Facebook Home is the social network’s home screen replacement for Android phones, currently only available on select HTC and Samsung devices. By acting as a launcher, the app takes over a central position on the phone and provides instant access to Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg expects Home to change the relationship people have with their mobile devices. Not surprisingly, the app is highly controversial.
Home was recently released globally and hit 500k downloads within two weeks of its US release. The average rating on the Google Play store, however, is barely over 2 out of 5 stars. It is not known how many people continued using Facebook Home after trying it. Judging by the feedback, however, it sounds like many have ditched it right away; even people who gave it a good rating
So should you try Facebook Home if you have one of the compatible devices? What can you expect and what should you watch out for? Let me take you through the pros and cons of Home to help you make up your mind.
New Home Screen
Facebook Home takes over your home screen; all of it. When you turn on your phone, you will see a full screen photo from the latest update on your News Feed with the current time at the top and a list of general notifications from your Android apps below. I noticed that this does not work for all notifications, including Gmail.
- tap a notification to view it
- swipe a notification to the side to clear it
The Cover Feed
A moment later, the notifications screen will turn into a slideshow of your friends photos, overlaid with their status updates; the cover feed. You can jump in and manually thumb through your visual News Feed, which will show Like and Comment buttons and counts at the bottom. Your own profile picture at the bottom acts as nav button to switch to Facebook Messenger, your Android apps, or the last used app.
- single tap switches between the two views shown above
- double-tapping Likes the current post (doesn’t work for un-liking)
- swipe downwards from the top of the screen to make the Android status bar show or turn it on by default via Facebook Home Settings
So far, so intuitive.
When you switch to Apps by dragging your profile picture to the respective field, you actually stay within Facebook (Home) for the moment. At the top of the page are buttons to post your own status update, add a photo, or check in. Additionally, you will see up to five App Launcher screens, which are cluttered with apps previously located on your old home screens. Confusingly, my apps appeared in a somewhat random order and some apps were overlaid. The left-most screen let’s you scroll through all your installed apps alphabetically, from top to bottom.
- you can have up to five App Launcher screens; drag an app to each screen
- from an App Launcher screen, swipe top down or bottom up to return to your cover feed
- scroll to the bottom of All Apps and click More… to temporarily return to your old home screens, including widgets and folders
For those of you who love to chat, this is probably the most exciting new feature. When you receive a new text or Facebook chat message, it pops up on top of whatever application you are using that moment, along with the profile picture of the friend talking to you. Fortunately, this feature is also native to the recently updated Facebook Messenger on both Android and iOS.
It’s simple, slick, and not for me. I can see how people who are massively into Facebook and don’t use widgets will enjoy it, but for me it’s just too much Facebook. It would work as a lock screen(saver) on steroids, but when pressing the Home button, I really want my personalized home screens with widgets and folders and all those things this oversimplified app doesn’t offer.
What Other People Say
While many people commend the slick design and smoothness, battery life seems to be an issue. This can possibly be fixed by setting the default medium data use to low via Facebook Home Settings.
Several reviews also bemoan the lack of features, especially a proper lock screen and widgets. Yet others love the simplicity in navigation. The reviews are extremely mixed, but overall people agree that Facebook Home does what it promises to do.
What is quite irritating, however, is that Home effectively turns your smartphone into a Facebook device. Try to make a phone call; it has become surprisingly hard. You actually need to go to All Apps and find the Phone app. If you do occasionally use your phone to call someone, add the app to an App Launcher screen. Ideally, Facebook should allow users to add a shortcut to the lock screen.
So Should You Try It?
If after reading this article you still haven’t made up your mind, you should definitely try it. In the end, your experience will also depend on how interesting your News Feed is. And remember that you are fully in charge of what that looks like.
If you already tried Facebook Home, let us know what you thought of it!