Facebook fans who were expecting the social network to unveil its own proprietary smartphone Thursday have a long wait ahead of them, seeing the as company isn't building a phone or an operating system.
Rather, explained CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a press conference at the company's headquarters, Facebook (FB) is introducing a mobile experience it's calling "Home," which makes the social network the hub of any smartphone that runs Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android operating system.
Zuckerberg said the goal is put "people before apps." To achieve that, Home replaces users' home screen on their phones and includes a suite of applications, or apps. As Engadget explains:
"It's not just a new user-interface for launching apps, however. It replaces the 'lockscreen' with cover feed and prioritizes updates from people instead of apps. There is a standard paginated launcher that is always just a swipe away. But the focus is on the full-screen images that are your new welcome screen."
"What Facebook wants is to put itself at the front of the Android user experience for as many Facebook users as possible and make Facebook more elemental to their customers' experience," Forrester analyst Charles Golvin told The Associated Press.
As Fortune notes, Home is a way for Facebook to supplant Google by pushing the search-engine giant's prized services, including search maps and Gmail, into the background on Android phones, pushing users to use Facebook's offerings instead.
Home will be limited to phones running the Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean versions of Android -- i.e., 4.0 and later. That covers phones made or updated during the past year or so.
Initially, the app will be limited to specific Android models -- about a half-dozen of them, including Samsung's Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note 2. It will also work on the upcoming Galaxy S IV. In addition, HTC's upcoming First phone will come with Home.
But the move could also help boost mobile advertising, a fast-growing field -- thanks largely to Facebook and Twitter. Research firm eMarketer expects U.S. mobile ad spending to grow 77 percent this year to $7.29 billion, from $4.11 billion last year.
Showing more mobile ads to users poses challenges for Facebook, however, since the promotional ads may annoy or alienate Facebook users.
Check out Facebook's Home:
Introducing Facebook's Home
'Home' Makes Facebook Your Phone's Hub - and Puts Its Ads First
On April 4, 2013 Home was introduced as the next version of Facebook.
Home turns an Android phone into a more manageable social experience, rather than a collection of separate apps that can be tedious to navigate through.
Home will be available free from the Google Play Store starting April 12 and will also be pre-installed on phones through the Facebook Home Program.
"From the moment you wake up your phone you become immersed in cover feed. Cover feed replaces the lock screen and home screen. It's a window into what's happening with your friends - friends finishing a bike race, your family sharing a meal or an article about your favorite sports team. These are the beautiful, immersive experiences that you get through Home."
"You might have missed these updates before, but now they're a central part of the Home experience. Since Home is both your lock screen and home screen, the content comes right to you. You can flip through to see more stories, and double tap to like what you see.
Cover feed is for those in-between moments like waiting in line at the grocery store or between classes when you want to see what's going on in your world."
"With chat heads you can keep chatting with friends even when you're using other apps. When friends send you messages, a chat head appears with your friend's face, so you see exactly who you're chatting with. Messages reach you no matter what you're doing - whether you're checking email, browsing the web, or listening to music.
You can move chat heads around and respond to messages. And since SMS is integrated into Facebook Messenger for Android, chat heads include Facebook messages as well as texts."
"Cover feed is great for seeing everything going on in the world. But when something happens that's more important and directed at you, like a friend posting on your timeline, you'll receive notifications with their profile pictures.
To open notifications, just tap them. And if you don't want to deal with them right now, you can just swipe to hide them and keep flipping through cover feed until you want them back."
"It's as easy to get to your apps in Home as it is on any other phone. Swipe up to see your favorite apps in the launcher. There's also a screen containing all of your apps, and you can drag your favorite apps to the launcher."