First impressions: Hands-on with Facebook Home for Android

First impressions: Hands-on with Facebook Home for Android

Summary: The screenshots of Facebook Home look nifty, but how useful (or necessary) is it actually in practice?

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MENLO PARK, CALIF. -- Facebook Home made a grand debut on Thursday before it heads to the first batch of Android smartphones next week.

Users can opt to download the home screen interface on their own, but how useful (or even necessary) is Home going to be anyway?

See alsoFacebook unveils its new 'Home' on Android | CNET live blog: Facebook's new home on Android

I managed to get a quick hands-on look at Home at the social network's Menlo Park headquarters today, and here are my first impressions:

  • The platform is very quick and responsive to touch gestures. Home is also fairly intuitive to navigate.
  • While the large floating pictures look lovely (and are reminiscent of live wallpaper), the overall UI design could use some polish. That goes double for the extra Home screen app menu, which looks like an older version of Android such as Gingerbread or even Froyo.
  • Facebook has made it possible to update, comment and like from basically anywhere on the device. You can't get past one screen without the option to do at least one (if not all three) of these actions. In terms of engagement, Facebook might have nailed that one.
  • There isn't much of a business use case here, except that it might influence other social networks (i.e. Yammer, Salesforce Chatter, etc.) do start thinking (or speed up) their own Home-like integrations.
  • There could be a major security/privacy flaw being that news feed updates from contacts scroll by even before the unlock screen. Thus, if a device were lost or stolen, the person who ends up with the smartphone has the potential to know more about you and your contacts as long as the Cover Feed keeps going.

Gallery: Facebook builds a new 'Home' on Android

If I had one of the five devices that will initially support the Home download, I'd be more than game to try it out. I don't know how long I'd keep it, but for anyone who likes using social networking to its full potential, it would be fun to play with longer.

However, I don't see it coming to the Galaxy Nexus (which is the device I use) anytime soon -- if ever.

And while it looks nifty, it's not enticing enough (at least not yet) to buy a smartphone solely because Home is pre-loaded.

I'm also skeptical how much Home is going to do for its major OEM partner, HTC. The $99.99 contract price on the HTC First is a better sales pitch considering the device looked like a steal for that price tag.

Yet given that Facebook promised that it will roll out updates for Home every month, perhaps I could be singing a different tune this time next year.

Image Credits: James Martin, CNET

Read more on ZDNet about Facebook Home:

Topics: Social Enterprise, Android, Apps, Mobility, Smartphones

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19 comments
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  • Get a phone because of a web site!

    That's not how I shop for a phone, but I'm guessing the assumption is you've already decided on Android and this is just a perk. Still, it almost makes as much sense as changing your theme/wallpaper/GUI based on what shoes you're wearing.
    spstanley
    • Ya. It seems like a really weird idea.

      I guess there are some people who are simply addicted to Facebook and this might work great as an on the go fix.

      But really, it seems so bizarre. I told someone today about this and they laughed and asked “Whats it for?”

      I said it’s a smartphone with an Android operating system, but the interface is configured to be optimized for Facebook use. Now this was a person I know who does use Facebook, I don’t know how much, but I know they are on it from time to time. Their response was, “Your kidding”.

      I honestly have to say that this phone sounds like a creation that came out of a company’s own conceit about its importance. How many of these things will sell? I would think for many people, arnt they going to be kind of scared they would get laughed at for being such a Facebook junkie? Already people take lots of jabs at people they think are Facebook junkies.

      It certainly has this off the wall concept about it. Whats next? An eBay smartphone?

      I don’t know, it just seems so odd.
      Cayble
    • Face book for non techies

      I do have facebook but forgot its password,dont have twitter and find registing on most websites a coplete pain,but if and its a big if ,i can send and recieve photos ,bank and make small cashpayments
      via a system and im happily living in poor areas of the world and need streaming imformation on weather my fresh bannas are being sold on by a third party and im getting paid via my facebook and get an advert for the cheaper outlet of petrol in my area and which bar has the football match via satallite i wanna see,i guess me and a couple of 100 of millions would be using it too and my bank and petrol company would pay facebook for the privelage of course the bigger question is weather harvard nerds can achive this picture before the african africans and asians do
      Phyrne
  • Facebook is becoming so boring

    Facebook is loosing its coolness, so why would I want a Facebook phone.
    marcandsebe
  • Isn't the business case obvious?

    You spend more time on Facebook.
    bradavon
  • Smashing Piñatas

    Facebook’s existence is that of blindfolded smacking of piñatas. So far they’ve been quite lucky at it. If the phone takes off it was a good bet. If not – they tried. Facebook should be able to create an app for iPhones – or maybe they know Apple will take it down for violation of whatever Apple wants it to be in violation of. I wonder if there aren’t any conditions on Android OS usage that Facebook is violating. Oh well – at least the lawyers will benefit.
    olngrumpy
    • they do have an apple ap

      but apple would never let them hijack their homepage or main screen. I don't think Android should either. Reminds me of the AD-ware that computer companies add on to Windows. Sony,Dell and HP would have like 20 programs they thought would add to the Windows experience. It was almost always garbage that needed to be uninstalled.
      betazero
  • Master Joe Says...Privacy

    You had me, and you lost me. I use Windows Phone 8, but I certainly keep up-to-date on what's going on with the other platforms. This seemed like an interesting (albeit trivial) concept. However, as soon as you mentioned that the feed continues on the locked device, you lost me. The issue I have here isn't with my use or lack of use on the phone, but it is, rather, the fact that, if one of my Facebook friends were using this device, it could potentially reveal information about me to other people. I see people leave their phones laying around all the time, and they certainly get stolen enough these days as well. I realize that the masses aren't aware enough to pick this up (unless the overreaction machine gets kicked on like it did with Google Glass, although I kind of saw the point there too), but I'd definitely be a bit hesitant to stay Facebook friends with someone who used this and was habitually careless with their phone. Just my thoughts.

