Facebook debuted “Facebook Home” today, and it’s not the phone that everyone anticipated. It’s essentially an app that overlays on top of an existing Android operating system, also known in the geek world as a “skin.” Think of it like HTC’s “sense” overlay, and you’ll know what I am talking about. Facebook Home aims to put your Facebook social network, and your friends ahead of your current app based home screen, and it does it in a big way. Here is a sneak peek of a couple of my favorite features.
First, your normal home screen and background with a bunch of apps on it are totally gone. In its place is called the Coverfeed, which shows status updates, photos of friends, and other updates that you want, presented in a slideshow that you can swipe through. This allows you to flip through your friends’ Facebook updates and photos, and “like” or “comment” on each slide. That isn’t to say you can’t get to your apps. A photo of your head appears at the bottom, and when you press and hold on it, a couple of menus surround it. Slide it to the app launcher and it takes you to an app page that allows you to launch your other apps. Functionality wise it may take some getting used to, but it does what it’s supposed to do, making it easy to keep up on your what your friends and family are up to.
Secondly, my favorite feature is called Chat Heads. It rolls Facebook messages, and SMS into one seamless messaging system. A small picture of one of your friend’s head is put on the screen. Those pictures can be dragged around your screen, and placed wherever you want. When that person messages you, you are notified on that person’s Chat Head. The best part is that it doesn’t matter if you are in another app; the Chat Head overlays on the top of any app you have open. So you can be reading an article online, and if you friends message you, you can click on the head and open up the messaging window. Once you are done, click on the head again, and you are back to what you were reading. If you have more than one Chat Head on your screen, you can move seamlessly between them, which will allow you to hold conversations with multiple people at the same time. The main focus of this feature is for you to feel like your friends were there, no matter what you were doing at the time. In my opinion Facebook nailed it.