Rumors of a Facebook phone have been flying around since 2010. The following year, HTC released the HTC ChaCha (also known as the HTC status) and the HTC Salsa. The build and design resembled other HTC phones released at the time but they both had a dedicated Facebook button that would glow if it can be used with the active app. Basically, Facebook did massive contributions in the software end while HTC handled the hardware and retained the Android experience. Of course, these phones werent exactly what the press were hoping for. The circulated rumors were more focused on Facebook actually releasing a branded Facebook phone complete with its own operating system or at least a fork of Android. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg kept denying those rumors of building a Facebook phone but that didnt stop the media from spreading more rumors.
Then on March 28, 2013, Facebook made a surprise announcement to tech journalists to come see our new home on Android. This added fire to more rumors regarding Facebooks partnership with HTC and willingness to do a real Facebook phone. During the actual event, Facebook and HTC announced the HTC First which will be the first phone to run the upcoming Facebook Home software the star of the Facebook phone experience. Here is what you should know about the new Facebook phone.
The HTC First doesnt emphasize on specifications because that is what the HTC One is for. The 4.3-inch phone features a 720p display, 16 GB of storage space, a gig of memory and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.4 GHz.
While this phone runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, it has Facebook Home preinstalled. Facebook Home is essentially a launcher that replaces the standard lockscreen and home screen with an interface that deeply integrates Facebooks core services. Right from the lockscreen, you can see any missed call notifications and new Gmail messages. The top portion of the lockscreen shows news feed items with the background showing an image associated with the feed. The lockscreen is interactive so you can read or cycle through news feed items through gestures without even unlocking the phone. Double-tapping a news feed item instantly likes the news feed item. Touching the circular profile picture shows you the swipe options for loading things like the app launcher and the Facebook messenger. Facebook calls this new experience the Cover Feed.
Unlike other Facebook launchers, Facebook Home focuses on people rather than apps. This means you wont be able to do things like add Android widgets to the home screen (at least for the meantime). The people aspect is highlighted when you use the integrated Facebook messenger. Whenever you receive a message from a Facebook friend, a circular icon containing the friends profile picture shows up. Facebook refers to these icons as Chat heads and they offer an easy way to engage in conversations. Even if you are focused in another app such as your Web browser, the chat head can appear so you can immediately shift your attention to that user.
What you should know about the new Facebook phone is the fact that there is no real Facebook phone. Facebooks goal is to turn all phones into Facebook phones through the Facebook Home app. US owners with Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, HTC One or HTC One X phones can install the app directly from the Play Store on April 12th. Of course the HTC First will come with Facebook Home out of the box although you can disable it. In the future, more phones and even tablets should support this new Facebook app.