Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a new Android user interface replacement called Facebook Home today at his company’s campus in Menlo Park, California. This announcement outlines Facebook’s new aggressive mobile strategy, and also puts to rest weeks of speculation on a possible “Facebook phone” that was thought to be in the works. As it turns out, the Facebook phone has been in our pockets the whole time.
Facebook Home is a collection of apps which offer a near-total transformation of the Android user interface into an immersive Facebook experience. These changes affect the home screen, lock screen, notification center, and even the keyboard. One of the primary goals of Facebook Home, according to Zuckerberg, is to shift mobile user’s focus away from apps to what really matters to them – the people in their lives. “On average we all spend about 25% of our time on our phones on Facebook,” said Zuckerberg at the announcement. “We asked ourselves if we’re all spending so much time on our phones interacting with people, what can we do to make it easier?”
To that end, the new interface deemphasizes the grid of apps that users commonly see when they unlock their mobile device. In its place, users will find full-screen status updates and photos from people on their Facebook friends list. This serves as both the lock screen and the home screen. The apps listing (which doubles as an area for making Facebook updates) is still available if you need it, however. To access it, users simply need to drag up on their Facebook profile icon, which sits at the bottom of the interface. Dragging this icon to the right will open the most recently-used app on the phone, and dragging it to the left will open Facebook Messenger.
Messenger’s importance to Facebook Home cannot be overstated. It has been transformed into a full-fledged replacement for Android’s stock Messages app, and now has more in common with Apple’s iMessages than anything else. Like iMessages, Messenger presents both Facebook messages and SMS texts within the same thread, providing a uniform method for users to stay in touch with their friends and associates. Facebook is also introducing Chat Heads, a system-wide notification center for Messenger. When a Facebook Home user receives a message, a circular icon of their contact appears in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen. Chat Heads also stacks these notification icons when a user has multiple unread messages, allowing them to see who’s trying to get in touch with them without closing the app that they are currently using.
Despite Zuckerberg’s insistence that there is no Facebook phone per se, his fellow presenters did take the opportunity to announce the HTC First, a mid-tier Android phone that will come pre-loaded with Facebook Home. HTC’s Peter Chou and AT&T’s Ralph de la Vega unveiled the device, which has been engineered from the beginning with the new interface in mind. The $99 device will be available exclusively from AT&T later on this month.
Hands On With Facebook Home on.mash.to/YVSJBn
— Pete Cashmore (@mashable) April 4, 2013
Facebook Home will be available from the Google Play store on April 12. Initially, support will be limited to a select group of phones, including the HTC One X, the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Samsung Galaxy Note II, with broader device support expected soon. A tablet version of Facebook Home is also in the works. Does Facebook’s vision for mobile dominance on Android devices get a “like” from you, or are you happy with your phone’s current skin? Let us know your thoughts.[button size=medium style=less_round color=blue align=none url=http://new.livestream.com/accounts/817005/events/1980369]Watch The Facebook Home Announcement[/button]