GADGET WATCH: Facebook Home

While plenty of analysts had been expecting Facebook to debut an entire phone, the social network ended up announcing something much more interesting – a suite of apps which turns your phone into a type of Facebook-stylised operating system.

While Facebook Home won’t be released for another day or so, plenty of reviewers have been given access to the suite of apps and have given their thoughts. Is it worth a look?

Hardware and features

Facebook Home is a piece of software that transforms your home screen into a Facebook feed, and then integrates the Facebook Messenger chat system in several apps. The lockscreen is also given an update to include the News Feed and app launcher.

The software also allows users to combine the lock-screen and the home screen, in a way, by giving you access to a few apps from the lock-screen, including your previously used app and Facebook Messenger.

What’s the consensus?

The Facebook Home interface has certainly been praised for its simple design. Over at The Verge, the publication noted the status updates are placed right on the phone’s home screen, with each update becoming a full-screen photo.

“The overall design is quite good, with clean white fonts that are bolded for links and names, and each person’s name and profile photo up top as well.”

“The design is almost entirely ‘chromeless’ in that there are none of the traditional buttons, sliders, and switches you usually see on a smartphone interface. Facebook also hides the traditional Android status bar, which shows your notifications, signal strength, and time.”

Some users may not like the way the design removes some features, it noted, such as the ability to quickly access the Android status bar.

And while the publication said the simple design was well made, it noted on the lock-screen the device only gives you three options – open Messenger, your App library or the most recently used app.

“It’s incredibly strange that these are the only three options — you’d expect that Facebook would have a top-level shortcut to launching the camera, but you’d be wrong.”

Over at Gizmodo, the publication noted the usability of the software – you simply swipe through updates while on the homescreen. As a result, the software “makes your phone not feel like your old phone anymore, for free”.

“If you’re not some sort of libertarian anti-Facebook partisan, you’ll enjoy the pretty-faced straightforwardness of Home. What do you really do with your smartphone?”

“Send texts, check email, browse the web, and check social updates. Odds are that you’re among the billion human beings who get these social updates from Facebook – whose existence has been chronicled and will continue to be by the social network for years and years.”

Slashgear also noted the software is good for producing notifications on the home screen, but is even better at allowing instant messaging to be integrated fully. New messages show up in a corner of the screen, and can be dragged around to wherever you like.

“Chat Heads works well, though again there’s a walled garden effect that will frustrate anybody who isn’t entirely committed to Facebook for their messaging needs.”

However, the publication notes the first iteration of the software “doesn’t hit the spot”.

“It feels like it should have been a beta; indeed, Facebook was keen to point out at its launch event that it’s definitely a work-in-progress.”

“The problem is, Facebook hasn’t taken baby steps: it wants to be your new Android homescreen, and anything from third-parties is basically lost or hidden in the process.”
Who’s it for?

Diehard Facebook fans. If you use the social network as a main way of connecting with friends and family, then this is a good – albeit initially flawed – way of transforming your smartphone to centre on that tool.

For everyone else, it may not be so useful. Given Facebook Home completely transforms the way your phone works, you may be best in giving this one a pass.

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