From installation to juggling Chat Heads, take our photo tour before settling into Facebook Home.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, tapping your status message loops you into this update composition window, which feels graphically outdated by comparison.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.