Facebook Home

So what exactly is Facebook Home? We're going to break it down for you

This may not be the extreme Android forking that some would have expected, but Facebook Home is still a pretty dramatic change to the way you will use your phone. With the installation of just one app, you're faced with what looks on the surface like a completely new operating system. From the main home screens to the app drawer and navigation, Facebook has certainly gone its own way with the design.

And for most users out there, Facebook Home will be their first foray into "custom" launchers -- whether they know what that is or not -- and it's not the easiest concept to understand. Get past understanding technically what it is, and you've still got to explain what it does. So what is Facebook Home? Stick around with us after the break and see if we can help clear things up a little bit.

Home screens

One look at the Facebook Home interface and it's very clear that this isn't your standard third party launcher. The main push by Facebook here is that people, not apps, should be the first thing you experience on your phone when it is turned on. Unlocking the device, you're given a set of horizontally scrolling frames called "Cover Feed" -- each of which is a status update from one of your Facebook friends. Pictures, links, check-ins and even text-only posts are all found here (without any clear way to determine what order they're in).

Posts including pictures prominently display that image as the background of the page, with a slowly moving animation adding a little liveliness to the screen. Those including links will use the image associated, and text-only posts use the person's cover photo from their profile. Double tapping on the center of the screen "likes" the status, and tapping on the comment bubble in the bottom left corner lets you comment.

When you're done browsing through the pretty (or not so pretty) pictures and statuses, a single tap anywhere in the middle of the screen brings up your profile picture at the bottom of the screen, which is then used for navigation. Tapping and dragging your profile image in one of three directions takes you to different places -- left to Facebook Messenger, up to Apps, and right to your most recent app used.

The app drawer

Facebook Home Facebook Home

Despite the fact that most of the focus has been put on Cover Feed, Home doesn't block any access to your full set of installed apps. Swiping your profile picture up into the "Apps" option, you're taken to a horizontally paginated list of your most used apps. If you've set up a launcher previously, it basically pulls in whatever you had on that launcher to these pages. You can organize them in any way you want, though, and the number of pages changes according to how many apps you try to drag out. Think of this area as what would traditionally be your home screen. You can't make folders, but your most used apps can be placed here however you want otherwise.

Swiping over to the furthest page left is what would then be a traditional app drawer, with every app you have installed on the device visible. You can long press and take apps from here to the app launcher. The system works for most users that use just a handful of apps regularly, but power users that rely on many folders and widgets will likely get frustrated with the system. It's easy enough to make the one swipe up and see your apps, but that's one extra step from a regular launcher.

Settings

Facebook Home Facebook Home

The only settings pertaining directly to Home are those to turn off the launcher, show or hide the status bar (hidden by default) and turn on and off the lock screen (which is also off by default). You can also toggle an awkwardly named category called "Data Use" between low, medium and high. Presumably this changes how images and data are refreshed and cached.

Most of the other selections just kick you out to the main Facebook and Messenger apps, where you can then edit things like notifications and other broader account settings. Of the entire Home experience, the settings area feels the most tacked on to us. Though this isn't much of a surprise considering how weakly implemented settings have been in Facebook's other apps, you kind of wish there were more options in there. Expect improvements to come with the promised monthly updates to Home.

A place you can call Home?

Facebook Home

Still a little foggy on Facebook Home? That's okay, because it's quite the departure from your standard Android home screen experience. But if you're an even moderately active Facebook user, it'll only be a matter of minutes before you start to feel comfortable with the way Home displays information. And if you find that it doesn't offer what you want, going back and forth between Home and any other launcher couldn't be easier.

 

Reader comments

Your guide to Facebook Home

34 Comments

I was really surprised at how much I like facebook home. It has a cool novelty about it. I used it for a while but eventually switched back to a more conventional launcher.
Would be much cooler if it used data from twitter, google+, tumblr, and all those places rather than just facebook

I think a lot of people will feel the same way. It's a novelty. Unless you are a hardcore, 24/7 Facebooker, Home will be a hindrance more than anything.

I can see this appealing to those 5% of friends that are 90% of the activity on Facebook. The rest may be reluctant to install it for fear they may be viewed as one of the 5%.

Considering Facebook's determination to monetize mobile, this is likely going to start to include much advertising in the not too distant future. This, of course, after they feel people are hooked on it and won't leave.

Must be a slow news day. Next up: Line by line, code by code; The inner programming of how FaceBook Home actually works!

This is a website that covers all things android, facebook home is the big release of the week they are going to cover it to give a well rounded explanation for both newbies and power users. That being said multiple articles are necessary, if you don't care about Facebook home don't read the article and move on. If it's too much for you find your news elsewhere.

Given your original comment you are the smart ass. Don't give people who are doing their jobs shit if you can't take criticism in return.

I installed it to try it out. I have to be honest the animations are very smooth and it runs really well. Not for me though. I am not that involved with facebook to use this. My teenage daughter likes it however and I can see teenagers as being the targeted demographic. I like my widgets too much to use this launcher. Honestly it almost felt like I was using an iPhone as you have to now actually open an app to get information rather than a widget that pulls it for you--I know that is a harsh comparison however it just gave me that feeling. With all of that being said I give kudos to Zuckerberg for trying something different in the android landscape and I like the approach.

I used it for about 10 minutes then uninstalled. To be honest, out of all the things they updated Messenger was the best thing they did.

@irtechneo, you're so right.
Android was never meant to be an iPhone clone. Leave it to Zuckerberg to pull a Steve Jobs and take away choice while telling you that its good for you.

Im using a hybrid solution that im really enjoying. I checked the option to have Facebook Home show up on the lock screen and set touchwiz as my default home. So basically, Facebook home is my new lockscreen and when im done with the cover feed and messaging I press the home button anf am taken to touchwiz.

I LOVE the fact that I can't install it on my Galaxy Nexus...but it can install perfectly fine on my 3 year old's Nabi 2 tablet lol. I don't know if I would use it anyways to be honest...even with the modified version. I'll use the chat heads more often then anything since people tend to message me with that instead of a text.

@delaghetto225, chat heads works with SMS also. It's great that you can attach pictures from your phone, camera and search into an SMS... neat feature.

Got to admit, I love the chatting heads. Makes me hope Google is watching closely as they design babel.

Catching up on my android central posts for the past few days and it looks like you changed your name to Facebook Home Central :P

It's set by default if you install the app, but what most have done is go into the settings of FB Home, check "See Home When Screen Turns On" and then tap "Turn off FB Home".

This does not replace your lock screen however, if you have one. I turned it off because it added another step to turning on my phone (pin required for my work).

If you ask me Facebook Home is too long a name and Home isn't descriptive enough. I think we should nickname it fHome.

I actually like it. I just set Touchwiz as the default when I press the home key on my Galaxy Note 2. That way, I can Use Home as an excellent lock screen app, and my regular launcher is a home click away.

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I like the new facebook home app.Its great that we try new things and step out the box at times.If anyone is listening please add share to the next update.So at least i can share from facebook home.

So how much did Facebook pay you guys for all this advertising for Facebook Home? You certainly didn't give them all this coverage for free.

Like Engadget and TWIT. It's that they're, well, twits for not getting paid to give Apple so much advertising.