Facebook Home on the Galaxy Nexus

Last week Mark Zuckerberg annouced Facebook Home for Google Android. Facebook Home is a collection of apps that can be installed on a select number of Android devices that will transform the phone into a Facebook focused experience.

Today, Facebook Home was made available for the HTC One XHTC One X+Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II. However, in true Android style, Facebook Home has already been modified to run on any rooted Android device. As a result I thought I would give it a try on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

If you also have a Galaxy Nexus and want to try Facebook Home, you will first need to root your phone (follow my simple seven step guide) and then download and install the pre-modified apps (I recommend following the MaDoCo forum guide). If you already have a rooted Galaxy Nexus, then the installation should only take a few minutes.

Once installed your Galaxy Nexus will be assimilated by Facebook and you will immediately be prompted with the new lock screen. As shown in the promotion video, the lock screen essentially scrolls through your news feed, using recently uploaded images as the backgrounds. In the real world this can have mixed results, as my Facebook feed tends to include a lot of low quality images which don't look great when expanded to full screen.

The image below shows the Facebook Home lock screen:

Once unlocked, Facebook Home allows you to swipe through your news feed or simply sit back and watch it automatically transition. The actual user interface looks great (very minimal) and seems to work well, even on an unsupported device.

To access the Facebook Home menu, simply tap and hold your profile picture (the chat head at the bottom). This will bring up three options - Messenger, Apps and System UI. I actually really like the simplicity of the user interface and the animation is very smooth.

Unfortunately, when selecting "Apps" you start to see where Facebook Home feels a little unfinished (or rushed). The app launcher itself is functional, but lacks advance features, providing rows of icons and some Facebook specific functionality (status, photo, check in). I think this launcher would be ok for people with limited apps, but if you have more than twenty you would probably find this a major step backwards from default Android (no ability to search, customise or add folders).

Finally the settings menu. Here you will find the option to "Turn Off Facebook Home", as well as make changes to your messenger settings and Facebook account. 

Unfortunately "Chat Heads" was not fully functional on the Galaxy Nexus, which is a shame as it's arguably the stand out feature of Facebook Home. However as this is an unsupported device, I guess it's not a complete surprise.

Overall I think Facebook Home has some interesting concepts. The minimal UI and focus on people, not apps, is intriguing and seems to work well. However, apps are still very important and although Facebook Home does not stop you from using them, it does impact the user experience compared to default Android. As a result I would say that currently Facebook Home is really only useful for "die hard" Facebook users (fans), with the rest of us likely finding the lack of power features frustrating and restrictive.