So Facebook Home is coming to Android phones. But just the good Android phones. The HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy Note II and the new HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC First for now. That’s it, that’s the list. If your phone is more than a year old, no Facebook Home for you. And that’s how it has to be, really.
The ideas that power Facebook Home make sense in a lot of ways. Chat heads, the perpetual overlay of your messages as a separate layer on top of other apps, are a good example of how Facebook Home operates. Leave everything at your fingertips, more or less, and let you get at them without interrupting what you’re doing. It’s smart! It’s also likely very, very resource heavy, since you’re basically asking your phone to do whatever it’s doing, plus use chat heads.
Other features, like the Cover Feed carousel, will max out your phones internals, too. And don’t forget, all this integration is going to be running on top of other skins like TouchWiz and Sense. The amount of horsepower you need to keep all of that chugging merrily along is not for the faint of processor.
What doesn’t explicitly drain your hardware will rely on it to be running in tip-top shape. Navigation around Home is completely reliant on swiping and gestures. Not just going from one cover post to another, but accessing your app drawer and messages, clearing notifications, even zooming in or out on cover feed photos — all of them use gestures.
And of course, all of these layers of baubles on top of trinkets inside of gildings will probably obliterate your battery. Which is something you shouldn’t shrug off.
All of Facebook Home’s innovations are good, in a vacuum. The gestures being used seem well considered and generally intuitive. But if you’ve ever tried navigating around an app — say, the Facebook app’s sliding panels — on a phone that’s more than a year or so old, you’ll know where this can go wrong. I’ve been using a Galaxy Nexus on Android 4.2, which labors through Facebook app sessions, and has a heck of a time even firing off the Google Now gesture smoothly.
That’s fine! It’s an older handset at this point. But other homescreens and notification systems let you fall back to software buttons, either the OS’s or the app’s. There’s no such relief here. Which is fine if you own one of the latest and greatest Android handsets out there. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.
The S3 and One X are the oldest models running Home, and those should be more than capable for now. Facebook says it’s adding “more devices in the coming months”. That probably means just newer models that can handle the software load, but if Home does find its way to your old junker, be advised you might just end up with more Facebook than your phone can handle.