Facebook Home gets cozy on your phone

Facebook Home is CEO Mark Zuckerberg & Friends' newest way to engage you on Android smartphones and tablets. A free, downloadable app, Facebook Home replaces your home screens with a rotating feed of friends' photos and status updates, and making your friends the center of your mobile world. Facebook calls this slideshow the Cover Feed.

Facebook Home also comes preinstalled on some devices, like on this HTC First.

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Two ways to get it

Where Facebook Home is preloaded, like on this HTC First, logging in to Facebook is part of the setup process. Otherwise, you'll download Facebook Home from the Google Play store. You'll also need Facebook Chat and Facebook's mobile app installed for everything to work in concert.
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Logging in

This is the second log-in screen you'll see before Facebook Home becomes a fixture on your device.
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Lock screen optional

The software's default mode replaces your lock screen, so that Facebook Home -- and your Facebook-stylized notifications -- are the first thing you see when you wake up your phone. You can also adjust the settings to reinstate your lock screen.
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Swipe away

Although Facebook Home displays your notifications in a new way, you can also opt to keep your Android notifications in the pull-down tray. Swipe notifications away to dismiss them and double-tap to open.
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Comments made easy

Upping your engagement with Facebook is what Home is all about. Do that easily by "liking" an update or leaving a comment right from Home's Cover Feed.
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Say your piece

In addition to adding a comment, you can also review what others said.
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Finger on the pulse

The large, animated thumbs-up and its accompanying popping sound make doling out Facebook compliments pretty darn satisfying.
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Navigating around

To do more, tap the home button, then slide your profile icon left, up, or right to open your apps, open Facebook Messenger, or return to your previously opened app.
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Meet the launcher

Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to call up Facebook Home's app launcher. In addition to housing your app shortcuts, the launcher also hosts buttons to check into a location, update your status, and open the photo-uploader app.
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Wait, where am I?

Unfortunately, tapping your status message loops you into this update composition window, which feels graphically outdated by comparison. The same disappointment applies to using Facebook Messenger and opening the Facebook mobile app.
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Upload photos to Facebook

Facebook's photo uploader tool finds its way onto Facebook Home as a shortcut in the app launcher. You'll be able to shoot photo and video from here, and select pictures from the camera gallery to upload to Facebook. Anything you shoot directly from this app saves into a Facebook sub folder in your Gallery.
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Apps launcher, part two

The launcher screen holds shortcuts only; for a full list of your installed apps, swipe over to the left, then scroll up and down.
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Get your chat on

I'm not sure what possessed Facebook to name its new chat experience Chat Heads, but the feature has a lot to like. Chat Heads float above the surface, so you can chat while you look at any screen -- a game, your e-mail, photos of babies and French bulldog puppies, you get it. Chat Heads appear when friends reach out through Facebook Chat or SMS; a badge appears when new messages await.
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Stacking Chat Heads

If you've got more than one Chat Head rolling around, you can expand them to toggle back and forth, or collapse them on on top of the other to save on space.
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Chatting interface

The chat interface is pretty nice to look at, supports plenty of multimedia options, and gives you loads of emoticons to impress and entertain (keep scrolling right for more and more).
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Move it, buddy

You can hold and drag a Chat Head anywhere on the screen to get it out of your way.
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Snap to attention

It'll adhere to the sides of your screen, not the middle, so you can actually flick it around with some force.
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Chat over!

Closing a Chat Head is a swipe away.
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Force a conversation

It isn't immediately obvious you can do this, but to open a Chat Head bubble in Facebook Home, hold and press the contact name in Facebook Messenger. It won't populate much until someone responds, but at least you'll be ready when that person does.
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More settings

You'll have some say over Chat Heads in the notifications settings, like if you want to be able to access it from other apps (you do).
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How to tweak Home

It's easy to change settings in Facebook Home. Press the Menu button, then Home Settings.
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What you can do

The settings menu includes toggles to show or hide your Android status bar, put Home in front of or behind the lock screen, and even turn Home off.
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Dial data up or down

A submenu gives you control over image quality, which also ties into refresh rate and the overall data you use. Facebook will cap your usage for you at each level. Those with unlimited data plans should pick the highest option to make the most of Home.
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