First impressions: Hands-on with Facebook Home for Android

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


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

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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

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