Last week Facebook released Facebook Home, their first move into the mobile operating system (OS) market. Facebook’s new software sits between the user and Android, on a few selected devices, and provides a skin over the OS that Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) describes as, people focused not app focused.
With Facebook Home, the home screen and lock screen are replaced with Cover Feed, which displays full screen images from your Newsfeed as well as status updates from your friends and the pages you have liked. You can like and comment on these directly from your Cover Feed as well as view others’ comments. Notifications are overlaid on this interface with large icons and snippets from the content. Simply swipe the floating bubble with your profile photo to access your apps, messages and open your most recent app.
Facebook Home’s other big innovation is Chat Heads. This allows Facebook messages and text messages to float over any other app. This alleviates the problem of constantly having to switch apps, for example, you can chat with a friend whilst on the same page you check your email. The interface gets its name from the floating bubbles which display the profile picture of the person you are chatting with. You can move chat heads around the screen or tap them to access your conversation. Facebook has also added Chat Heads to its Messenger Android app, though it is not quite as powerful as when paired with the full Facebook Home experience.
When we tested Facebook home we found that the software works as advertised and is very fast and fluid however there are of course security issues to take into account. With Facebook Home, Facebook has even more access to your personal data. As well as the data Facebook normally accesses Facebook Home monitors your location, texts, phone and camera use. More worrying is that Facebook Home sits above the lock screen on your Android device. Besides having unrestricted access to your Cover Feed, anyone can scroll through your apps list, like and comment on your Cover Feed and post a status or check you in on Facebook without being prompted to enter your pass code.
Facebook Home is available as the default interface on the HTC First, a phone developed in partnership between HTC and Facebook, which will be available later this year from EE. Facebook Home can be downloaded to the HTC One, HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy Note II from the Google Play store.