Technology

04.04.13

Facebook Is Invading Your Phone

Facebook doesn’t want to build your next phone—it wants to run it. Meet Facebook “Home.”

It’s a phone! It’s an app! It’s...just an app.

The long-awaited Facebook phone has finally arrived, making its debut Thursday afternoon to a crowd of tech journalists sitting at the social network’s headquarters at 1 Hacker Way in Menlo Park, California.

“Today we’re finally gonna talk about that Facebook phone,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said as he strode on the stage to muted laughter, clutching an oversized microphone, citing the moniker that for years has followed Facebook’s gradual prioritization of mobile.

Would it be hardware designed by Zuck? Would it just be a Facebook button?

We know now the “Facebook Phone” moniker is a misnomer. It’s just a collection of apps called “Home”—and it can live on any Android device.

“Today our phones are designed around apps, not people,” the hoodie-wearing Zuckerberg proclaimed. Rather than an app-centric phone, he asked, what would it feel like if our phones were designed around people?

Facebook Home will be deeply integrated, with your friends’ photos, faces, and messages displayed front and center, on what Zuckerberg calls “a great social phone.”

There is Cover Feed, which brings your lock screen to life. There are Chat Heads, a new way of messaging with friends and family. And there’s App Launcher, which keeps you close lest your mind were to wander to an app outside of Facebook’s environment.

Cover Feed transforms your phone’s lock screen by making it a rotating gallery of ever-present Facebook photos on which you can “like” and leave comments.

With Chat Heads, SMS and Facebook messages display on top of any app you’re already using, with your friends coming up as circular profile pictures (thus the name Chat Heads).

And then there’s the App Launcher, which contains all of the apps on your phone—in the demo this pointedly included Google Maps, Tumblr, DropBox, and other potential competitors. In a sense it’s a replacement for your home screen, so you never leave Home.

The software will be available for download beginning April 12 on a variety of Android phones. In a few months, you can get it for tablets as well.

Underscoring the company’s commitment to being mobile first, with Wall Street investors anxiously looking on, Zuckerberg proclaimed, "We think this is the best version of Facebook there is."

He later added, “At one level, this is just the next mobile version of Facebook. At a deeper level this will start to be a change to the relationship with how we use these computing devices.”

In other words, Zuck wants to make his relationship with your phone “Facebook official.” The question is, will you hit accept?