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Facebook reveals 'Home' software for Android phones

The software is designed to put Facebook front and center on Android smartphones

Facebook has released new software for Android phones that gives quick access to Facebook services and aims to further boost use of the social network on mobile devices.

Dubbed "Home," the software is a set of apps that users can download to their smartphones to have faster access to Facebook content and messaging with friends.

"You're going to be able to turn your Android phone into a great, simple social device," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a launch event Thursday morning at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

Downloading the apps creates a new interface for Android smartphones that puts people's friends, and the content they post, front and center on the device, rather than the screen of app icons they see today.

"Home is the lock screen in addition to the home screen, so you don't need to do any swipes or gestures to see this content," Zuckerberg said.

Along with the new home screen, there is a big emphasis on messaging. The software includes a feature dubbed Chat Heads -- when a person receives a message on Facebook and they're in another application, the face of a friend pops up in a small circle at the corner of the screen, so the user can tap on it if they wish to see the message.

Zuckerberg was clear that Facebook has not built it's own phone, and he said it has not had to "fork" the Android OS to make its software.

"We're not building a phone, and we're not building an operating system," he said.

Although the software changes the appearance of Android, It appears that rumors Facebook had developed its own Facebook-friendly version of Android were incorrect, since Zuckerberg described the software as a set of apps.

"You don't need to fork Android to do this, and you don't even need to modify the operating system, really," he said.

With the new software, Facebook is betting that having a dedicated suite of social services that people can download onto their Android smartphones will boost engagement among it users.

Trends in mobile suggest it might be right. Two-thirds of daily smartphone usage corresponds to pre-installed applications, according to a recent consumer survey by market research firm Analysys Mason.

People spend 20 percent of the time they are on phones looking at Facebook, Zuckerberg said.

Android is the most widely used smartphone operating system, representing nearly 60 percent of worldwide smartphone shipments in 2012, Analysys Mason said in its survey.

Facebook has been under pressure to engage users more deeply on mobile devices, and in particular to show them more advertisements, as more people move away from its services on the desktop.

Advertisers have not transitioned to mobile as dramatically as end users. Facebook's mobile business still only accounts for 23 percent of its total advertising revenue.

Yet in January, Facebook reported that the number of daily mobile users had exceeded daily Web users for the first time ever in 2012's fourth quarter.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is [email protected]


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