MENLO PARK, Calif. — Facebook is unveiling a new experience for Android phones. The idea behind the new Home service is to bring content right to you, on the phone’s home screen, rather than require you to check apps on the device.
The event comes amid rapid growth in the number of people who access Facebook from smartphones and tablet computers. More Android integration could help Facebook Inc. attract more mobile advertisers. Though mobile ads were a big concern for Facebook’s investors even before the company’s initial public offering last May, some of the worry has subsided as the company muscles its way into the market.
Last year, Facebook began showing ads to its mobile audience by shoehorning corporate-sponsored content into users’ news feeds, which also include updates from friends and brands they follow. Facebook now faces the challenge of showing people mobile ads without annoying or alienating them.
Facebook’s event was being held at its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
Here’s a running account of Facebook’s event, presented in reverse chronological order. All times are PDT.
Presenters include CEO Mark Zuckerberg; Adam Mosseri, director of products; Joey Flynn, product designer. Also appearing were HTC’s CEO and AT&T’s head of wireless.
Minutes after the event ends, Facebook’s stock is up 74 cents, or 2.8 percent, at $26.99.
Zuckerberg closes the event by expressing his vision of the future, one where people have smartphones and tablet computers rather than desktops and laptops. He says there will be people who have never seen what we call computers these days.
He says Home feeds into that vision.
While people will be able to install Home themselves, some phone makers will build Home into the phones. HTC Corp. is releasing a phone called First. It will come in four colors — red, light blue, white and black. It will run on AT&T Inc.’s 4G LTE cellular network and go on sale April 12 for $100, with advance orders to begin Thursday. A two-year contract requirement is likely.
To get Home, simply go to Google’s online Play store when it’s available. Those with Facebook apps on the phone already will get a prompt to download it. The software will be updated with new features monthly.
It will be available April 12 on certain phones initially.
Facebook isn’t making Home for tablet devices for several months, though.
Zuckerberg tells the audience, “We are really proud of Home and we are excited to get (it) into your hands. We think this is the best version of Facebook there is.”
Flynn unveils a feature called chat heads. The idea is to let you communicate with your friends from that home screen, without needing to open an app. You can chat with multiple people at once that way.
Mosseri describes one of the main features of the new service. It’s called cover feed.
He notes that when people look at their phones now, they typically see a clock and perhaps the snippet of an email. That will change if you have the Home service activated. As soon as you turn on your phone, you’ll see photos. You can swipe from one to the next from the home screen.
The new service is called Home. Pictures from your Facebook news feed would take up the entire display screen. Zuckerberg says you’ll be seeing the world through people rather than apps.
He gives an example of standing in line at a store and looking down at the phone to see photos of friends and family. It’ll be possible to flip through the items. If there’s something you like, just double tap on it to “like” it. You can also add comments from the home screen.
With this, Facebook doesn’t believe you’ll need to go to the Facebook app any more.
Zuckerberg says Facebook isn’t building a Facebook phone, saying a Facebook-centered device might sell 10 million to 20 million units at best. Rather, it’s building on the existing Android system to bring this experience to a wider group of Android users.
Zuckerberg talks about a new way to approach Facebook on phones.
He asks, “Why do we need to go into all the apps in the first place to see what is going on with the people we care about?” Better, he says, is to have that experience come right to the home screen, so you’re always knowing what is going on around you.
He makes a comparison to the company’s news feed feature, which brought friends’ posts to a centralized place and reduced the need for people to check their friends’ profile pages one by one.
Zuckerberg walks on stage and addresses the rumors head on: “Today, we’re finally going to talk about that Facebook phone.”
He then adds that more specifically, Facebook will talk about turning the Android phone into a simple, social device.