Not a Phone or OS, but much more than an App
When the rumours actually began, it seemed like Mark Zuckerberg was planning to introduce a whole new “Facebook Phone” for android users. It turns out that those rumours were a little inaccurate, with official announcements coming that Facebook was launching its new “Home” app. So, it’s not a new phone; it’s not a new Operating System like windows phone, but an app which provides more features than your average app. This app will overhaul your android device turning it into a Facebook Phone, which sounds like a takeover to me.
The phone’s home screen will now have a “Cover Feed”, similar to your regular news feed. This means that the moment you switch on your phone, you’ll be able to see your friends’ status, messages, updates and uploaded photos instantly. The backdrop will most likely not contain ads, but since Facebook did admit that they’ll eventually be included in the mix, it will get a little disappointing. Ads are annoying- every phone user knows that.
This app will surely change your android experience upgrading it to a “more than Facebook” experience. For example, by double tapping anywhere you can like a photo, bringing up a nice thumbs-up icon with a pop up sound. Buttons at the bottom of the screen allow you to also leave comments on those photos. One little flaw- if you don’t want to see some friend’s awful pictures, you can’t disable it.
Your own profile picture becomes a lock button, meaning that your face will open up the phone, with quick-access buttons for adding a status message, photo, or just looking around all conveniently placed. The idea is clearly to just submerse the user into Facebook features from the start.
One feature likely to gain a lot of popularity is the “Chat Heads” function. Whenever friends message you via FB Messenger or text, their face will show up on the side screen in a bubble. And it’s not like they’ll annoy you by just popping up- you can shift those faces to the side of the screen until you want to talk to them. And if you’re planning to just ignore someone, you can dismiss that “face” with ease. This is undoubtedly the killer feature of the app. Now, anti-social people will very evidently not like most if not all of these features but then again, it’s not made for them, is it? It’s made to convert them into regular Facebook users.
It isn’t entirely clear if widgets will work with Facebook Home, but they probably won’t, therefore ruling out a lot of widgets for Google’s other products. The “Facebook Home App Launcher” is basically a list of all your essential and favourite apps but it does lack a link to the Google Play App Store. It’s a velar strategy to focus all the users’ time and attention on Facebooking rather than any other Goggle apps. That doesn’t sound good for Google, who themselves have recently reinvented their App Store with the availability of E-Books and Movies online.
Even the name “Home” sings a similar song- this app is your home, you don’t require anything else that much. The visual design is no doubt impressive, but only time will tell if it will appeal beyond habitual Facebook users.
Regarding the issue of privacy, Facebook Home will certainly be gaining access to more kinds of data than ever before. But it’s entirely up to the user to specify which details he/she may want to share. Also, say you open Google Maps with FB App Launcher, Facebook would not receive information about what directions you searched for or any other activity within the app itself.
Their idea is to put people first away from tasks and apps, and to stay connected with more people. Yet despite that, Facebook Home’s ads show people going through their screens at dinner parties, sprawled on the couch with a friend and even while in bed with a loved one. This struggle for people’s attention will surely make them more inclined to do multi-tasking, which could hinder one’s abilities to focus deeply on one thing. The company certainly wants to make Facebook people’s true home, not that regular FB addicts would mind that.
Facebook home will be available for download for android phones from the Google Play Store from 12th April onwards. It will be compatible on some devices including the HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II.
It will also be available on the new HTC First which will also be available from 12th April. With a lot excitement mixed with concerns, and the official release exactly one week away, it’ll be interesting to see how people react to this new “app”.