Facebook Home, the social network’s new mobile interface for Android devices, has officially launched in the UK and speculation is mounting whether the software may become available on Apple’s iPhone too.
Mark Zuckerberg and co introduced the feature earlier in April, but the reception among its first users in the US appears to have been lukewarm at best. Out of over 6,000 reviews on Google Play, the average score has not ventured above 2.3 out of 5, while analytics data collected on Twitter found sentiment towards the new platform was largely neutral or negative.
Along with Facebook Home came the first smartphone to have the UI built-in straight out of the box – the mid-range HTC First. But with the device not expected to launch in the UK until the summer, Facebook fanatics will be relieved to see Home arrive in Google Play as a standalone download this morning, compatible with Samsung's Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 and HTC’s One X and One X+, with more Android devices to follow.
The stakes would be raised considerably, however, if Facebook can muscle Home onto the ubiquitous iPhone. Given the notoriously fenced-off nature of Apple’s mobile software, the merge doesn’t initially seem the most likely prospect, but Facebook’s director of product Adam Mosseri says discussions with Apple have already taken place.
“We’ve shown them what we’ve built and we’re just in an ongoing conversation,” Mosseri explained to Bloomberg. But with Apple liable to demand a far greater say in its design and functionality than Android, Mosseri admitted the integration could take a number of forms, perhaps differing greatly from the Home UI as we currently know it.
“It may or may not be Home,” he said. “We could also just bring some of the design values to the iOS app. That might be how it ends up. Or we could build just the lock screen. Maybe then it’s not called Home, it’s called something else.”
Facebook’s mobile collaboration with Apple is already bearing fruit regardless, as a new update to the social network’s iOS app has brought the ‘Chat Heads’ feature to iPhones. Chat Heads was revealed during the Facebook Home launch, and as we learned from our hands-on with the UI:
“It's a chat management system that accepts SMS messages and Facebook IMs, while running on top of any open apps you have on your phone without shutting them down.
"As Facebook is so good at doing, Chat Heads adds extra social oomph to text conversations by giving you a visual of the person you’re speaking with—a little bubble with your friend's photo or avatar that appears at the top of a chat window. The picture bubbles also pop up on Home's main screen to alert you when someone wants to chat, at which point you use them to open up a Chat Heads screen.”