Facebook Home brings social media to the forefront of Android phones

The Facebook Home software has started rolling out to Android devices around the world, propelling the social networking site to the centre of millions of smartphones.

Facebook Home launched on the HTC First earlier this month and comes skinned on top of Google’s Android mobile platform, completely changing the overall look and feel of the operating system (OS).

The software brings the experience of Facebook to the homescreen and lockscreen of Android-laden mobile phones, meaning users can scroll through photos and status updates without having to unlock the handset.

Facebook Chat has also been enhanced and sees ‘Chat Heads’ popping up on the screen in a little bubble when users get a new direct message.

Users of other Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S III, can also get in on the action following the recent launch of Facebook Home in the Google Play Store. The update has, after a short delay, also finally landed here in the UK, but initial reviews of the software indicate a somewhat lukewarm reaction to the software.

First Impressions – According to social network analyst Synthesio, during the unveiling of Facebook Home 57,000 comments were generated, of which only 9.4% were positive. While this may seem like an impressive figure this is just a small fraction of the 323,000 mentions collated during the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Catriona Oldershaw, Synthesio managing director, said: “There was a very clear disconnect between what consumers expected the announcement to be about and what was actually revealed.

“In the run up to the announcement, many people expected a brand new Facebook ‘phone’ to be announced, rather than a new operating system. This goes some way to explaining the rather subdued response online.”

That said, it’s still very early days and it seems likely that once the software from the world’s leading social network has fully rolled out users may be more open to the changes it brings to their handsets.

Social leader – Since launching in 2004 Facebook’s popularity has spiralled out of control, and even with the likes of Twitter and Google+ hot on its heals the site shows no sign of shifting from the top spot just yet.

During December 2012 Facebook revealed it was seeing more than a billion monthly active users, 82% which are outside the US and Canada. An impressive 680 million of these users are accessing the site using mobile apps.

It is thanks to these mobile apps that more users than ever are able to frequently check their profiles. Research firm IDC found that on average, users are checking their Facebook up to 14 times every day, and spending at least half an hour on the site on a daily basis.

Not only does this indicate the huge rise in social media over the last few years but it also demonstrates that there is a substantial demand from users to have their Facebook accounts at their fingertips.

As users have already witnessed, new software roll outs on Google’s Android OS can be sporadic but Facebook is showing no signs of limiting itself to just one developer – rumours that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is in talks with Apple and Microsoft are also doing the rounds.

Still early days – Zuckerberg announced earlier this month that he’s looking for other ways to keep users engaged with Facebook, something he clearly feels Apple, one of the world’s leading smartphone manufacturers, could help him achieve.

There is no doubt that if Facebook Home comes to the iPhone, it would need to be re-crafted to meet Apple’s strict requirements. But, it seems Apple is already starting to test the water and users of stand-alone Facebook applications for the iPhone and iPad can now update their software to enable those ‘Chat Heads’ mentioned earlier.

Facebook clearly wants to take advantage of the growing number of users accessing the social network on their small screens, and it seems the firm is happy to modify its software if it means being able to make its mark on smartphones other than those running Google’s OS.

Now that Facebook Home is available on other Android handsets in the UK (which ranks as the seventh largest country for Facebook users) it will soon start to become apparent as to whether the site has what it takes to achieve the same success in the mobile market as it has done in bringing social media to the masses.

Thanks to Sarah Hazelwood of Dialaphone, the home of all the latest smartphones including the Sony Xperia Z. You can see how Facebook Home puts your friends at the heart of your phone in the video below this article.