Facebook held its highly anticipated press-event this afternoon in California, which offered visitors a look into a whole new interface for Android devices. The new system is a total redesign of how people can interact with their phones, all by using Facebook’s new Home Screen feature and Chat Heads functions.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage first, and wasted no time in clarifying the rumors of an incoming Facebook phone by starting off the event saying “Today we’re finally gonna talk about that Facebook phone”. He then quickly added, “More accurately,” the company will show you how to turn “your Android phone” into a Facebook-centric device.
Facebook introduced ‘Facebook Home’, which is the new home-screen that can be easily added to Android Phones, though it works with, not replaces, the Android operating system you currently have. As Zuckerberg pointed out, Facebook has over a billion users, if they ever sold phone (at best estimates) it would only reach about 2% of that user-base. Zuckerberg stated, “A great phone might sell 10 or 20 million units at best, but our community has over 1 billion people. Even if we built a really good phone, we’d only be serving one percent”. So instead, Facebook is setting out to improve the phones you already have, and it seems like a truly revolutionary concept.
Many of the concepts are familiar, but easier to control. Messaging for example is done anywhere (not just a notification that sends you to the messaging application). In the new UI, a small round profile picture-icon of your contant, with the notification, will pop-up on your screen. You can save them for later, respond, read the message or close the notifications no matter what application you are in. No more leaving what you are doing because someone messages you.
The ‘Home Screen’ becomes a beautiful coverfeed, allowing you to scroll through updates, read comments and tap-to-respond to those comments right from the home screen on your phone. Although this is your new home screen, you can easily switch to your standard ‘app-screen icons’ in a simple swipe, giving you the ability to launch an app with ease.
These text-messages or notifications are called Chat-Heads, they are the small text-notifications which are a profile picture of your contact that you can quickly reply to in any application. More than one chat-head can appear at any time, and you can easily click on each one with a window containing their conversation popping up for you to respond. This allows you to hold multiple conversations, check on multiple notifications, all without leaving the screen that you are currently on. If you do get a notification like an Instagram picture, you can click on it and it will automatically open the application. You can move where these profile pictures are so they are never in the way, and you can hide them, delete them, or group them, all with easy gestures.
It’s a pretty fantastic approach to our overbearing notification system, which over time, has become more and more congested. The new UI is optional, and seems to be as simple as a future update. Right now it is only planned for Android but other OS have not been ruled out.