Two weeks ago, Facebook held a large event to announce the launch of their latest project: Facebook Home. But what is it? A Facebook phone? A new operating system? Yet another app update? The answer: None of the above. Facebook Home is designed to be a unique home screen interface for Android devices. A phone running Facebook Home will not have a typical lock and app screen; Rather, turning on your phone will display the Cover Feed, a stream of content similar to the Facebook News Feed which includes photos, links, and status updates.
Facebook has also incorporated a number of new features into Facebook Home. It includes an app launcher, so users are able to have access to their other apps from the Facebook overlay. The notifications system has been updated, and the new notifications from Facebook will show up as an alert on the center of the screen. Also included in Home is new messaging feature Chat Heads. The component allows for messages to appear on the top of any app, so a message that comes in while the user is on a website will be featured in a separate overlay above the open app. This allows the user to read and respond to the message without exiting the app below. The feature is called Chat Heads thanks to the avatar included alongside every message.
Facebook Home is available now for select Android devices in the Google Play app store and recently began an international rollout as well. A new smartphone, the HTC First, is the first phone to ship with Facebook Home pre-installed. While Home in its full version will not be available for iOS, the Chat Heads feature will be made available to iPhone users. Facebook has dedicated a great deal of time and publicity to Facebook Home, but how have consumers responded? Unfortunately for Mark Zuckerberg, not well.
More than half of the nearly 7,000 reviews on the Google Play give the app one star- the lowest rating available. The most frequent complaints include drastically shortened battery life after installing Facebook Home, the inability to use Android widgets with Home, and that it makes the phone too Facebook-centric through hindering access and performance of other apps. Facebook will hopefully respond to some of these concerns when they release the first update to Home, which is expected to be available during the first week of May. Stay tuned.