Facebook Home

Facebook Home is a user interface layer for Android-compatible smartphones that was developed by Facebook, a social networking service. Designed to be a drop-in replacement for the existing home screen (“launcher”) on an Android device, the software provides a replacement home screen that allows users to easily view and post content on Facebook along with launching apps, a replacement lock screen that displays notifications from Facebook and other apps, and an overlay which allows users to chat via Facebook messages or SMS from any app. Facebook Home was unveiled at a press event on April 4, 2013, and was released on April 12, 2013 for a limited selection of devices from HTC and Samsung Electronics—including the HTC First, a new smartphone pre-loaded with the software.

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The Product

Citing that many users use smartphones for social networking services such as Facebook, its designers aimed to create an alternate user environment that would emphasize interacting with the device through people instead of apps. The Cover Feed serves as the replacement home screen while using Facebook Home; it is used to view updates posted by others on Facebook in a full screen environment and access an application launcher. The lock screen displays notifications (sorted by priority using an internal algorithm) from both Facebook and other apps on cards, while also displaying updates in a similar format. Home aims to hide as much of the device’s Android interface as possible; by default, interface elements such as the status bar on the top of the screen are disabled.

A system known as “Chat Heads” are used for messages and SMS; avatars of friends that a user is currently in conversation with are overlaid on the Android interface. Tapping an avatar opens a pop-up chat window over the app currently in use.

Compatability

Facebook has promised support for Home on a “wide range of devices” (including smartphones and tablets), but it is currently only compatible with the HTC First (which is pre-loaded with Home, and was unveiled alongside the software), One X, One (2013), Samsung Galaxy S III, S4 and Note II. While the Facebook Home interface is officially incompatible with all other Android devices, an update to the Facebook Messenger app introduced Chat Heads as an optional feature built-in.

The ability to view non-Facebook notifications through Home will only be available on the HTC First, as technical limitations preventing this functionality on other devices were patched by HTC in its distribution of Android on the device.

Review

  • Is Facebook Home a hit? The reception for this Android software has been decidedly mixed, but there is at least one statistic the social network can tout: As of this weekend, Home has been downloaded more than 500,000 times.
  • That’s not a bad showing for an app that launched just over a week ago, on April 12, in the Google Play store. It also doesn’t count sales of the HTC First, the first phone to come with Facebook Home pre-loaded.
  • It isn’t the best showing possible — for comparison, 500,000 new Android devices are registered every 12 hours. Home is only supported on four Android devices so far; then again, many of those half-million downloads may come from users who didn’t realize they couldn’t install it on their Android device.
  • Facebook has more than a billion active users, and Android has roughly half a billion active accounts. In other words, these downloads represent just 0.001% of the potential user base.
  • More troubling for Facebook is the user feedback in the Play Store. The app has an average rating of 2.2 stars out of 5. Some 11,480 people have left a review; the majority, 5,960, have rated it one star.
  • Many users mentioned that the app, which sits atop the Android software itself and shows posts from your friends in your lock screen and home screen, was a drain on their battery. Other reviews complained that it hid other Android apps too deeply within its system and offered no support for widgets.
  • Google Play does not count the number of users who uninstall an app. Facebook, hesitant to introduce such a big change to Android users without giving them an easy way to walk it back, allows you to use Home in a special trial mode before you fully install it.

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Couresy: wikipedia.org, mashable.com

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Mahesh.P

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