Facebook launches ‘FB Home’ app, HTC First tags along

The Facebook Phone event is over, and left smoking in the ruins is this, the HTC First. The social network’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, took the stage, spoke a lot but finally got to the meat of it.

Facebook Home is the cleanest Android experience we’ve ever seen. Home looks competent, simple but above all, functional. “We want to bring the experience of having a home, of having everything you need right around you… to your phone.” said Zuckerberg. The phone turns on. You see this:

But with your details, not this random man

From here, you’ll be able to see all your missed calls, recent texts, IMs, calendar events, the usual interlinked Google stuff. When friends message you, the information appears right next to an image of them, which can be quickly swiped away. Or you can touch to launch the content. It looks very slick and intuitive in reality.

The lock screen is cutely customized with your face. Swipe up, and the apps appear. Swipe down and it vanishes. Next up are “Chat heads”. Alerts will pop up on top of any open app, and tapping these expands the content in the window. Dry stuff, but it’s a software launch. And because it’s decent software, it’ll be updated monthly, said Facebook.

Coverfeed is also well implemented. All recent information can be accessed without even opening the phone. If it’s on the Coverfeed, you just need to swipe or tap. All notifications pop up on the lock screen, with single notifications accessed with a swipe. To access the apps, again you only need to swipe up. Quick and intuitive.

Chat heads took center stage when one of Facebook’s designers discussed and demoed multiple chats at once. As the designer chatted to one friend, another chat head popped up, which he could quickly responded to with a tap. It’s then pushed away with a swipe. For a group chat, the chat heads form into one bubble. To access this feature though, users will need to install the app, which is neatly available on Facebook Home (it’ll prompt the user to automatically install it). For now, this feature is for mobile phones only.

Here’s the twist. Facebook Home is a Facebook app as well that’ll run on high-end mobile phones. They call it “mobile best”, and it’ll be available on the HTC One, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S IV and Samsung Galaxy Note II from 12 April.

Thankfully, there’s a dedicated phone as well, named the HTC First — the “ultimate social phone”. It will come in four colours, namely red, white, baby blue (excellent choice) and black. It’s an LTE device, and it’ll be out first on the American telecom AT&T for US$99. This’ll be 12 April as well. Bonus: it’s available for pre-order right now. When HTC First launches in Europe, Orange and EE will support it. These are the phone makers who plan to support HTC First.

Any device with JellyBean or Ice Cream Sandwich will be able to run Facebook Home when it launches 12 April. There’s even a slim chance of it coming to the iPhone, said Zuckerberg. “We have a great relationship with Apple. We have integration into iOS, we’ve worked with them before. With Apple, everything you want to do goes through them. With Android, it doesn’t have to.”

Sounds promising? Look for HTC First 12 April from AT&T for US$199, US readers. The rest of us will have to hang on for the Facebook Home app.

Images via Techcrunch.com

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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