It's not a phone. It's not an OS. It's a launcher replacement for Android, putting your friends first instead of apps.
How appropriate. The HTC First will be the first and only smartphone in the near future built with the just-announced Facebook Home. Starting today, it's available for pre-order for $99.99 with a two-year commitment, and available exclusively in AT&T stores and online starting April 12.
Ok, so what's Facebook Home? It's that Facebook phone we've heard rumors about for quite a while, only it's not a branded phone or a forked OS. It's essentially like the Kindle Fire's operating system: Android-based with a custom Home launcher so it doesn't look quite so Android. Except in Facebook's case, the launcher is focused on friends, not apps.
"From the moment you turn on your phone, you see what friends are sharing," states one of many Facebook Home commercials. "Your latest messages, calls and updates are right up front. And you can keep chatting from any app. So no matter what you're doing, your friends are always right there with you."
This feature is called "Cover Feed" and brings all the social news you need the moment the phone is awakened. "You might have missed these updates before, but now they're a central part of the Home experience," Facebook adds. "Since Home is both your lock screen and home screen, the content comes right to you. You can flip through to see more stories, and double tap to like what you see."
As far as chatting with friends inside of any installed app, that's called "Chat Heads". When friends send a message, their face pops up in a bubble next to their quoted message on the right-hand side of the screen. That means friends, family and whatnot can interrupt your Netflix movie, email reading, music listening and bird flinging at any time of the day. SMS text messages are also included.
For example, a friend's head pops up with a message. After tapping the chat head, a pop-over chat dialogue opens. Instant messages via Facebook Messenger and SMS texts are separated by using different colored chat bubbles. Messages from Groups are presented as group chats with divided icons.
The next Facebook Home feature is "Notifications". This applies to actions like someone posting on your Facebook timeline – their face will appear on the screen along with a notification in the form of a small card. The user can either tap on it to be directed to Facebook, or merely swipe it away for reading later.
Finally there's the "App Launcher" section. Like all other launchers available for Android, your base apps are still installed on the device, and can be "linked" to the new launcher by opening the device's app drawer and dragging the icon out to the home screen. Simple.
Navigation is controlled by a home button that sits at the bottom of Facebook Home using the device owner's profile picture. Tapping it brings the user back to the main Facebook Home screen – long-pressing the button presents a trio of options. Users can also swipe in from the left to use Messenger, swipe up to access the library of apps, and swipe in from the right to open the latest app.
"Home will be available as a free download from the Google Play Store starting April 12," Facebook said. "Home works on the HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung GALAXY S III and Samsung GALAXY Note II. Home will also work on the forthcoming HTC One and Samsung GALAXY S4, and on more devices in the coming months."
There's that silly fragmentation problem again. Home will also be available pre-installed on phones through the Facebook Home Program, the company said.
So there you go. No Facebook Phone. No Facebook OS. Just Facebook Home. Simple. As for the HTC First, we'll see if anyone actually bites on the Facebook bait. Teens likely won't as they're reportedly bored with the social network, taking to Instagram, Snapchat and similar apps instead. Facebook is so two thousand and late.
"The HTC First will offer the best Facebook Home experience on mobile, right out of the box. That’s why we’re committed to this phone and making it exclusive in our stores," said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility. "Because AT&T offers the fastest 4G LTE in the nation, it’s the best network for Facebook Home. And the best device for Facebook Home is the HTC First."