Overnight Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg revealed Facebook Home and the HTC First. Here's everything you need to know about both the software and the phone.
What Is It?
Facebook Home is an Android-based launcher, home screen and lock screen replacement application that ties strongly into Facebook services while still allowing for traditional Android apps to be launched. When you switch your phone on with Facebook Home installed, you'll get a cover-flow style "Coverfeed" display of your Facebook News feed without needing an actual Facebook app.
Facebook Home will also include its own messaging service, called (in rather clunky fashion) "Chatheads". Each Chathead is a picture of your friend that links to a conversation with that friend, whether you're browsing all of your friends or if they send you a message while you're doing something else with your phone. So if you're browsing online or playing Angry Birds, you'll see a picture of Auntie Doris pop up to let you know she wants to tell you something.
The HTC First was the phone that Facebook had been tipped to announce, and, as expected, it's a mid-range handset. Specifically, it's a 4.3 inch Android 4.1 handset with a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor. It's LTE enabled, and while the focus on this morning's event was on the US launch (indicating a likely lack of Australian LTE compatibility), it's also been announced for the UK-based EE LTE service, which uses the same 1800Mhz LTE that Telstra and Optus currently use.
Which devices will it support?
The HTC First isn't the sole home of Facebook Home, however, a point that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was careful to make. It'll be available from the Google Play store from April 12th in the US with support for the HTC One X, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy Note II and Samsung Galaxy S4 ready to go. Facebook announced broad support from a number of other handset manufacturers including ZTE, Sony and Huawei at the event, but didn't name specific devices that would work with Facebook home.
Facebook Home will be a free app from the Google Play store when it launches on April 12th in the US. The local release notes that it'll be available in Australia "in the coming weeks", although whether that means the 13th, which would make sense of the international date line, or later to include some kind of localisation feature isn't yet clear.
In terms of Australian availability, HTC representatives told Gizmodo Australia that
There is no information on Australian availability.
It's being "sold" in the US for $99, but as with all things stateside, that's usually a downpayment on a contract, not an outright purchase price. Given its mid-range specifications, if it does launch here — or if the euro model that works with our LTE bands is imported here — expect it in mid-range price points.
Is It Worth It?
That depends on how much of a Facebook junkie you really are. Android offers Facebook the opportunity to get really deep inside the operating system in a way that Apple, Microsoft or Blackberry would never allow a third party, and that does give it some potential utility if Facebook is your main mobile activity. While it does dig deep, it's still just an Android app, so you can always uninstall it if it annoys you.