It has been heavily rumored, Facebook’s CEO (Mark Zuckerberg) has denied its existence several times, but it’s real. The so called “Facebook Phone” has just been revealed at a press conference, finally giving us the chance to talk in-depth about what it has to offer.
But, before we do that, let’s get a few things out of the way. There was some truth to Mark Zuckerberg’s previous statement – when he explained that his company is not planning on becoming hardware-centric. In other words, the Facebook Phone is indeed real, but it’s actually built by HTC and it bears the “HTC First” moniker.
On the other hand, Zuckerberg’s creation will not be tied to only one smartphone. It will be available on every Android device out there. You may find this statement a bit confusing, but we’ll explain everything in just a moment.
The first thing we should talk about is the actual software. Mark Zuckerberg and his team have been working for some time on a new application that will be available for download on almost every Android smartphone out there.
Those of you who have used an Android launcher should be familiar with the concept. Zuckerberg’s latest creation is called Facebook Home, and at first glance, this new application can be described as an Android launcher. It replaces your phone’s regular home-screen and delivers a new user interface that is focused mainly on people and social interactions.
The idea behind Facebook Home is to be able and interact with your contacts with ease. There are three main features bundled with Facebook Home: Cover Feed, Notifications and Chat Heads.
Once you’ll install Facebook Home on your Android device, Cover Feed will basically replace your regular home screen layout. In a nutshell, Cover Feed is a compact version of Facebook’s News Feed section which delivers FCB content to your mobile screen. The interface is fully gesture-based (double tap to zoom, swipe to switch between feeds etc.) and gives the user the possibility to leave comments, like and interact with other people’s posts.
Notifications are also a big part of the experience. Both Facebook Chat and the stock SMS app will be centralized and notifications will pop-up on top of Cover Feed. Once again, they’re expandable and actionable, giving the user the option to read or dismiss one or all notifications at once.
Lastly, there is Chat Heads, an interesting feature to say the least. Chat Heads is a way to always be in touch with your contacts, even if you’re running an application/game. The Chat Heads “hovers” on top of all your apps, and once you receive a new message, you will no longer have to close/minimize your current app/game in order to read it.
Enthusiasts will get the chance to download and install Facebook Home on their Android smartphones starting with April 12. At first only a few smartphones will be supported (HTC One, HTC One X, HTC One X+, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 2, HTC First) but the line-up will most likely grow quickly.
The application will also be available on Android tablets, albeit a few months after its initial release.
Facebook Home Smartphones and the HTC First
Once again, Facebook Home will be a free app that in the future is likely to be compatible with almost every Android smartphone out there. However, multiple smartphone manufacturers and mobile operators have shown a great interest in Mark Zuckerberg’s latest creation. As such, companies such as HTC, Samsung, ZTE, Lenovo, Huawei, Sony, Alcatel One Touch, Qualcomm, AT&T, Orange and EE have teamed up with Facebook in order to build and retail Android smartphones that will arrive with, and be optimized for, Facebook Home.
The first manufacturer and carrier duo to offer a Facebook Home smartphone is HTC/AT&T. The two companies have partnered up to create the HTC First, an AT&T exclusive Facebook Home handset that should soon become available for pre-order at the price of US$99.99 (with a two year contract). As expected, the aforementioned smartphone will be released on the same date as the software it’s running: April 12.
Unfortunately, during the Facebook Home event we haven’t been able to find out a lot about the handset’s hardware specifications, but HTC and AT&T’s CEOs have mentioned that the device will be available in multiple color choices, and will support LTE connectivity.
In the end, we’ve waited a long time for the myriad “Facebook Phone” rumors to be confirmed or proven wrong. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited to see this concept becoming a reality.
Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and share your opinions in regards to Facebook Home and the HTC First.
Vlad Andrici is editor for gforgames.com and writes about technology issues.