Facebook phone hijack? No, thanks. Facebook's new Home, a downloadable app that turns an Android phone into a Facebook phone, obscures apps, the browser, the call button and everything else on your home screen.
At Facebook's launch event held today (April 4), founder Mark Zuckerberg said it's time to change phones from being task-centered devices to ones that are people-centered. And that means people who are your friends on Facebook.
The home screen is the "soul" of your phone and deserves to be front and center, he said.
Zuckerberg said people already spend three times as much time on Facebook as they do on any other app. In fact, 18 percent of all time spent using a smartphone is spent on Facebook, according to a new report from Flurry Analytics.
But while people spend a lot of time on Facebook, that doesn't mean they want to spend all of their time there. [Read more: Why It's Too Late for an Android 'Facebook Phone' ]
Facebook Home also includes Facebook notifications that overlay the full-screen stream of News Feed posts (now called Content Feed inside Facebook Home ). Zuckerberg called Notifications "critical information," which could be a bit of an exaggeration for some users.
For me, that critical information would consist of updates from my sister-in-law who has yet to understand that people (even those who love her dearly) don't want to be flooded with trivia, such as "Really hope we get some serious rain …"
Persistent chat heads
Facebook has also endowed messages with even more importance. Using an element called chat heads, whenever a Facebook message or an SMS (the only non-Facebook feature Home supports, a circle pops up with a photo of the sender. Users can tap the circle to open a chat box.
A chat head stays on your screen no matter what you're doing on your phone.
"You should be able to talk to your friends no matter where you're at in your phone," Joey Flynn, Facebook Home designer, said. "Feels like your friends are always there."
But what if it's not a friend? Pop-up heads could quickly turn from what Zuckerberg called a joy to a serious annoyance. You can swipe away chatheads in much the same way you'd brush away mosquitos — but the buzzing would soon return.
What you get with Facebook Home is more of a hijack of your phone. While Facebook may not block other apps, Home makes it harder to get to them. If I want to see notifications from social networks other than Facebook and Instagram, such as Twitter and Vine , I would have to tap to see an app button and then tap again to see the familiar array of apps installed on the phone.
If you're a Facebook devotee with like-minded friends and an Android phone, Facebook Home could be the best thing since, well, Facebook mobile. However, for the rest of us, Facebook included a feature indicating even Facebook knows Home won't appeal to all Android users .
When downloading, Google Play will give you the option to try Facebook Home once, as well as downloading it in typical fashion, which is named "always." Unless you're absolutely sure you want a Facebook phone, "Just once" is the wiser choice.