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  (Source: YouTube)
Tight integration on the world's most-used smartphone operating system is Facebook's Goal

IPhone, what?, Inc. (FB) let it be known that its preference is with the masses, debuting a new user interface called "Home" that's built atop Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android, the world's most-used smartphone operating system.

I. Android Gets a Fresh Paint Job

Android OEMs like Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) typically take the base UI -- say Ice Cream Sandwich -- and then build their own UI gloss atop it (e.g. Samsung's TouchWiz UI or HTC Corp.'s (TPE:2498) Sense UI).  The new Facebook app adds yet one more layer atop those OEM UIs.

Despite the fact that Android is now running a base UI, plus two custom skins (the OEM UI and Facebook's addition) performance at a demo at Facebook's California Menlo Park headquarters felt "incredibly native", according to The Verge.

The new Facebook UI modifies your homescreen and lockscreen via an app called CoverFeed that pushes updates and communications to your device.  

Some updates are even visible when your phone is locked (that should get interesting from a privacy standpoint).

II. Apps Ensure No Matter Where You Are in Android, Facebook is Near
When using apps, a new UI charm now appears atop running apps, with round face icons called "Chatheads" that represent your friends you're talking to.  Click on a Chathead and the running conversation pops up, without exiting your current app.  The Chatheads also unify messaging for known contacts, using Facebook Chat/Messaging when possible, but falling back on SMS if necessary.

Facebook has also made a new app launcher and app drawer, to help prioritize your favorite Android apps.

The kit will also bundle Facebook's popular photo-doctoring software, Instagram.

While the Home app kit will eventually be available on a "wide range of [Android] devices]", including tablets, it will initially be only available on a handful of top sellers -- the HTC One and One X, and the Samsung Galaxy S IIIGalaxy S4, and Galaxy Note II.

It will be available on those select smartphones starting April 12 via the Google Play store.  Current users of Facebook's first-party Android app will be asked whether they want to try out the new UI/apps.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that Android is his company's top priority.  He said that new features will be launching for Home every month, and that his company would tireless work to roll out smooth support for lower-end Android models.

III. HTC First is First Smartphone to Preload Home

Alongside the announcement, HTC and Facebook announced the anticipated "Facebook Phone": the HTC First.  HTC and Facebook have worked together closely in the past on the ChaCha, Status, and Salsa smartphones, which had Facebook integration built tightly into their UI.

For all the months of rumors and hype the First does not appear to be the high-end device some had hoped for.  It has a modest 4.3-inch 1280 x 720p SLCD3 display combined with an LTE-endowed Snapdragon 400 1.5 GHz dual-core processor from Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM).  It is available in black, white, red and blue and will be AT&T, Inc. (T) exclusive.  The phone isn't exactly a killer when it comes to memory (1 GB) and camera resolutions (5 megapixel rear, 1.6 front camera).  

HTC First

Embattled HTC CEO Peter Chou calls the HTC First the "ultimate social phone".  Priced at $99 USD with new two-year contract, it will be one of the cheapest devices to support Facebook Home (that makes it half the price of the HTC One on contract.  And it's the first device to have Home preinstalled.

The HTC First's specs are somewhat similar to Samsung's year-old Galaxy S III, which recently also dropped down to $99.99 USD, with the impending launch of the Galaxy S IV.  However, the GS3 has the edge in screen-size and camera resolution.

Overall the First is pretty underwhelming from a hardware standpoint, but it may appeal to some budget buyers.  AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega brags that the First is "the most immersive engagement I've ever seen."

Sources: Facebook, HTC [First announcement], The Verge

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By othercents on 4/4/2013 3:44:28 PM , Rating: 2
I do like the interface for those who are Facebookers that watch their feeds and interact with their feeds all the time. However to be useful to everyone adding in Twitter, Google+, and other app feeds to the home screen. You can't just limit your feeds to one social network.

I also like the messaging heads that pop up when there are messages and SMS, but what about Skype, Tango, Viber, and any other chat application you might use. Can they integrate into this feature? If it is people centric it needs to be inclusive of all possible chat applications and be that one stop shop for all messages.

What about Twitter or Google+ people who don't want Facebook? Can they use this without having Facebook? To become the best people centric UI you really need to be agnostic. Granted this is Facebook Home and not Social Home, but if they can be agnostic then I believe this will be one of the better launchers and home screens for Android.

Lastly, where is the weather? I didn't see anything that is showing weather. This is the main reason why I look at my phone and I don't want to launch a separate application to see it.

My wife might love it since she is a Faceaholic, but not sure if it is for everyone.


By Reclaimer77 on 4/4/2013 3:53:13 PM , Rating: 1
All they did was just lay their front end on top of the Android UI. I would expect all the same baked-in functionality of Android to remain as-is. No way you're locked into just using Facebook.

Lastly, where is the weather? I didn't see anything that is showing weather. This is the main reason why I look at my phone and I don't want to launch a separate application to see it.

The Google Now weather card widget? Good question, that is something I'm used to seeing on my phone as well. I would like to think that can be added to the homescreen as any other widget though, but aren't sure atm.

My wife might love it since she is a Faceaholic, but not sure if it is for everyone.

Not trying to sound sexist, but the FIRST thing I thought when reading this was "my girlfriend and her daughter would just LOVE this thing". Might be a possible gift idea this Christmas if they work all the kinks out.

By othercents on 4/4/2013 4:24:16 PM , Rating: 2
All they did was just lay their front end on top of the Android UI.

It isn't on top of the UI it is a replacement for the default UI or Launcher. There are a bunch of different launchers available on Play Store and when you activate them as default they replace the other launcher, so you won't have widgets unless it is baked into the Facebook Home launcher.

By nafhan on 4/5/2013 10:23:02 AM , Rating: 2
I think the point of this is to help you ignore competing services to Facebook's benefit. I'm guessing the thought process was something along the lines of: "The more you use Facebook, the less you'll use Twitter, etc."

Obviously, I haven't used it, but significantly hampering core Android functionality (i.e. making specific apps like Twitter inaccessible) would probably violate the Play store rules. Not being in the Play store would probably be contrary to their goal of getting on as many devices as possible. At the same time, they have been testing the ability to do updates and installs without Play. So, it'll be interesting to watch what happens here.

By xti on 4/5/2013 2:43:53 PM , Rating: 2
social home...probably a billion dollar idea that hasnt really been done right (yet)

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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