Facebook Home – what is it?
Facebook Home is essentially a deeply integrated launcher which runs within Android, with a few messaging apps thrown in, all of which are collectively called Facebook Home. It transforms your lockscreen and homescreen, blasting you with Facebook goodness at a glance and lets you seamlessly create and respond to texts and Facebook messages within any open app. It is, in Mr Zuckerberg's words a "phone which flips the tradition of phones being designed around apps instead of people". The HTC First will be the first phone to come pre-loaded with, and designed for, Facebook Home.
Facebook Home – lock screen and home screen
The Facebook Home lock screen serves up the most important notifications and Facebook messages, as well as your text messages. All of these notifications are layered over a constantly updated live background which pulls in large photos and status updates from Facebook.
You can swipe away notifications one by one, or hold one down and combine them all, blasting them off the screen in one satisfying flick. You can of course, like and comment on updates and photos too. The idea is that you can be kept up to date quickly and easily without having to unlock your phone and fire up an app. Starbucks queues, dentist waiting rooms and nightclub lines can now be conquered with ease.
A quick swipe up will bring you to your home screen and apps menu, which can be customised with your most used apps. But the real meaty action is always right there, on the lockscreen, the instant you fire up your phone.
Facebook Home – Chat Heads
Even if if you loathe Facebook and have deleted your account, you'll be begging Google to include the new Chat Heads feature into the next major Android update.
Chat Heads are small bubbles that appear from whoever just sent you a text or Facebook message. They appears over any app or game you're currently using without intruding. Tapping on a Chat Head overlays that person's message onto your screen and this all happens over whatever app you're currently using. You could be browsing the web or flinging some Angry Birds – Chat Heads will let you read, reply and ignore messages without having to swap in and out of your Facbook or SMS app.
It takes the fluidity of BlackBerry's Hub to a whole new level, giving you instant unobtrusive access to messages without hassle. There's no mention of email support at this time, although the HTC First will be arriving with email support built in.
Facebook Home – release date
Initially, Facebook Home will only be available on the Play Store to a select few phones – the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, the HTC One and One X+ and the Galaxy Note 2. More devices are however expected to be supported and there'll be a tablet version of Facebook Home ready within the next few months.
The HTC First on the other hand will be out in the US on April 12th, exclusive to AT&T for US$100. Although no specific UK release dates or pricing information has hit our ears yet, Orange and EE have been confirmed as launch networks, so stay tuned.