Facebook unveils Home

Social networking giant aiming to change the way people use their smartphones

Facebook has taken the wraps off the much talked about its oft rumoured phone, revealing a launcher for Android that takes Facebook integration to a whole new level, as well as a phone with the new software preloaded the HTC First.

"Today, we're finally going to talk about that Facebook phone," joked Zuckerberg as he took to the stage at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, Califorinia.

The application – available for download from April 12th – is a launcher that changes the way that users interact with their Android-based phone, rather than a totally new operating system. The HTC first will launch in the US on April 12th on AT&T. Zuckerberg also confirmed that it will launch on Orange and EE in Europe in a couple of months.

Zuckerberg said that Home has been designed to fundamentally redress the way that people interact with modern computing devices. "For the past 30 years or so, computing has revolved around applications," he said. "You would turn on your computer, open the application you need to use, and then close it when you're finished.

"What would it feel like if our phones were designed around people rather than around applications," he asked. According to Zuckerberg, Home has been designed from the ground up to make people the centre of using mobiles.

Pointing out that mobiles are central to the modern social experience, he said: "How often have you found yourself between meetings and you pull out your phone and check which of your apps.

"Facebook itself used to be like that. When you wanted to see photos, you'd open the photo application, and so on. Then we introduced the news feed, and interactions with all the different content posted by friends increased dramatically overnight.

"We wanted to bring that experience – of knowing what is always going on around you – to your phone."

The launcher runs on top of Android and below applications, meaning that you can run all your normal Android-based apps onto of Home.

This is crucial to the approach that Facebook took according to Zuckerberg. He hinted that the company had considered a Facebook phone, stating that Facebook didn't want to limit this experience to a small part of the market.

"Even if we built a really great phone, we might only be able to provide that experience to one or two percent of the total market, at most," he said.

He said that Android allowed the company to completely change the way that people interact with their phone, without having to fight for market share. "Android was designed from the ground up to support these sort of integrations."

Feature packed
The launcher replaces the standard Android lock and home screens with Coverfeed. The feature features full screen photos from the latest updates. It also enables users to comment and like from the home screen. It is unclear if users will be able to post from the lock screen or not.

Another example of putting people at the center of the experience, according to Facebook is Chatheads. A persistent messaging widget, it appears on top of which ever app or feature the user is interacting with at the time. It allows users to quickly read and reply to messages without having to quit out of their current app.

Chatheads works with both Facebook Messenger and text messages.

Which phones?
According to Facebook, owners of the HTC One, HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III and 4, and the Galaxy Note II will be able to download the launcher at launch, on April 12th.

Facebook also announced a partnership with HTC that will see a phone that has the new launcher preloaded launched on April 12th.

The HTC First (which we reported on this morning) looks to be a mid-range HTC phone that has been optimised to work with Facebook Home. We'll bring you more details such as specs when they become available.

The company also promised montly updates, in line with its existing mobile strategy.

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