We’ve been hearing about it for well over a month now. It’s been rumored, to some degree, for well over a year now. That’s right, we’re talking about Facebook Home. Originally rumored to be a fork off of Android for a Facebook Phone, Facebook Home is about as close as it gets. It happens to be a full scale launcher like ADW or Nova Launcher with a few apps tossed in like Facebook Messenger. The long rumored Facebook phone even exists now in the form of the HTC First on AT&T. So the question remains, does Facebook Home live up to the hype? Is it any good at all? These are some questions we’ll be answering in our full review below.
The first thing that will be very noticeable is the Facebook Home Lock Screen. It’s simply set up and very easy to use. The screen is dominated by a single Facebook update from someone on your friends list. By scrolling left or right, you can view other status updates. Built into the lock screen is a way to like and comment on various status updates so you can actually interact with anyone on Facebook without unlocking your phone. This is really cool if you’re very active on Facebook, but many have expressed their dislike for having their personal life displayed first thing when you turn on the screen. In the foreground is the text for the update and the profile picture for person who’s status is showing. In the background is their cover photo. Depending on their cover photo, this can actually make the updates look really nice.
When you tap on the lock screen, your avatar will pop up with three options. You can open the home screen and app drawer by going up, Facebook Messenger by going left, and the right dot should take you back to your usual home screens. Many have claimed their experience with the lock screen was laggy, but our experience with the Galaxy Note 2 and the Nexus 4 have shown it to be more than usable. Again, though, it’s really only great if you’re an avid Facebook fan.
The Facebook Home “home screen” is really nothing more than a place where you can update your Facebook status. You have your usual three options of a regular text status, a photo upload, or a Facebook Check In. We wish we could say this screen is more interesting, but really it’s only purpose in life is to let people update their statuses very quickly. You can get to it by turning the screen on and then navigating to the apps dot on the lock screen. Then enter your status and done! Like we said, it’s very quick, if boring.
Once you’re on the status update screen, you can swipe to the left and get to the app drawer. This is about as standard as an app drawer gets. There are no bells or whistles here, just a list of all your apps. They’re four to a row and it scrolls down like old school Gingerbread app drawers used to. Scrolling was smooth for the most part but even on the Nexus 4 we experienced some jumpiness here and there.
What can we say about Facebook Messenger that hasn’t already been said? It’s really the same app interface as the one you get when you download the regular Facebook Messenger. You get your regular list of conversations that you have and you just click to open them. Really, most of you knew that. Reviewing the messenger app is like reviewing the 2007 Saturn Ion. It’s been around forever and we all already know how to use it.
Chat heads, on the other hand, is a much more interesting feature. Here’s how chat heads work. You can start a conversation using Facebook Messenger and when Chat Heads gets utilized, you can access the chat anytime, anywhere. The person’s avatar stays in the foreground of your screen like a windowed application so you can access it whenever you want. Simply click on the floating avatar to open the chat anywhere, then click again to close it. This is nothing new for people who have used floating apps, Sony’s Small Apps or even Samsung’s dual window mode. However, it is still a pretty neat little feature of Facebook Messenger.
Overall, Facebook Home is tough to judge. If you’re a huge fan of Facebook, then you’ll probably really enjoy Facebook Home. If you’re a fan of the customization and functionality of Android, you probably won’t like Facebook Home. If you’re a casual Facebook user who just opens the site every now and then to like a status or post something, you probably won’t like Facebook Home. Really, this is marketed to a very specific kind of person. That kind of person is one who lives and breathes on Facebook. There is no other demographic that will truly enjoy everything Facebook Home has to offer.
That said there are pros and cons. If you live and breathe Facebook, then Facebook Home will live live and breathe it with you. Checking status updates, using Facebook Messenger, etc is all right there and easy to do. For the most part, Facebook Home was smooth with only a few jumps and lags here and there. Mostly in the app drawer. Chat heads was actually really cool. So in terms of performance and the kind of functionality it was made to provide, it’s actually a pretty nice app.
However, there are caveats. Using Facebook Home means accessing your regular home screens is tougher. You can’t use widgets on the lock screen or the “home screen” in Facebook Home. All the settings are delegated to the Facebook application and the Facebook Messenger application. So the only thing you can really change in using Facebook Home settings is whether or not to show the status bar and using the settings to turn the app off. That restriction means you can’t really customize Facebook Home very much.
At the end of the day, most people probably won’t like Facebook Home. The few that do are those hardcore Facebook users who really only ever go on Facebook. But it’s always worth checking out before making a final determination. If you’d like to give it a try, you can download it from the Google Play Store here.