Social networks are becoming extremely prevalent in our daily lives and people check them from their bed as soon as they wake up. Many need to be constantly connected to their friends and share what’s happening with them. With this need to keep in touch with friends, it only makes sense to access this kind of information more easily.
Facebook Home offers to replace your Android launcher with a new social experience that ensures you’re always aware of your friends’ activities. With this home screen, a quick glance lets you see their photos and posts and your Facebook notifications. It definitely becomes easier to know what your friends are up to and interact with them, but is it worth ditching your current launcher?
It’s hard to deny Facebook Home isn’t innovative, as the move to replace a launcher is clearly bolder than simply releasing a regular application. A home screen is what you see first when you unlock your screen, it therefore needs to fit your needs and look appealing enough for people to use it.
Facebook definitely got this one right: the launcher looks great as it displays posts in full screen and animates them for your eyes’ pleasure. The captions and details appear in a minimalistic way, so you can focus on the image itself. Interactions such as comments and likes are shown at the bottom in a very discreet manner. Facebook wanted to remove any kind of clutter from the screen and designed it with consistency in mind. They even preferred to hide the notification bar and make it appear only when reaching for it, although there is still an option to display it at all times.
The home screen displays recent posts in a gorgeous way
Facebook home also supports notifications and displays them in a sleek and homogeneous way. They appear in the foreground, with the rest of your feed remaining in the back. You may be wondering if all of your notifications will appear, or if only Facebook ones will be taken into consideration. Of course, Facebook notifications will appear directly on your home screen, so you’re always informed of people commenting on your posts or liking your pictures. Messages notifications will also be displayed within the launcher. These can be Facebook Messages as well as SMS communications. Indeed, Facebook Home integrates with Facebook Messenger, which can now be set as your default SMS application.
Facebook and message notifications appear directly on your homescreen
Facebook Home also makes it easy to browse your feed: you simply swipe left or right to view posts, as if you were going through a photo album. The launcher also gives you the ability to comment and like posts directly from your home screen. This can be done the traditional way or by double tapping on an image — yes, the same way as in Instagram. Like in the actual Facebook application, you can see how many people liked a post, who they are and what comments they posted. You can even see how many mutual friends you have and send them a friend request straight from Facebook Home. Similarly, you can share a status, a picture or check in directly from your launch screen, thanks to built-in shortcuts.
You can comment and like directly from your home screen
You’re probably thinking this looks nice, but will also consume tremendous amounts of data to download all of the media. Thankfully, Facebook gives you the ability to set a data consumption level, without letting you actually put a size limit — the application will probably download lesser quality images to restrict data usage.
… That’s Far From Being Perfect
Facebook Home seems like a great launcher, but can it actually replace your original one? You know, the one that had widgets, folders and custom icons… Most people change launchers because they need more features and/or customization. However, while Facebook Home does offer a certain number of Facebook-centered features, does it keep up with the competition in terms of features?
To being with, the launcher could have been better integrated with Facebook. Although it lets you comment and like posts, you can’t share a post directly from Facebook Home. Worse, there is no shortcut to a specific post and the easiest way to share one is to click on someone’s name — which opens the Facebook application, find the post on their timeline and share it from there. Likewise, there is no special way of displaying what your close friends are doing. Surely, Facebook could have thought of a special Hub to only show posts from these people. They could also take the idea even further and let you limit which lists or people should appear in Facebook Home, as you definitely don’t want to see posts from everyone in there!
But there is much worse than mediocre integration with Facebook: the launcher doesn’t even have many of the basic features any home screen should have! Using Facebook Home means you’ll have to get rid of your widgets and your folders — the latter may not be a problem if you like messy screens. If you were used to having calendar, email and Twitter widgets to see what was going on at a glance, you’ll have to forget about these. Thankfully, Facebook Home has an option to switch to your original launcher in just a click, but using two home screens isn’t the best solution. There is also no option to customize Facebook Home: while not being able to add a wallpaper makes sense, there is no option to change anything about the appearance of the launcher.
The Facebook Home settings screen — notice how limited the options are
To finish, there are two other minor points Facebook should consider working on. When on the launch screen, posts don’t scroll automatically, which means you have to manually move from one to another. This makes a lot of sense in the actual application, but tends to go against the home screen’s spirit where some sort of automatic slideshow scrolling would make a lot of sense. A more serious issue is the lock screen, which is actually the launcher itself without any actual unlocking mechanism. This opens the door to accidentally liking posts or performing unwanted actions, making it a problem when using Facebook Home.
Should You Use It?
Now that you have an idea of what Facebook Home looks like, what it can and can’t do, let’s consider whether you should use it or not.
You’re looking for a gorgeous launcher
You constantly monitor your Facebook feed
Facebook notifications are essential to you
You want to be constantly connected to your Facebook friends
You’re tired of the classic launcher experience
You need a very basic launcher
You don’t use folders and widgets.
You’re the occasional Facebook user
Getting quick access to your apps and widgets is more important than seeing friend updates
You need a user friendly home screen
You want to have widgets on your screen
You’re limited to using it on a professional phone
You don’t want Facebook to be predominant on your phone
You want your launcher to be at least slightly organized
Your regular app notifications matter more than Facebook.
My Two Cents
Facebook Home is a gorgeous home screen that lets you see what you friends are up to and easily share and interact with them. However, the launcher itself shouldn’t even be called a home screen given the many features it lacks and the limitations it has. Using it for a day or two can be fun, but setting it as a main launcher makes accessing applications harder and removes support for widgets and folders.
If you need to be aware of what your friends are doing straight from your home screen but can’t cope with Facebook Home’s limitations, you can still use another launcher and put a Facebook widget on your main screen. It may not look as nice as Facebook Home, but will let you organize your screen the way you want. In all cases, it’s important to keep in mind this is the first release of Facebook Home, and we’re sure it will become better in future versions.