Free on selected Android devices; Apple iOS to follow
What a pain in the battery slot.
The much hyped Facebook Home, which was pegged before its announcement to be the release of a Facebook phone, has been panned by users, with its more than 12,800 reviews garnering it an average of two stars, and I’m afraid I have to agree – I would say two and a half stars, if we awarded half measures.
At launch, I thought this was Facebook’s attempt at a search engine and was suitably impressed; it makes sense for the social giant to want more personal data (om nom nom) and a search engine, or a skin that funnelled users to a search engine and recorded results would be, I feel, a clever move on its part, although admittedly a huge amount of work.
However Facebook Home is actually a skin, or suite of apps, as Facebook calls it, which brings Facebook to the fore of your device, available on select Android devices currently; the Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy Note II, HTC One X and HTC One X+, with reports that there are plans to bring it to iOS soon. Instead of the operating system loaded onto the phone, you now navigate through Facebook Home’s skin, and boy is it annoying.
Your News Feed funnels directly to your home screen, which means updates, along with photos, drift across your home screen and lock screen, larger than life. Even with a PIN, you can still sit and watch names, photos and personal informati0n drift across your locked screen; cue privacy hmmmmm.
You can like, comment on and swipe through your Newsfeed via this home screen and this really brings home a) just how many Facebook friends you have that you never talk to and don’t care enough about to want to read about their cat Mittens and its asthma problems and b) just how boring most of Facebook’s offerings are. We really are the self centred generation.
Moving on from introspection, your profile picture serves as your home button, and can take you to Messages, which enables Facebook Messenger (a handy service given it allows VoIP calling nowadays) and your launch pad for apps, compressed into a smaller screen with quick options at the top such as take photo or update status (“Drank Coke Zero, lolz #incorrigible”).
There’s also a back button to take you to the phone’s interface proper or whatever you were doing before you installed or returned to Facebook Home.
One feature I did like was the Chat Heads capability, which notifies you while you’re doing other things that you have a Facebook message, much like the status bar on your device. You can choose to open the message via the little floating circle with your friend’s profile pic in it, and then go back to your previous task. You can move this circle around so it’s not in the way, and it’ll stay there for a while so even if you’ve read the message, you can still return to it (both handy if you’re multitasking furiously and have to return to it several times and annoying if you’ve dealt with the darn thing but don’t want to reply just yet – granted, unlikely in this age of Big Brother where Facebook tells the sender you’ve read the message but haven’t bothered replying).
Listen, if you’re a massive social networking type, then you’ll love it, and for sure, the Home Screen looks interesting with giant photos scrolling across it. But I just found Facebook Home plain annoying. It’s difficult to navigate and kinda pointless – I don’t want or need to be updated constantly on the goings on of my Facebook friends and I don’t really need my device turned into a homage to Facebook for the limited capabilities and the pain of working around the skin.