A Weekend With Facebook Home
When Facebook came out with their Facebook Home announcement, I was intrigued. I am a pretty active Facebook user, so I figured this was an update/app/whatever I could get behind. Since then, we’ve waxed poetic about Facebook Home on many occasions. We’ve even demonstrated how to install in on non-approved devices worldwide.
Now, I’ve had some quality snuggle time with Facebook Home on my Galaxy S III. I installed in on Friday, just before the Pocketnow Live and used it up to, and including the time I’m writing this. And then I planned to remove it and never look back. Facebook Home brings a lot to the table, but also leaves a lot out. It’s got a great concept with a flawed execution which is fortunately compensated for by Android itself.
Facebook Home is a really great, really immersive experience. It is really a lot of fun flipping through my news feed, double tapping to like, and commenting straight from the lock screen. The use of the photos in the background really do bring a normally mundane status update to life and make it far more interesting. The Facebook notifications are really well done, the face drag to unlock concept is also a very nice implementation.
Chatheads, while not strictly a part of Facebook Home, was introduced at the same time as Facebook Home, so it usually follows in the same breath. ChatHeads is a wonderful piece of software in just about every way. Over the weekend, ChatHeads was the most useful and shown off feature of my Facebook Home experience.
There’s always a “However” isn’t there?
However, Facebook Home should have stopped at the lock screen. Because the rest, is just not for me.
One of Facebook Home’s major flaws is in its launcher, which is ironic since Facebook Home is essentially a launcher. The problem is that, while there are customizable “Home Screens”, they can only display apps. The home screens do not support folders, widgets, or web URL shortcuts. Or at least I will confirm that when I installed Facebook home, all of MY widgets, folders, and web URL shortcuts were nowhere to be found. The contents of the folders were there, scattered about in a seemingly what-would-be-the-most-inconvenient distribution.
It was, put simply, a mess.
The app launcher itself is also bare bones and boring. The list of all apps is your typical 4 column scrollable alphabetical list of apps. Which is fine except when you just launched Amazon Kindle, and then want to launch Zapper. That’s right, A-Z of annoyance. Scroll….scroll….scroll….scroll….Sheesh.
All this was done so that Facebook could install a persistent Status Update/Photo Post/Check-in bar at the top of every page of the launcher. Seriously. One widget to rule them all.
Don’t get me wrong. For the Facebook-aholic, this is a dream come true. I get to open my phone, see a beautiful experience with all my besties, and then with a swipe and a tap, I’m uploading my very own bathroom mirror pic! Or I can check in at Starbucks before they’ve even finished making my mocha. Who care about those stupid widgamijiggers? This is FACEBOOK.
Breaking up Is Hard to Do
And to a point I agree. When I decided that I would disable Facebook Home I was going to miss the lock screen part of the software. It really is a better way to Facebook. It’s efficient, it’s clean, it’s beautiful. But the sacrifice of the launcher and all that it’s baggage is too much. That is until I discovered the secret.
Truth be told, I’m not sure how much of a secret it actually is. We will actually be delivering a video showing this soon, but it turns out, you can configure your Android phone to utilize the Lock screen Facebook updates, and also use the launcher of your choice. That changed my entire outlook on the Facebook Home experiment. It’s just too bad it took until the following Monday to make the discovery. I might’ve been nicer on twitter.
Almost, But Not Quite
Overall, Facebook Home seems like a product half finished. While the Lockscreen is a fantastic experience that immerses you into your facebook feed without feeling like it’s being intrusive, the home screen/launcher strips away everything that makes Android a great operating system. It’s ironic that in trying to pursue their own mission of “open and connected” they not only did not achieve open, they undid it.
On the other hand, perhaps they did achieve the “open” paradigm, intentionally or not, by allowing the “launcher loophole”. But that may be more an Android thing than a Facebook thing. Either way, over the weekend, I was fully prepared to write Facebook Home off, but being able to bring the Touchwiz launcher back makes all the difference in the world, so it’ll stay for as long as I’m on Android. I’ll probably even do more Facebook stuff because of it, which should make Mr. Zuckerberg happy. Well played, sir.