Weekend Roundup: Facebook Home, Google Blink, Samsung & Mozilla Servo, Gadget Show Live, Cheapest Galaxy S4 deal

Facebook Home

Facebook announced its Home app for Android (hands-on preview here) on Thursday and while we were expecting an Android Fork (à la Amazon), all we got was an application that can loosely be described as a screensaver for smartphones and a device from HTC, whose love for Facebook apparently knows no bounds. The HTC First is actually a very decent handset and it will be interesting to see (a) how much it costs and (b) whether the Facebook wrapper/app can be removed. As for Facebook Home, if there’s one word we’d use to describe it, it would be “underwhelming”.

Mark Zuckerberg, it appears, wants to tread carefully rather than choke its own partners. Ultimately, we’re not sure what Home is trying to achieve. Sure, it does allow users to save a few precious seconds every time they want to get an update but that comes at a cost (privacy, data allowance and battery life). Perhaps more importantly, it does open the way for more “pollution". Expect Sony, Samsung, Motorola and others do bring their Timescape, Motoblur and other social aggregators on the home screen as well.

Google Webkit Fork & Samsung/Mozilla Servo

Speaking of fork, Google announced on 4 April that it would fork WebKit to develop a new web rendering engine called Blink. This shows that Chrome, the second most popular browser on the planet, is changing radically. Google’s browser has been around for nearly five years and used WebKit (which is also found in a number of other browsers, most notably Apple’s Safari) since the beginning (that’s for the first 26 iterations). Forking WebKit, Google says in an FAQ would do the same for “networking, rendering and layout” as V8 did for Javascript. Chromium, Chrome’s open source alter ego, hosts the project whose mission statement reads as follows “improve the open web through technical innovation and good citizenship”.

Coincidentally, Mozilla, the other big browser company, announced that it was partnering with Samsung on a new project called Servo, which will be a new browser engine. The pair want to “rebuild the Web browser from the ground up on modern hardware, rethinking old assumptions along the way”, that’s a stance vaguely similar to what we’ve heard a few years ago from another player that emerged on the scene, Google. Interestingly, Mozilla will be using a new language called Rust. As to why Samsung is interested in developing Servo, they have a vested interest in that they could use Servo to power their own “proprietary” web browser.

Gadget Show Live 2013 Bonanza

We couriered our very own James Laird up north to cover the Gadget Show Live 2013 event on Tuesday and he compiled a useful list of the best tech products on offer. Our pick will have to be the IdeaPad U310 Touch from Lenovo which will cost around £600 for the entry level model and comes with touch capabilities. The U310 looks a lot like the Apple MacBook Pro but is much more affordable; and yes, it is an Ultrabook although one that comes with a hybrid storage solution (SSD + hard drive). Unfortunately, it can’t transform into a tablet like the much more expensive Lenovo Yoga 13 hybrid laptop. If you don’t fancy touch capabilities, then you can pick up the standard IdeaPad U310 laptop from Amazon for a mere £430.

Samsung Galaxy S4 on the cheap

And finally, if you are one of the gazillions prospective customers looking to buy the Galaxy S4 (hands-on here), we managed to track the cheapest available deal for Samsung’s top of the range smartphone. Turns out that the cheapest way to get the S4 is to get a contract. You will have to go through a credit check but once it’s done, then you can save more than £70 off the cheapest SIM Free price of that handset. Chitter Chatter, which sells the handset on T-Mobile/EE, offers the handset for £350 with a £7 per month plan. You should also be able to use the handset on Orange as well. The latter is quasi-useless and you might just as well shove it in a drawer but with a total cost of ownership of £518, you won’t get the Samsung Galaxy S4 for cheaper right now. Chitter Chatter also offers the phone for £41 with unlimited minutes, texts and data.