Facebook Releases ‘Home’ Software for Android Phones [Video]

Facebook announced Thursday its big mobile plans for Android: Facebook Home. Although it will initially be available only on a few models, Facebook Home represents how Facebook wants to exist on Android phones.

Facebook Inc on Thursday unveiled its most ambitious attempt yet to enter mobile computing without a phone of its own, introducing a new app that replaces the home screen on some Android smartphones.

Announcing a new mobile phone application that replaces users’ home screens with updates from friends and integrates text messages with Facebook chat, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the new strategy was “mobile best”, rather than “mobile first”.

Facebook Home isn’t a new OS and it isn’t a fork of Android, instead it is a new home screen and app launcher interface for Android that gives your Facebook notifications, news feed posts and messages more integration with the overall phone experience.

“Why do we need to go into those apps in the first place to see what’s going on with those we care about?” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told the hundreds of reporters and industry executives gathered at the company’s Menlo Park campus.

“We want to bring all this content to the front.”

The “Home” software will be available for download for free from Google Play starting April 12. In addition, AT&T Inc has exclusive rights to sell for $100 the first handsets, made by Taiwan’s HTC Corp, that come pre-installed with the software starting the same day.

France Telecom’s Orange will be offering the phone in Europe, reports Reuters.

The idea behind the software is to bring Facebook content right to the home screen, rather than requiring users to check apps.

When you turn on a phone running Facebook Home, the lock screen and the home screen default to something called Cover feed.

Cover feed is a stream from your News Feed, putting the focus on what your friends are currently sharing — including photos, status updates and links.

You can flip through stories on the screen and double tap a story to like it. The idea behind Cover feed is to help surface the important updates from the people in your life — updates that might otherwise have missed.

“Home” comes amid rapid growth in the number of people who access Facebook from phones and tablet computers. Of its 1.06 billion monthly users, 680 million log in to Facebook using a mobile gadget, says the Telegraph.

In a Q&A session after the announcement in California, Mr Zuckerberg admitted that adverts would also form a part of the new homescreen, meaning that an “experience” sold as pushing the site’s 1 billion users closer to their friends will also push them closer to advertisers.

Facebook put together an ad showing off Facebook Home that shows the company’s vision for how the product will fit with your mobile life.

Although Mr Zuckerberg also stressed that he has no interest in “forking” Android, as Amazon has done, or in building his own phone or operating system, Facebook Home also includes a “drawer” of favourite apps that leaves the door open for Facebook to introduce its own app store and further demote Google’s significance.

For Facebook – founded in Zuckerberg’s dorm room in 2004 as a website – bolstering its mobile presence is critical.

Nearly 70 percent of Facebook members used mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to access its service at the end of 2012, and 157 million of Facebook’s roughly 1 billion users accessed the service solely on a mobile device.

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