Facebook Home – it’s not a phone, it’s an Android launcher

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facebook home

Facebook has revealed the much rumoured “Home”. It’s not a phone, or another OS – instead Home is a “family of apps” that also includes a brand new Android launcher integrated with Facebook, and designed around people not on apps according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Home includes “Cover Feed”, which will display stories from your news feed in a visually rich manner and allows you to like and comment on stories from your home screen. It will also include notify you of any Facebook activity (including messages), in addition to the standard notifications on Google Android. You will still be able to launch your apps, all you need to do is to press and hold on your avatar, then swipe up to “Apps”.

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Also new to Facebook Home is a brand new “messaging experience” called Chat Heads. The floating avatar will notify you of any new messages from Facebook Messenger or SMS (the only indication is the green bubble), and will be present everywhere – regardless if you are in a game, or browsing the web.

Not all Android devices will support Home, with Facebook confirming support for five phones at this stage – the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S III, Galaxy S IV, HTC One X and HTC One. It will not be available on tablets – that will be added in the coming months. Home will also have a monthly release update cycle, with new features constantly pushed out.

Answering a question after the press conference, Zuckerberg confirmed that Facebook Home will have ads included, even on Coverfeed. When that occurs is still unknown, but the current plan – according to Zuckerberg – is to launch Home without ads then add them at some point in the future. Advertising should be expected, however. Facebook has been under pressure with its shareholders to monetise its mobile usage base.

It will be available on Google Play from April 12, and Facebook users will be notified through the Facebook app if they have the Messenger app installed as well.

Will this come anywhere else?

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You’re not going to see Facebook Home on iOS, Windows Phone or BlackBerry. Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that this was possible on Android. And it is for one reason only – Android is open, every other operating system is not.

“The great thing about Android is that it’s so open,” Zuckerberg said in the press announcement. “It was designed carefully so that you can improve almost any part of the system… You don’t need to fork Android to do this. You don’t even need to modify the operating system.”

Later, answering a question from a reporter, Zuckerberg said that they would need to collaborate with Apple to bring Home to iOS devices because there is no way any of the features they promote in Home can be replicated in full on iOS. And while Zuckerberg had praise for their relationship with Cupertino, they did admit that it is “a very controlled ecosystem”.

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