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Facebook Wants to Be the Home Screen of Your Smartphone

Zuckerberg announced a new product for Android called Facebook Home.
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Zuckerberg announced a new product for Android called Facebook Home.

Facebook just got serious about mobile.

At a media event Thursday, Facebook showcased its new software for Android devices called 'Home,' which will be deeply integrated with Google's Android operating system. It also revealed the HTC First, which is the first handset that will come pre-installed with Facebook's new 'Home' software.

The new software will be available for download on April 12 in the Google Play Store and the HTC First phone will go on sale the same day at AT&T stores in the U.S. The phone will retail at $99.99.

"Today, our phones are designed around apps. Not people. We want to flip that around," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the event. "We want to bring the experience of having a home, of having everything you need right around you… to your phone."

'Home' basically functions as a series of applications that brings the Facebook platform to the home screen of a user's mobile device.

It allows users to scroll through content—including pictures, messages and recent stories— from their Facebook on the home screen of their device.

Facebook's new software also integrates a feature called 'Chat Heads' which allows users to send and receive messages without ever leaving an application. Instead, when a user receives a message while running another application, the user can open the message and it will appear at the top of the screen, above the running app. This allows the user to respond without having to close an app.

Although Facebook is moving in the right direction by focusing on mobile, its new integration isn't likely to move the needle much for the company, said Rakesh Agrawal, the principal analyst for reDesign Mobile.

"I can see why Facebook wants to be in this market, but why as a consumer do I need this experience?"

Still, Facebook has made vast improvements in the mobile realm over the last several months. The company raked in 23 percent of its total ad revenue last quarter from mobile ads, a 14 percent increase from its previous quarter. And with its new 'Home' applications, the social giant could stand to make even more money off mobile ads, Trip Chowdhry, managing director for Global Equities Research, said in a statement.

Chowdhry said that Facebook Home could threaten Google's mobile monetization because if Facebook Home is the first interaction a user has on their device, it is likely that is where the user will spend the majority of their time.

While HTC is the first phone maker to make a device with the software already installed, Facebook said that some of its other partners include Samsung, Lenovo, Qualcomm, ZTE and Huawei.

It's unclear whether the new series of applications that take over the home screen of smartphones will be coming to Apple's iPhones anytime soon.

Zuckerberg was asked at the event about the possibility of bringing the software to iOS, but he skirted the question. "With Apple, everything you want to do goes through them. With Android, it doesn't have to," he said.

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