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Facebook announces new software for Android devices

Caroline Baldwin

Facebook has launched a user interface for smartphone users, which tightly integrates the social network into the device.

Facebook says the software, called "Home", "is not a phone or operating system, and it's also more than just an app".

The software, available on Android operating systems (OS), allows instant access to feeds from the social network from the moment you wake up your mobile – even from the lock screen.

It has also made improvements to its messaging functionality. Facebook said: "Users will be able to keep chatting with friends even when using other apps." SMS is already integrated into Facebook Messenger for Android and Facebook messages and SMS messages will be combined in the same feed.

Around 680 million of Facebook’s 1 billion monthly users are believed to access the social network using mobile phones.

In January, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg claimed 23% of app time in the US is spent on Facebook. “Facebook is a mobile company. Mobile is a perfect device for Facebook. It allows us to reach more people,” he said.

Low-risk venture

While Facebook has not launched any hardware – such as a Facebook smartphone, as had been anticipated – the company will have "Home" pre-installed on devices. The first phone will be the HTC First, which goes on sale April 12 2013, created through a partnership between Facebook, HTC and AT&T.

Users will also able to download Facebook Home for free from the Google Play Store from April 12. Currently the software will run on the HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II, as well as the upcoming HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4.

Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum said: “This is a great experiment for Facebook. It's much lower risk than developing a phone or an operating system of its own, and if it turns out not to be successful, there will be little risk or loss to Facebook. 

"If it does turn out to be successful, Facebook can build on the model further and increase the value provided in the application over time. The biggest challenge will be that it can't replicate this experience on iOS, Windows Phone or BlackBerry, the three other main platforms.”

Recently, the company also announced a new way of searching on the social network, called Graph Search. Graph Search enables users to filter content on Facebook to find out particular things, such as which nearby restaurants their friends have liked or which friends like a certain movie, or to search for photos including selected people. The beta version was rolled out to a small audience in January.

The recent announcements made by the social network follow in the wake of recent privacy scares. In January, a German state claimed Facebook was violating local privacy laws by not allowing users of the social network to use pseudonyms.

Facebook in the past has faced continual criticism from privacy groups, claiming that its privacy controls were difficult to use and condemning its policy of making user content publicly available by default.


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