The New Facebook Home Mobile Software on Android

MENLO PARK, California — Mark Zuckerberg wants to turn your Android phone into a simple sharing device. And by that, he means he wants to turn it into a Facebook phone.
Facebook just announced Facebook Home, which all but turns any Android handset into a “Facebook phone” by putting the social giant right there on the home screen and all of its products at the forefront of the UI. It isn’t a phone made by Facebook. It’s something better than that, and in some ways, more important: a deeply integrated application with its hooks set tightly into the Android platform. Think of it as an apperating system.

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been hinting at following this path for years, even as he fought back incessant Facebook phone rumors. A phone is “so clearly the wrong strategy for us,” he said last year. And he’s right. Facebook can’t take on Apple and Samsung, or even Microsoft and BlackBerry. Making hardware is a lot of work, and that kind of work doesn’t make sense for Facebook right now. Instead, the social network is ensuring it can be as front-and-center as possible on all the most popular platforms today.
“Today we’re finally going to talk about that Facebook phone. Or more accurately we’re going to talk about how you can turn your Android phone into a great social, simple device,” Zuckerberg said at the launch event in Menlo Park. He went on to describe how people most often use Facebook on their mobile devices and explain why Facebook chose to build an Android experience, rather than a phone. “A great phone might sell 10 or 20 million units at best. Our community as more than 1 billion people in it. Even if we did a good job selling a phone, we would only be serving 1 to 2 percent of our community and we want to do more than that.”

Of course, Facebook couldn’t just come out with what is, essentially, an Android homescreen. It needed something to reskin, so it worked with HTC to release the first phone with Facebook Home, the aptly named HTC First. It’s a mid-level handset with decent enough specs and a bland hardware design. Yep, another rectangle with rounded edges and home button. (Surprise! It looks a whole lot like an iPhone.) But that’s almost beside the point. You’ll see Facebook Home on a whole lot of phones — and soon — because it’s designed to work on any Android handset.

That isn’t quite what people expected, which explains all of the “Facebook phone” rumors and headlines. But it makes perfect sense: Facebook Home’s software has so much more reach than any hardware ever could. Remember the HTC Chacha and HTC Status with dedicated Facebook buttons and signature Facebook blue coloring? No? That’s OK. Neither sold well. Facebook Home, on the other hand, doesn’t have to sell at all, because it can run on almost any Android phone. (As with any installable, there are hardware requirements, and there are a lot of old Android phones out in the world.) Home offers a deeply integrated mobile Facebook experience without having to give up the Android system you already know and love. Facebook already is the top free app on Google’s mobile OS, so demand for Facebook on a smartphone is definitely there — unlike the questionable demand for a phone made by Facebook.

As soon as you launch Facebook Home, you’re taken directly to your Facebook home screen — a rotating News Feed — where you’ll see the latest updates from friends and pages you follow. The status updates show up as full screen images, which you can interact with right from there. For example, you can double tap to like a photo or status as it’s on your home screen.

Facebook Home Software preview: here

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