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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.

But because Facebook plans to update Home monthly, we can expect to see all of these features integrated with Cover Feed down the line.

Home users have a few settings to tweak to customize their Cover Feed experience. You can choose whether Cover Feed will appear on your home screen, lock screen, or both, and you can disable Chat head popups if you don't want to be disturbed.

If you'd like to try Facebook Home before you commit to using it full time, Android gives you the option to launch it "Always" or "Just Once" after installed.

"We're not building a phone and we're not building an operating system," the Facebook founder said. "We're building something that's a whole lot deeper than an ordinary app."

What phones come with it pre-installed?

The custom Facebook Home launcher will arrive on select Android phones on April 12, including the Samsung Galaxy S3. Home won't be on all Android phones, but the feature will be gradually rolled out starting on that date.

Users with Facebook already installed on their Android phone will get a notification when Home is ready for their device. Home also can be downloaded for free from the Google Play store.

Facebook will offer a Home Program to phone manufacturers and carriers that want to include Home on devices out of the box.

HTC and AT&T were first up, but expect more devices to include Home later this year.

Zuckerberg emphasized the open-source nature of Android when introducing Home, indicating that the deep integration of Facebook with the operating system wouldn't be possible on another platform. He also said Home for tablets would arrive in the next couple of months.

Home's social features

Home turns your Facebook app into an all-encompassing mobile experience, but it doesn't ignore your other apps.

Your Facebook profile photo is at the bottom of the screen, and swiping up will bring your apps to the forefront.

"The home screen is really the soul of your phone," Zuckerberg said. "You look at it about 100 times a day. It sets the tone of your whole experience."

Home also turns messaging into a more social experience. When your friends send you Facebook messages or SMS texts, their photos pop up in bubbles on the right side of your screen.

Facebook calls those bubbles Chat Heads. A small thumbnail featuring the contact's Facebook profile picture will display 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.

 

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