Install the free Facebook Home app on a compatible Android phone, and you’ll find that your locked screen transforms into a gorgeous, interactive slideshow of photos and posts from your Facebook friends. Anytime you glance at your phone to check the time or see whether you’ve missed a call, you’ll see an ever-changing background image made up of pictures of friends on vacation, updates about babies and baby-related things, and whatever else comes through your Facebook feed. Tap the screen, and you can see comments and “likes,” and add your own comment or “like” to someone’s activity. But—and here’s the rub—anyone else who gets his hands on your phone can, too.
The huge, gaping, show-stopping problem with Facebook Home: It lacks any security for commenting on and “liking” content. If you have a layer of security turned on to protect your phone, such as a PIN code or other lock, the Facebook Home app still lets anyone within arm’s reach mess with your Facebook account by posting comments as if they were you. (I wish I could say I don’t have any friends who would do such a thing, but that would be a bald-faced lie. And, what’s worse, if you lose your phone, a perpetrator could post anything as well as read anything that shows up on your feed.) For this reason alone, I cannot recommend installing Facebook Home, even though the app’s concept and visual design are superb.
If you’re not deterred by the complete lack of security—maybe you don’t even use a lock on your phone at all, which makes me cringe, but hey, that’s your decision—Facebook Home does add a homey touch to your Android screen.
Requirements, Installation, and Setup
Not all Android devices can get Facebook Home. To run it, you’ll need one of the following phones:
- HTC First,
- Samsung Galaxy S4,
- HTC One X,
- HTC One X+ ,
- Galaxy S III, or
- Galaxy Note II.
Facebook Home comes preloaded on the HTC First. I used both a Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC First for my testing.
Before you can install Facebook Home, you first need to have the standard Facebook app loaded, but after that, it’s as simple as loading the app and authenticating it.
What You’ll See
Facebook Home takes over your Android’s screen and replaces it with a flowing and interactive window into your Facebook feed. If you simply toggling the screen on, the app greets you with recent updates from your Facebook friends. Newly shared photos seem to get special treatment, appearing first even if they are not the most recent updates from your network. They hang on the screen for a few seconds before whisking away and letting another image capture your attention. You can also force the next one along by swiping left or right.
A summary of information about the post, such as number of “likes” and comments” appears in simple white san serif text at the bottom right. In the bottom left corner sit two icons where you can “like” or comment on the activity, too. And that’s where there’s no security whatsoever. I turned a PIN lock on both the Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC First that I used in testing, turned the phones off, pressed the power button, and was able to post comments freely without being asked to enter a PIN.
If you tap the screen, your own photo appears in a small circle, and if you press it, more options appear to the left, right, and above: Facebook messenger, most recently used app (e.g., Camera, Email), and Apps, respectively. Accessing any of these functions does require the PIN or other locked code, if it’s enabled, thank goodness.
The concept here, in my opinion, is that with Facebook Home installed, Facebook messenger remains front and center, right before your eyes, every time you use your phone, and thus hopefully, it becomes a more convenient application for messaging than any of the alternatives. If you want the full Facebook experience, you have to also install a third app (annoying): Facebook Messenger.
Once Facebook for Android, Facebook Messenger, and Facebook Home are all installed, you can then get the new “chat heads” feature. This feature lets you continue chatting with friends no matter which app you’re using. Here’s how it works: Say your sister sends you a Facebook instant message, and let’s say you’re using the LinkedIn app at the moment. Her profile picture will appear in a little bubble, overlaid directly on top of LinkedIn. You’ll also see a red badge containing a number, indicating the amount of unread messages from her. If you have multiple conversations going, you’ll see multiple disembodied heads. You can dismiss any chat by dragging the bubble-head onto an X that also appears overlaid on the screen.
If you don’t install Facebook Messenger, you’ll still be notified of incoming chats, but rather than see the floating heads, you’ll just see a notification at the top of the screen, which you can access with a quick down-swipe.
At this time, I cannot recommend anyone install the Facebook Home app due to the major security flaw that lets in arm’s reach of your phone post a comment or “like” activity on your behalf without having to enter a PIN code or otherwise unlock the security you have enabled on your Android. The app itself succeeds in getting Facebook in front of your face more frequently, and for the most part, the design is quite lovely. But as long as that security hole exists, don’t install Facebook Home.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc