home built in. It will sell for $99 beginning on April 12 and is available only with AT&T.
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Access to Facebook Home
Users don't need the new HTC First smartphone due out April 12 to use Facebook Home. The new interface will be available for free in the Google Play marketplace for the HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S 3, the Galaxy Note 2 and the upcoming HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4.