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Facebook's Home launcher for Android creates 'Facebook Phone'

Caitlin McGarry and Leah Yamshon | April 5, 2013
Facebook's new Home launcher for Android is available April 12 as a software download from Google Play. HTC will intro the first phone to include Home, the $100 HTC First, on April 12 as well.

Welcome to your new home on Android. Strangely enough, it looks a lot like Facebook. Facebook's new launcher for Android, simply called Home, brings your social life to the forefront of your phone.

Home turns Android devices' home and lock screens into a social experience with photos and status updates from your friends. Its new user interface layer is called Cover Feed.

Using Home, you can flip through stories by swiping across your screen, double tap to like a photo, and comment on a status update, all from the home screen.

"Today we're finally going to talk about that Facebook phone," Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the packed event here on Thursday where Home was announced. "Or more accurately, we're going to talk about how you can turn your Android phone into a great social device."

HTC and AT&T will build the first set of phones optimized for Facebook Home. First out will be the well-named HTC First, available April 12 in four colors on AT&T's LTE network.

AT&T can take your preorder for the $100 HTC First starting Thursday.

"It's a great opportunity to bring mobile and social together," HTC CEO Peter Chou said at Facebook's event.

What exactly is Facebook Home?

Facebook Home is an integrated Facebook experience for Android that revolves around the homescreen. It's not quite an overlay, and not a full on operating system, but something in between.

"We're not building a phone, and we're not building an operating system, but it's deeper than just an app," Zuckerberg explained.

Facebook Home brings the Facebook experience straight to your Android phone's home screen. Your Newsfeed is displayed straight on the home screen, whether it's locked or in active use.

This homescreen feed--called "Cover Feed"--will be updated in real time, even if your smartphone is asleep. Users can double tap on any activity to "like" something, add a comment with a single tap, and interact with fellow Facebook friends more efficiently.

Another key feature of Home is Chat heads, Home's messaging system. Essentially, Home combines SMS with Facebook messenger, and a message will pop up over whatever app you're working in to eliminate the back-and-forth usually necessary with messaging.

A small thumbnail featuring a contact's Facebook profile picture (or Chat head) will be displayed as a small overlay along the right-hand side of the screen when you get a new message. Tap the photo to open the message and respond, without leaving the app you're currently in.

At launch, Cover Feed will only feature photos and status updates; you won't see group joins, check-ins, friend acceptances, videos, ads, or promoted posts on your Cover Feed activity.

 

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