We've taken a closer look at the HTC First hardware, so let's dig into the firmware side -- namely, the Facebook Home user interface featured on the First. As we heard prior to the event, Home is essentially a skinned version of Android OS that unsurprisingly offers a deeper amount of integration with the social network. As the name of the phone implies, this isn't going to be the same one-and-done deal that we've seen on other devices bearing the unofficial title of "Facebook Phone"; Home is likely here for the foreseeable future, so we'll go more in-depth on the UI and our first impressions.
Facebook installed Home on both the HTC First and a Samsung Galaxy S3 at the event to show how the app works on both devices. As we've detailed earlier, Home essentially takes over as your phone's launcher. So instead of the lock screen, you'll see Cover Feed, which is essentially Facebook's Newsfeed presented in a highly visual format. Photos take over the entire screen, with the profile pic situated in the lower middle. When that image is tapped, you are presented with three launch options: messages, the app drawer and the last app launched. If the status update is text-only, your friend's cover photo is used instead. Incoming messages pop up on the top right in the form of what Facebook calls chat heads, which are bubbles that each represent a particular conversation thread and is displayed via a pop-over dialog box. You can have up to four heads spread across the screen, with the oldest thread getting bumped out when a brand new one appears.
On the whole, the Home UI puts a heavy emphasis on photos and gestures. Notifications can be cleared out with a single long-press, chat heads can be dragged around anywhere on the screen, double-tapping a photo marks it as liked, and flipping through status updates is as easy as swiping left or right. One of Facebook's points of focus is the fact that it's easy to use one-handed, even on larger devices like the Note II; reps showed us a few demonstrations in which they easily performed several gestures with one thumb.
Speaking of which, while Home looks fine on the HTC First, we would say it looks even better on the S3 simply due to the larger screen. Would we recommend replacing your Android launcher with Facebook Home? Since it removes many of the functionalities we love about the Android home screen -- widgets, shortcuts, folders and clocks -- it's a tough call. However, if you're a heavy Facebook user that lives and breathes the social network Zuckerberg built, we'd say it's certainly worth a look. Worst-case, it's easy enough to replace the launcher with something else that suits your particular needs, if necessary.
Zach Honig and Nicole Lee contributed to this report.