Color me surprised: Facebook Home is actually a well designed, slick piece of software. The launcher became available in the Google Play store on Friday afternoon, as expected, and I installed it on my Galaxy Note 2, which is one of five Android phones that initially support the app. Prior to Facebook Home availability, I had installed the updated Facebook Messenger app as well, finding it to be easy to use and filled with some nice features.
In no particular order, here are my first impressions of Facebook Home:
- Having news feed updates and photos on the lock screen almost compel you to double-tap and “Like” these items. There’s simply no barrier between you and the content and I found myself swiping and liking far more than I usually do. (Mission accomplished, Facebook.) I can zip through my news feed very quickly with Facebook Home.
- On the 5.5-inch display of the Note 2, some pictures look like 8-bit .BMP files but that’s not the software’s fault. It’s past time for some phone upgrades with better cameras for some of my friends!
- Upon installing Facebook Home, Google Play noted that no additional permissions are required to use the app. That means Facebook made good on its permissions promise of last week. It also means that whatever permissions you allowed in Facebook carry over to Facebook Home.
- The launcher is very responsive; no less so than the native TouchWiz on my Note 2 or compared to other third-party launchers such as Apex or Nova.
- The PIN security I have set on my Note 2 still works with Facebook Home.
- Chat Heads aren’t bothering me as much as I though they would, although I’ve only had a pair on screen at the same time. It’s easy to remove them in the settings or you can drag them to the bottom of the display to hide them.
- Native Facebook notifications look outstanding on the Home screen. Unfortunately, all other notifications still appear in Android’s notification bar, which isn’t viewable from the Facebook Home screen by default; you can change this in the settings. The HTC First, however — as reviewed by my colleague Om — does integrate system notifications on the Home screen.
- It’s simple to rid your Android of the Facebook Home screen and go back to your phone’s native launcher.
- The overall design is super clean and will bring what I think is the best Facebook experience to Android yet. It’s actually shame if this doesn’t come to iOS; though I don’t think it will, at least not in this form.
- This may have been part of Messenger prior, but I really like the Voice Memo function after testing it out with a few folks. You simply tap and hold a record button, speak aloud your message, let go of the button and send it. The recipient will get an audio file that plays back right in their Messenger app.
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So will I keep Facebook Home? The answer is a definite maybe, which is different from when the software launched. At the time, I said I wouldn’t likely be using it. However, I don’t use that many widgets on my Android phone — if you do, you won’t want this launcher — and I am a Facebook user. Perhaps Facebook has found a home on my phone after all; at least until Google Now expands to become a launcher and information center on its own.