updated 01:59 pm EDT, Thu April 4, 2013
Android launcher brings messages from contacts in front of apps
Facebook has officially announced its previously leaked, social network-based launcher, one that is said to center the experience around people rather than apps. The Facebook Home launcher replaces the typical home screen seen on Android, and brings conversations with contacts to the foreground, rather than leaving them confined inside individual applications.
The home screen, titled Cover Feed, will show a number of updates from the user's Facebook feed. Photos and statuses can be liked by tapping on the background, a comment button lies towards the bottom of the screen, while notifications from within Facebook as well as call and message notifications will appear in the center region. Holding the profile photo at the bottom of the screen brings up options for a messages menu, the app menu, and a shortcut to the last application used.
A contact system called Chat Heads will appear from the right-hand side of the screen when inbound messages come in, regardless of whether or not the user is in an application. New messages bring up a Chat Head along with an unread messages counter, and by tapping the contact, it brings up the conversation thread and fills most of the screen. Group chats will also appear as an individual Chat Head.
It will initially be available on the HTC One, HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Note II, as well as the HTC First smartphone, announced at the same launch event, but more compatible devices will be added in the future, including tablets within "several months." HTC, AT&T, Samsung, and Sony have also signed up to the Facebook Home Program, which will help phone manufacturers with adding the launcher to their phones.
In an effort to keep the launcher current, Facebook will be releasing updates to Facebook Home every month to expand the range of phones it will be available on, as well as adding new features. The first download will be available through Google Play for the initial wave of handsets on April 12th, with users on compatible handsets also receiving a notification through the standard Facebook app itself.