BY SHELLY PALMER
After months of speculation – and just about a week of more accurate guesses – Facebook finally unveiled its ‘Facebook phone.’ Except it’s not a phone. “We’re not building a phone and we’re not building an operating system,” Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at Facebook’s event on Thursday, “but we are building something that’s a whole lot deeper than an app.” So, What Is It? It’s the next version of Facebook. What Facebook unveiled was ‘Facebook Home,’ which will hit select Samsung and HTC phones on April 12. Rather than creating a piece of hardware for the smartphone market that was built around the social networking site, Facebook opted to go with a piece of software that does the same basic thing. Home is a series of customizations that replaces the look and feel of an Android phone with a set of Facebook apps, screens, messages and notifications. It won’t be a matter of rooting or ‘forking’ your Android. It’ll be much simpler and much more mainstream than that. Facebook Home will be an update available for the existing Facebook app on Google Play. Can I Get It? Engadget reports that on April 12, Facebook Home will come to the Samsung Galaxy S III, the Samsung Galaxy Note II, the HTC One X and the HTC First. (Home will also be supported by the almost-here Samsung Galaxy S IV and HTC One.) Home will only be available in the US to start, with international rollout coming later. The HTC First is a brand new phone designed with Home in mind, and billed as “the ultimate social phone.” Featuring LTE on AT&T’s network, the First is available for pre-order today in one of four colors and will launch alongside Home on the 12th for $99 with a two-year contract. But without any other real features of note, there’s no sense to rush out and buy this when many other more popular and more powerful phones will run Home with no problem. Zuckerberg said that tablets will get Home eventually, but the primary focus is on phones. And iOS users? Sorry, but it doesn’t look like Home is coming to you any time soon. Zuckerberg pointed out how controlling Apple is over its ecosystem, and how open and easy it is to work with Android. What’s It Look Like? Facebook Home features full screen photos, status updates and notifications right on your home screen. They’ll be the first things you see when you turn on your phone. Home revolves around what’s known as the Cover Feed, which shows a constant stream of photos and statuses that update automatically. A feature called Chat Heads pops up a little circle with your friend’s profile picture in it when they message you. Even if you’re in another app at the time, you’re able to tap on the head and respond to the message without having to go to a dedicated messaging app. That’s very cool.
A Wider Reach
The ultimate reason that Facebook decided to go the software route instead of hardware was because it could reach far more people this way. Since we’re little more than data or ways for Facebook to make money, it makes sense to make the service available to as many people as possible. With an awesome phone only selling 10 to 20 million units, why limit yourself when you can tap into a far larger market share?
Will I try Home? Yes. When I get my new Galaxy S IV, it’s one of the first things I’ll try out. (When you first launch Home, you can decided to try it once or set it to always swap in Home for your homescreen from then on.) Will I like it? Who knows? It looks slick – and I love Facebook – but I’ll have to wait and see. I’m more excited for this than I thought I would be, so that means something… right?