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Facebook makes 'Home' for Android phones

New software enables social media giant's content to appear on Andriod's home screen rather than accessed through apps.

Last Modified: 05 Apr 2013 07:19
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Facebook's new software for Android has a highly visual design and interface featuring a multitude of pictures [AFP]

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has unveiled a new product for Android phones, a service called "Home" that brings the social media websites content to the phone's home screen, rather than requiring users to check apps on the device.

The 28-year-old billionaire launched the new software on Thursday in California.

It lets users comprehensively modify Android, the mobile operating system developed by Google, to prominently display their Facebook newsfeed and messages on the home screens of a wide range of devices while hiding other apps.

"On one level, this is just next mobile version of Facebook," Zuckerberg told the hundreds of reporters and industry executives gathered at the company's Menlo Park campus.

"At a deeper level, this can start to be a change in the relationship with how we use these computing devices," he said.

Instead of traditional wallpaper or a lock screen, users with Home installed will see a new Facebook cover feed that displays a rolling ticker-tape of photos, status updates - and eventually, ads - from Facebook's network.

The Home software will be available for download for free from Google Play from April 12.

In addition, AT&T Inc has exclusive rights to sell for $100 the first handsets, made by Taiwan's HTC Corp, that come pre-installed with the software starting the same day. France Telecom's Orange will be offering the phone in Europe.

People who used the software and the HTC phone on Thursday appeared impressed by the highly visual design and interface that featured a multitude of pictures.

But analysts say the jury is still out on whether Home has appeal beyond habitual Facebook users.

"Facebook thinks it's more important to people than it actually is," said Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Golvin said that in markets like Spain and Brazil, mobile users spend far more time in messaging apps like Whatsapp compared to the Facebook app.

"For the vast majority of people, Facebook just isn't the be-all and end-all of their mobile experience. It's just one part," he said. "I see a more apathetic response among Facebook users than Facebook might be expecting."

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