Facebook Home is going to launch tomorrow.
What is it? It’s a replacement Android launcher that takes over nearly every part of your phone. It changes your lock screen, it changes your home screen, it changes your app launcher, and it also installs this neat little messaging client called “Chat Heads”.
There’s a high probability that I’m not going to install this on my Galaxy Note II since I only use Facebook a few times a month, but at the same time I understand that lots of you spend your entire lives on this particular social network.
With that, here are what three of my favorite websites have to say about Facebook Home and the first device that’ll come with it pre-installed, the HTC First.
Starting with Ars.Technica, Florence Ion’s review focuses on the device itself. She says it’s “a nice looking phone”, but she doesn’t like that the USB port is on the side of the device, making it difficult to use while charging. She’s also a bit shocked at how small it is compared to the smartphone she’s used to, the Galaxy S3. Luckily for her, there’s an option to crank up the font size.
As for the phone’s speed, she says it’s not as fast as her GS3, but it’s not a problem. What she’s more worried about is how the HTC First will feel in a year when we’ll have phones that are even faster than the GS4 and HTC One.
Moving on to the camera, she says what most everyone says about every phone on the market: Great photos if you have proper lighting, crap photos if you don’t. Her exact quote:
“The photos taken with the handset were more than acceptable for sharing on Facebook, though we wouldn’t suggest using the HTC First as your only point-and-shoot camera. Still, at five megapixels, the camera took more capable photos than some of the newer phones we’ve tested.”
And what about the software? Florence says Chat Heads is easily “the most significant part of Facebook Home”. She didn’t care too much about the new lock screen or the new home screen, saying she preferred using the regular Facebook app since it showed newer content.
Moving on to Engadget, Brad Molen takes a similar approach to Florence. By that I mean his review covers both the HTC First and the Facebook Home software.
Starting with the device, Brad also finds it tiny compared to what he’s normally used to using, but he likes the device overall, citing the curved body and the “playful” design. And when it comes to performance, “the First is just as good — if not better — than Sammy’s 2012 flagship in most of the benchmarks we ran.”
Moving on to the camera, you know what he’s going to say, right?
“Low-light shots didn’t live up to the expectations set by the specs, many daylight images suffered from soft focus and the level of detail was less than pleasing.
And finally the software. How is Home itself? Brad calls it “nothing more than a really fancy Android app launcher.” Cover Feed, Facebook’s term for the new lock screen, showed him some great photos from his friends, but he also notes there were times when he was shocked to see “flesh wounds and zombies in bikinis” when taking his phone out of his pocket.
Like Florence, Brad also calls Chat Heads one of Facebook Home’s “greatest strengths”. He notes that it’s not just for Facebook Messaging, but also SMS, something that I’m personally pleased to hear, but I’m still not going to install this thing on my phone.
So overall, what did Brad think? He says it’s a great 1.0 product, but it’s not for him since he’s not that into Facebook. I have a feeling you’ll be reading similar comments everywhere.
The Verge – Hardware
Dieter Bohn reviews Facebook Home and the HTC First in two separate articles, something I wish both Ars.Technica and Engadget did since I doubt many of you care about HTC’s new phone. But assuming you do, let’s start with the hardware.
The First is “is a pleasure to hold.” Unlike Florence or Brad, Dieter prefers having a smaller phone. He likes that the First reminds him of the iPhone 3G/3GS, and even goes so far as to call describe it as “almost classic in its simplicity”.
The screen, at 4.3 inches with a 720p resolution, is great, he says. “Viewing angles are pretty ridiculous, too.” His only complaint is that it’s damn near useless outside. Something I can say about almost every phone I’ve ever used. And the camera, Dieter says “it takes better shots than I expected”, but he too notes that it needs near perfect lighting and you can forget about using it in the dark.
How fast is the First? Dieter actually has some complaints. He says it isn’t like a GS3 at all, that it’s more like an iPhone 4, which is OK, but then you use an iPhone 4S and notice how much smoother things can be. His exact words:
“The First is totally acceptable but not a screamer.”
At the end of the day, does he like the device? No. He says he can’t recommend it, but then again he acknowledges that there is a market for it. And hey, if you want stock Android and access to AT&T’s network, just buy the First and uninstall Home. Done.
The Verge – Software
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for, and I’d like to begin with a quote:
“As a home screen, Facebook Home is definitely a mixed bag. However, the second part of Home is a big update to Facebook Messenger that changed the way I talk to people on my smartphone. It’s called “Chat Heads,” which is a stupid name for a great idea. Instead of having to constantly switch into your texting app, your ongoing conversations are immediately available no matter what you’re doing on your phone.
That’s about the only good thing he has to say about Facebook Home. Like me, and like many others, he’s just not that into Facebook. He does acknowledge that some people might like Home, but even then, he says he’s unsure that Home, in its current state, is good enough to recommend.
Facebook said they’re going to update Facebook Home once a month. When it launches tomorrow, I’m not going to install it. I’m probably not even going to install version 2 or version 3. That being said, I’ll repeat myself for the nth time, I understand that some people are really into Facebook.
Maybe they’ll try Home at some point, maybe they won’t, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that the Facebook app is more than enough for most folks. Chat Heads seems to be a much loved feature, and I’m sure it’s a UI paradigm that’ll be copied at some point down the road by other chat services. It might even be baked into a future version of Android if Google feels like getting back at Facebook.
But has Facebook done something innovative here? Yes, they have, and I’ll be following Home’s progress closely, but as it stands right now I’m just not convinced.