If you haven’t been living under a tech rock for the last couple of weeks you’ve probably heard about Facebook Home, a launcher for Android centered completely around Facebook. Facebook home was officially announced a few weeks ago with US release late last week. While I’m not usually a fan of Facebook I did find myself strangely excited about Facebook Home. I think this is because I love technical inovation over pretty much all else, as my girlfriend will unhappily attest to, that and I think the launcher is an untapped resource that has the potential to provide massive marketing impact to the company perfects it. However with great a treasure trove comes a great risk of failure, missing the mark on a launcher could be potentially disastrous from a reputation point of view if done poorly. I think this is probably why very few companies have attempted a launcher and why the majority of of launchers available on Google Play are rehashes of the same ol’ launcher we all know and love with a few tweaks and theming thrown in for good measure. The difficulty faced when creating a launcher is the launcher is arguably the most personal and preferential component of a device. It’s the first screen users see after power up and after an unlock. Then there is the sheer amount of time some users invest in making their launcher “just right”.
The Facebook launcher is a fairly large deviation from the traditional launcher, centring the focus around Facebook Friends rather than apps and widgets. Accessing your apps is still possible but will take an extra action which will takes you into a multipage mini launcher. The mini launcher by default mirror your previous launcher setup, however widgets are no where to be found leaving empty space in their place.
The first thing you notice upon launching facebook home is large full screen comments and photos from your Facebook Friends. Sadly this also means that any pictures they post can and will appear on your homescreen despite them being in good taste or not. Viewing and writing status comments is simple enough by clicking a little overlay on the bottom right of the of the comment which will display a comments popup. Liking is also just as simple by clicking the little thumbs up icon in the bottom right hand corner.
While chat-heads worked okay for me, I’ve heard from a few people that they are sometimes buggy, suffering from large input lag at times. I didn’t notice any lag, but then again I didn’t use the messaging feature beyond a few quick chats for testing purposes.
So how did Facebook do? I’m pleasantly surprised by Facebook Home, it’s not anywhere near as bad as I expected given how long it’s taken them to get a credible native Android app. The overall performance is great, animations are silky smooth, and the launcher itself is well thought out. I also really dig the chat-heads (even if they are a little annoying at times). More to the point I can honestly say I get what Facebook is trying to do with this launcher, and overall I think they did it fairly well. It definitely won’t be replace my launcher, I need widgets, and I need them front and center. I also don’t like the feeling of allowing my Facebook Friends dictate what appears on my home screen. BUT that’s okay, to paraphrase Phil Nickerson from Android Central, I’m not the target audience. For the right type of person I think this launcher will be a great addition to their phone.