Facebook Skins Android With "Home", Announces $99.99 HTC First Partner Device
April 4, 2013 3:17 PM
Tight integration on the world's most-used smartphone operating system is Facebook's Goal
IPhone, what? Facebook.com, Inc. (
) let it be known that its preference is with the masses,
a new user interface called "Home" that's built atop Google Inc.'s (
) Android, the world's most-used smartphone operating system.
I. Android Gets a Fresh Paint Job
Android OEMs like Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (
) 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 (
) 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",
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 III
, 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
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. (
). It is available in black, white, red and blue and will be AT&T, Inc. (
) 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).
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
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."
HTC [First announcement]
"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet. A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
Quick Note: Photos of HTC Facebook Phone Revealed
April 3, 2013, 10:29 AM
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