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Facebook Home: So good it’s bad?

Facebook Home has had an absolutely monumental reception since its announcement last month by Zuckerberg himself. What do we mean by monumental? Huge, expansive, unavoidable. What we certainly don’t mean is unanimously positive. 

With over half a million downloads in little over a week, it’s clearly piqued Android user’s curiosity, but with a Google Play Store rating of just two out of five, not to mention a host of scathing reviews and articles, is all this attention really good attention?

I’ve been using Home for a while now. I side-loaded it onto my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 when the APK first became available a few weeks ago, then side loaded it onto an entry level review device to see how lower specced phones would handle it, and finally on the HTC First, which I’ve been using for a week and enjoying on the whole.

Prior to our HTC First review going live, there wasn’t much need to cover Facebook Home in any more detail than we already had on Recombu, until a tweet I sent out last night prompted a response from Facebook’s people.

Why tweet that?

It should be pretty obvious why I felt the need to share that. The feeling that overcame me when I realised I was the one person to like a gut wrenching Facebook post dwelling on the bloodshed that took place in Boston; it made me look like a sympathiser. 

I’d liken it to my phone fraping me, with no room for humour to be found.

I also momentarily liked a post relating to a friend’s bereavement, not to mention a host of other benign updates, many negative. 

How does Facebook Home like stuff?

It’s a whole lot like Instagram. A double tap likes a post. 

The thing about Facebook Home is that its main feed takes place on your lock screen. Press the power button on your phone, tap your lock screen a couple of times and you’ve liked a post, be it in your hand or in your pocket.

This is great for creating quick interaction with friends. Ultimately, I’d even go so far as to say I like the feed in general – it’s attractive, digestible and a great way of sucking time out of boring moments, richly procrastinating. 

What I don’t like is the insecurity of it all. 

What did Facebook have to say about it?

All credit to Facebook’s guys, they were proactive and sent over a simple, informative message about how to activate pin-locking on a Facebook Home laden Android phone. A solution, that in effect means swapping out the lockscreen aspect of Facebook Home for another layer of lock screen, this time, with a pin.

I’m not one of those people that key locks his phone with pins and gestures and codes. I’d like to think it’s because I’m a reviewer who goes through two to three phones in a week, but it’s probably got more to do with the fact that I can’t really be bothered to laboriously unlock my phone every time I pull it out of my pocket.

I’ve also never had an issue with a lock screen in my pocket before, be it stock Android, be it HTC Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz. Why should I have to change such a fundamental preference for Facebook Home? 

Also something I was perhaps less inclined to admit, I actually wanted to keep Facebook Home’s lock screen within easy reach.

Facebook Home’s actually pretty good. There. I said it.

There’s a lot of innovation in Facebook home that I really do like. It strips back Android into a simpler form. Killing widgets makes me realise how much I don’t miss them. Introducing a richer, interactive lock screen makes me actually interact with Facebook friends more and the chat heads are annoying, but great all at the same time.

I don’t want to hamper this experience; I want it to get better.

What’s clear is there are many ways Facebook Home can get better. For starters, and most pertinent to this post, the option to turn off double tap to like should be made available.

Folders in the apps tray are also a must for future iterations, as are music controls from the lock screen. Photos in posts can’t be zoomed into once expanded and there’s no option to clear all notifications, with each requiring a swipe out of the way. 

I want to use Facebook Home, and the points I just mentioned aren’t enough to deter me. The launcher arbitrarily misrepresenting me from my pocket however – that’s the tipping point that’s making me switch back to my Home free homescreen. 

So what’s the take-home? Well done Facebook for making something with so much potential, I can’t wait until you make it that bit better.

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