Shortly after this morning’s Facebook Home announcement, I had the opportunity to chat with Tom Allison, Facebook’s Engineering Manager for Android. We discussed his favorite parts of Home, how much they had to change the underlying OS (read: not much), and the biggest challenges they faced during Home’s development.
One thing I found particularly interesting: while the version of Facebook Home that ships with the just-announced HTC First will have Google search built in, the version they’ve built for everyone else to download will not. On the handsets that don’t come with this pre-installed, you’ll need to pop into Chrome, open up a dedicated search app, or drop down into your old homescreen (which is surprisingly easy — check out the video of it below.)
Why does that matter? Remember: search (or, more accurately, advertisements on search results) is a pretty massive part of Google’s business model. Having search on the homescreen makes searching an impulse, thus increasing the volume of searches dramatically. If Facebook manages to get this thing on as many devices as they clearly hope to, it could put a bit of a dent in whatever money Google is pulling in from their Android efforts by way of search.
Speaking of homescreens: if you’re looking to install Facebook Home but don’t want to lose access to your phone’s original homescreen (be it Samsung’s TouchWiz, HTC’s Sense, or the stock Android homescreen) and the widgets that come with, don’t fret. We spotted Home running on a Galaxy Note 2 earlier, and managed to get a quick demo of how the two homescreens can co-exist. You don’t have to flip through settings, toggle anything on or off, or reset your phone — just tap the “More…” button tucked away into the app drawer, and you’re there. When you’re done, the device’s home key takes you right back into Facebook Home.
(Pardon the sketchy audio here — we were in a crowded room, and my iPhone apparently got scared and covered its ears)