"Today we're finally going to talk about that Facebook Phone," said Mark Zuckerberg at a special event Thursday. Except it wasn't just a new phone. It wasn't a new OS either. It was a new kind of way to use your Android. It's called "Home."
"More than 20 percent of our time on our phones is spent on Facebook," said Zuckerberg. "No other activity is close. If you include Instagram, it's over 25 percent."
So what is Home, exactly? Think of it like a user-interface that takes advantage of the things Facebook does best: Photos, messaging — that sort of stuff. It doesn't rejigger Android, either. It just puts Facebook's people-friendly interactions in front of all your apps, taking advantage of Android's openness.
Front and center is a new kind of display Facebook calls Cover Feed. "The homescreen is the soul of your phone," said Zuckerberg. "We think it should be deeply personal." Here's what it looks like:
It basically overlays FB updates on top of photos. It's also where you'll receive your notifications, which stack in order of importance:
How do you get to your other apps, you wonder? Well, when you tap your Face icon at the bottom, you'll call up options for (1) Messenger, (2) Apps, and (3), the last app you used.
Pressing the apps icon calls up up a more familiar-looking nav screen:
The other big new feature is something called Chatheads. It's basically messaging made pretty, roping in your SMS texts and FB messages in one place. Whenever you receive a text, a little floating head pops up. You can move it around. It stays with you wherever you go. You can also tap it to respond to someone.
Facebook also announced a phone called the HTC First. It comes preloaded with Home, and has a 4.3-inch screen, 4G LTE, and is available on AT&T. It'll cost $99.
If you're interested in Home, all you need is the latest version of Android and the most recent version of the Facebook app (and a nice phone, apparently). That'll take you to the Google Play store where you should be able to download Home starting April 12. Home for your tablets should roll out later this year.