Today Facebook announced their new "Home" on Google Android. For many years we have heard rumours of a Facebook phone and in the past they have worked with companies like HTC to add a dedicated Facebook button, but these efforts have done little to excite consumers.
Thankfully it looks like Facebook have learnt their lesson and instead of attempting to build their own phone, have decided to release a "collection of apps" for Android, which they call Facebook Home. Once installed, these apps will replace the default Android lock screen, home page and app launcher, creating a Facebook focused experience.
Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook CEO) stated that they are trying to "flip the user experience on phones, so users will navigate their phone through people, not apps". This is an interesting concept, where your friends become the focus point and Facebook services such as the News Feed and Messenger become the primary way you interact with your phone.
To help demonstrate the new experience, Facebook have released a short promotion video:
Overall I think this is a good move from Facebook, as it allows them to deliver a unique Facebook experience to a massive audience, without the challenges and risk of producing their own mobile device.
Regarding Facebook Home itself, the user interface looks great (fast, clean and minimal) and the integration with Android looks solid (something that has been an issue with other Android modifications). Although Facebook Home focuses on people, it does still provide access to your standard apps (e.g. Angry Birds, etc) and settings via an integrated Facebook launcher. This appears to work well, but lacks some of the advance features (e.g. search and folders) that people have come to expect from other mobile app launchers.
The other area worth mentioning is that Facebook Home will eventually include ads (although not at launch). This is clearly the hidden agenda of Facebook Home as it answers the long running shareholder question regarding the lack of revenue stream from mobile devices. It will however be interesting to see (once enabled) how a constant flow of ads impacts the overall user experience.
To conclude, I think one question will define the success of Facebook Home. How many people actually want this type of integrated Facebook experience on their mobile device? Personally I am not a heavy Facebook user and therefore much prefer to have a dedicated Facebook app, than have my entire phone assimilated by Facebook. It will be interesting to watch the reaction from the die hard Facebook users and if there is enough to make Facebook Home a viable replacement for native Android.
Facebook Home is set to be released on the 12th April for select Android devices (HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II), however the support is expected to broaden very quickly.