    --Master Joe
    SteelCityPC
  • I use Facebook

    I use Facebook occasionally to keep in touch and up to date with some friends and acquaintances. I will be watching this one for sure. If it tales off I will probably close my Facebook account. The lack of privacy and a company that continually over imagines it's relevance are the reasons.
    tproveau
  • Hmmmm

    Yeah I don't think I would buy a phone just to use Facebook. Hell I don't buy new phones just cause it has a larger processor sometimes. I buy a new phone when mine does flying suicide dives from my hand, pocket or purse. So unless Facebook can keep my phone from doing those things....that would be the ONLY reason I would buy a "Facebook" phone.
    carriethe13th
  • Are the ads going to be full-screen, too?

    They should look really fine on that big screen.
    Userama
  • The prbolem is

    If you are on Facebook and clicking ads you are truly clueless.

    I have advertised on Facebook and their tools are horrible, and I only did it for a year, but will never do so again. Who goes to FB to buy anything?

    The world is completely ignorant about how FB is used (including Wall Street). They'd be better off making FB subscription based!
    omdguy
    • I agree

      I have never once clicked on an Ad from Facebook. I don't even see them or they don't really look like ads for anything important.
      betazero
  • People Hub

    People Hub on Windows Phone 8 does the same thing.

    http://blogs.windows.com/windows_phone/b/windowsphone/archive/2013/03/18/rediscovering-the-people-hub-on-windows-phone.aspx
    allundisluv
  • Fragmentation

    How will they ever deal with the Android fragmentation issues across multiple manufacturers, multiple versions of Android and phones, and Android updates ?

    This sort of mess broke Symbian, many a moon ago.
    neil.postlethwaite
  • Probably a good product for Penny

    I picked up a new Android a few months back. There was a Facebook app already installed. I played with it a bit.
    # 1 Issue - Excessive battery consumption
    # 2 Issue - Soon started getting notices that my storage space was excessively low and became limited on what apps/functions would run due to 'low storage space'.
    # 3 Issue - I had 4 g on board

    My Solution:
    # 1 Pulled the 4 g chip and replaced it with 16 gig
    # 2 Got my head out of my butt and deleted the Face Book app entirely ( I am not Penny)
    # 3 I am now very happy and so is my Android!
    Leo Regulus
  • No business case?? This is FB's bid to replace SMS and email and and and

    You think FB doesn't salivate at the prospect of all messaging flowing through them? This provides immediate ties into FB's messaging system, both text and email. You can bet that eventually they'll fold video into it as well (some Skype integration of some sort).

    And once they have critical mass on the messaging front, you don't think that businesses will be interested in the ability to leverage their people-network? E.g. instant access to the screen footprint needed to popup location-based ads?

    How about automatic generation of links based on messages and posting? When a person posts their going to a concert at the Verizon Center, wouldn't TicketMaster pay to have a link to where to buy tickets to the same event appear next to that posting?

    I'm sorry, but saying there's no business case is myopic at best. Every single business case that exists for the PC-based FB site exists, many of them on steroids.

    I'm actually surprised that any carrier would support this, with the profit center that SMS messaging is for them ... but on the other hand, if it drives data traffic, it may be a wash for them, with tiered data plans and such.
    daboochmeister
  • Other Social Networks

    "There isn't much of a business use case here, except that it might influence other social networks (i.e. Yammer, Salesforce Chatter, etc.) do start thinking (or speed up) their own Home-like integrations."
    You left out the most obvious one to build a network-centric Home page for Android: Google+.

    Facebook Home is only of academic interest to me, because I destroyed my account a year ago — I couldn't take Zuckerberg's obsession with sharing any longer.
    S_Deemer
  • No Facebook junk for me!

    I have had my FB account since FB started, but I only visit it once or twice a month for a brief moment to stay in touch with family members who are FB nuts!

    I'm still very happy with my HTC Touch Pro II phone, running Windows Mobile 6.5. Why?
    Well, It has the complete MS Office 2010 Pro (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint, and Outlook.

    I love the sliding "REAL" keyboard!.
    It also has Google Maps, Google Earth, Calc98, an FM radio with 25 presets, among many other common features and apps, such as camera & video recording, multimedia player, etc.
    What more can I ask for!!!

    If there is a web site I dislike the most, it has to be Facebook. I don't like their ethics, their security, their deception, and everything else about them.

    I also suspect that they sell mailing lists. My spam folder became a lot "wealthier" since I joined FB, although I never subscribed to a single app that they offer (from their partners).
    sh10453