Facebook Home was launched by Mark Zuckerberg late on Thursday. Designed to put people before apps the service looks to put Facebook at the forefront of the Android operating system's UI.
V3 managed to get a quick hands on with the device at the London launch event on a Samsung Galaxy S3.
Home effectively works by pushing users Facebook news and updates to the forefront of the Android UI and is designed to let users swipe through news feed stories and updates, akin to the BlinkFeed news feature on the HTC One.
Each swipeable screen updates the background image, pulling either the contacts Facebook profile image or a picture from the image used in the group page post.
The post's text is displayed on the top of the UI while the number of likes is displayed on the bottom right. This means that the UI is very similar to that seen on the current Facebook Android app, meaning existing Facebook users will feel right at home.
Facebook Home also adds a number of custom gesture inputs to Android. These are things like letting you double tap the screen to 'like' the post.
On the S3 we found the gesture inputs were fairly responsive and flipping between screens and liking posts was a seamless chug-free experience, indicating Home won't suffer the same optimisation issues as other custom skins, like Samsung's Touchwiz and HTC's Sense.
Home also features a tracking algorithm that monitors your behaviour on the phone. It does this by tracking which posts you like and how quickly you flip past them, using the data to learn which messages it should push to the forefront of the home screen.
Unfortunately the demo unit we tried had a test account running on it so we didn't get to see how well it worked.
Chat Heads is another key change to the Facebook UI. Chat Heads is designed to further integrate Facebook messenger into the operating system. It does this by displaying any active Facebook contacts and the messages they send to you as little circular icons showing their profile picture at the top of the screen.
The icons, when clicked, automatically opens a chat dialogue with the contact. Unwanted messages can be removed by pulling down on the bottom of the UI.
Chat Heads will reportedly continue to work even when other apps are open. Our one concern with this is that it may make the service fairly power hungry and eat up smartphones battery and memory, potentially causing some performance issues - though to be fair we didn't notice any on the demo unit we were using.
Another key concern with the chat feature at the moment is that it's unclear what security measures the service will boast and whether messages stored on the device will be encrypted as they are on Apple iMessenger.
Nevertheless, we're fairly interested in Facebook Home. The feature is a clear move by Facebook to expand its advertising potential and could potentially be the first stage in a wider expansion by the US firm.
Facebook Home is set to launch on 12 April on the HTC First in the US and be made available to download on key devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, Note 2, HTC One X+ and the forthcoming Galaxy S4 and HTC One.
This is just for the US market at present with no set word on UK availability beyond saying in the "coming weeks".
Check back then for our full review.
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