Facebook Home Review : Launcher Screengrabs, How Chat Heads Work, RAM Consumption

A little earlier this April, the XDA-Developers site released a patched apk for Facebook Home which would make it available to select devices outside US.

If your device is not among those listed in the earlier post, you can always modify your build.prop settings to bypass the app checking (That's if your device is rooted. If not, then you'd have to root it - but do that at your own risk).

I've installed the much talked about launcher on my Samsung Galaxy SIII and off hand, I can tell you that Home is a beautiful concept which still needs a lot of work.

Here's a run-down of what you will be seeing on Facebook’s new "Home" on Android:

Upon starting the app, you will be greeted by your friends' status updates presented via the Cover Feed, which has animated images taken from your friends' profiles, slowly panning sideways.

Kindly click screengrabs for full resolution view.

Keeping your finger pressed against the screen enables you to view the full-sized image on the corresponding status update while flicking your finger left and right lets you see other posts. Double tapping on the selected status, on the other hand, is the equivalent of clicking on the “like” button on desktop.

As I've also mentioned in my initial post, this constant feed of stories from Facebook will also be on your phone's lockscreen. When you turn your screen on and browse through the stories, you will see a little circle with your profile picture in it – that works like a navigation button.

Clicking the little circle and dragging it around the screen, 3 other sub menus that will pop up letting you choose where you want to go or what you want to do next.

Swiping to the right submenu redirects you back to your previous launcher, which also closes the Facebook Home launcher

Swiping to the top submenu, on the other hand, lets you go to Facebook's own version of the app drawer. You'll be greeted by its “main” screen where Facebook’s familiar menu buttons from the original Android app are located.

The apps on this screen are the pre-configured “favorite” apps by Facebook Home. These may also be the same apps placed on your previous launcher, which FB Home picked automatically for easy access

Swiping to the left from the apps menu lets you see all your installed apps while pressing the back button from anywhere in the apps section leads you back to the Cover Feed.

Back to the submenus, swiping right lets you go straight to the Messenger. But wait, it’s still the usual layout? Where are the "Chat Heads" everyone's talking about?

With Facebook’s latest update to its Messenger app, you can have the Chat Heads without even getting Home! How? It's actually a 2-step process: Just press and hold on the contact you want to talk to and a menu will appear. Click “Pop out chat head” option and voila! The messenger app will close and a Chat Head will appear on your screen.

The good thing about Chat Heads is that chatting with many friends will be unobtrusive as the icons will just pile up together and they can even be moved anywhere on the screen.

Notice the difference between this and the previous picture?

Clicking on the Chat Head opens up the conversation. You’ll feel at home here because it still uses the same layout as the normal messenger app. After typing your message you can just swipe up to minimize the conversation back to being Chat Head icon.

Clicking on the other Chat Head beside it opens that part of the conversation

Once you’re done chatting, you can close the Chat Head by pressing your finger on it and tossing it down on top of the x-mark which appears every time you drag the icon around the screen

Well, there’s the quick tour of Facebook Home. Now, here are some things that I found out while using this app:
  • There is no actual search bar available on Facebook Home. However, you can search for your friends and other pages using the original Facebook app.
  • Also, you can’t search for your apps from the app drawer or a web search for that matter. You have to go back to your original launcher to do that.
  • There is no actual camera shortcut integrated into Facebook Home, which is odd. Since Facebook already owns Instagram and Facebook is also about sharing photos, I wonder why they don't have one on their own launcher?
  • Even though keeping your finger on the screen lets you view the full sized image shown on your Cover Feed, there is no way to view it in landscape mode. Cover feed also doesn't support pinch to zoom gestures
  • There is no widget and folder capability with Facebook Home.
  • Unlike the original Facebook app, you cannot manually refresh the stories on your Cover Feed and once you have left off on a certain event (such as a status update), you will find yourself back to where you started. There is no “back to top” button or gesture which means you have to manually swipe back to newer stories.
  • The messenger, Facebook and Home consume quite an large amount of RAM (Not ideal for those on units with only 512 MB of RAM, which explains why only a few flagship Android devices support Home upon launch.)
See that? Almost 50 MB just for Facebook’s trio of apps

All things considered, I would recommend Facebook Home to those who truly love Facebook and want the site to be the central theme of their smartphone experience. The animations and transitions are truly beautiful; I can't argue with that. However, like what I noted above, a lot of work still needs to be done to make it a mature launcher that would also work wonderfully even apart from its 'Facebook functionality' like searching for other apps or supporting various widgets.

How about you, TP friends? Has anyone else tried out Facebook Home? How was your experience with the launcher? Let us know in the comments below.

#TPWriterFellows Batch 1 Member and DLSU student, Nico Aguila is the self-proclaimed 'official' tech support guy of his friends. He's always ready to give you tips and tricks with Android devices and even gives you advice on which phone or tablet you should get whether it be running on Android, iOS, or Windows Phone operating system. Nico sees TechPinas as the best tech website in the Philippines and also as his safe haven when he reads tech news that is happening in the country. When he graduates, Nico plans to find a stable job in tech, have a family when he can, and of course, expose his future kids to technology and TechPinas so that they'll enjoy great bonding times together.