At today’s Facebook “Home on Android” event, the company launched a brand new homescreen that can be installed across any Android device, called Home.
Home transforms your smartphone from a app-centric, task-driven device to a people-centric tool, keeping you in the know about your friends and connections with nary a swipe from you. But one part of the phone that Facebook is dedicated to preserving is messaging, and Home clearly puts a strong emphasis on it.
Zuck explained that Messaging shouldn’t be treated like any other app, though it often is treated that way in the current ecosystem. That said, Home lets you get to the Messaging app with one easy swipe, but it goes much deeper than that.
When you’re in a conversation with someone, their icon actually stays right on the home screen for easy access. Facebook is calling it a Chat Head, which is perhaps the worst part of the whole feature.
If you page through to another app, like a game or Instagram, the “chat head” (as it were) stays right there in the corner, ready and waiting for interaction. The chat head even has an unread count to show how many photos you’ve missed.
So let’s say you want to share an Instagram photo with a friend you’ve been messaging with. Chat heads let you go from that picture to sharing with a single tap.
The main issue Chat Heads is tackling is the decision you have to make every time you get a message. Do you stop what you’re doing to open it or do you continue playing Angry Birds?
Chat heads lets you see a preview of any message before you ever open it, letting you decide whether you need to even open it at all. If it’s intriguing, you can click into the chat head without ever leaving Angry Birds, or an article, or your email.
The conversation just hovers over your original content in a bubble. When you’re done, you can collapse the chat with a simple upward gesture and the chat head will always remain on your screen.
You can have many chat heads open at once, though it may get a bit cluttered. At that point, you can simply round up the chat heads with drag and drop actions, and flick them away by swiping down. You can also flick away one chat head at a time. After all, it would be kind of weird to have your friends’ faces staring at you all the time.
From what we can see, anyone who is your Facebook friend can appear as a chat head.
According to Facebook, Home is available in “about a week” on April 12, and it wasn’t clear which devices will have access immediately.