Facebook Home: a Facebook user’s perspective

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Plenty of discussions on Home turn into ‘I hate Facebook’ agreements, one of the only reasons why I think that I may actually add something to the conversation. Home isn’t for non-Facebook users, so it makes little sense to say ‘I hate Facebook, but here’s my review of Home’.

Along with the majority of Generation Y, I do use Facebook. I don’t have a religious attachment, but I do check it pretty much daily. My friends are on it, it’s a nice service and I find a lot of the content interesting. But replacing core Android experiences, like SMS and your lock and homescreen, with Facebook? While it isn’t as deep as an Android ‘fork’, it’s still a major change and one I’m still unsure of.

As you would expect with a Facebook phone, Home is a horizontal marquee of the Facebook Newsfeed. From now on, while using Home, you have to understand that the first thing you see when you do anything with your phone will be Facebook. Wallpaper doesn’t exist, instead replaced with a Ken Burns pan of photos of your feed. Notifications, apart from with the HTC First, are just Facebook notifications in a clean card-interface. Swipe to remove, tap to view.

But that’s the problem with Facebook Home. There’s nothing wrong with the blurry photos, the inconsistancy of updates and the sporadic update intervals. The problem lies with how you use your phone.

If you have a job, if you’re a teenager, if you’re an adult then Facebook Home likely won’t work for you. For me, the majority of Facebook posts on my feed are great, photos are relevant and the screen is calm. But occasionally, a rogue status update, one which is completely inappropriate, one which you’d usually skip while checking Facebook, takes over your screen. Whether it drops a C or F bomb, or whether it’s an awkward photo, Facebook Home simply doesn’t work in a world where it’s entirely possible for your boss, your partner, your friends to see you using your phone. Facebook is a place for friends, and that fundamentally means a place only for friends. A phone, in many ways, is public property. You can put a passcode on it, you can watch over it at all hours of the day, but as soon as it’s unlocked: boom. Embarassment.

I’m a firm believer in purging Facebook friends from my Newsfeed as soon as anything I don’t like pops up. But if you don’t work at filtering out the crap, and I mean really be strict, Facebook Home will just end in embarassment.

It’s a shame, because Home, other than that core doubt, is pretty damn good.

If you can somehow get past the risk of a familiar glance, then you’ll also need to fit into the small group who can actually get Home. It only works with the HTC One, One X and One X+, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note 2. And for whatever the reason, it’s only on the Play Store in the US. No idea why, since a staggered launch can’t work in a nation of around 160 million Facebook users.

But once you actually get it installed, it’s actually great.

Animations are smooth, and even iPhone-like in their responsiveness, the critical requirements to open apps, talk and text work for me and it’s beautiful. While Facebook cheated in press-shots, with DSLR-quality photos, it actually does look great. And Chat-Heads, the unintrusive yet always available Facebook messages are brilliant, never even taking you away from what you’re doing. It’s magic.

There are no folders, the app-drawer isn’t always buttery and Facebook can have problems with filtering the good from the bad, the C-bombs from the great statuses, but when you look past that, Facebook seem to have created something competitive and distinctively innovative for a more social phone experience. It’s basic, and that’s a good thing. For me, though? I do like the dignity of a good wallpaper and a hidden feed.

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