Facebook Home to only support Android 4.0+ devices

When Facebook unveiled its new home-screen replacement app “Facebook Home” for Android, it skipped a small detail in the main announcement and even the press release. Apparently, Facebook Home is only compatible with phones powered by Ice Cream Sandwich and newer Android versions, the social giant revealed in Q&A following the event.

If your phone has Gingerbread or below Android versions, which are still present on about 45pc of total Android devices, you are out of luck.  Facebook did not reveal if it plans to expand the compatibility to Gingerbread, but it seems highly unlikely. Facebook is clearly planning for the future and in the next one year or so, Gingerbread and older versions will be out of the scene and we will have a majority of devices running on 4.0+

Set to be released in Google Play on April 12, Facebook Home will initially only support – HTC One X, One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II, but S 4 and HTC One support will soon follow. Other Android devices with Android 4.0+ are expected to get Facebook Home support in the coming months.

Company is also not bringing the tablet support right-away; Android tablets are likely to get Facebook Home in the coming months.

 

Facebook makes ‘Home’ official, available beginning April 12

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg  took to the stage in California to announce their new home-screen experience for Android users called ‘Home.’ In simple terms, Facebook Home is like any other Android launcher that you have seen so far during your Android days with the soul of Facebook.

In Facebook’s words, it is a combination of multiple social apps by the company, to make the Android phones more people-centric and not app-centric.

Facebook Home is set to be released in Google Play on April 12 and will be initially available for select phones. These phones are HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III, and Samsung Galaxy Note II, all of which are some of the most popular Android phones on the planet. The upcoming Samsung Galaxy S 4 and just released HTC One will be next in line to receive Facebook Home. Other Android devices will be getting ‘Home’ in the coming months.

This Android user-interface will not be available for Android tablets initially although Facebook is working on a tablet version, which is expected to be launched in the coming months.

“We asked ourselves ­if sharing and connecting are what matter most, what would your phone be like if it put your friends first? Our answer is Home. Home isn’t a phone or operating system, and it’s also more than just an app. Home is a completely new experience that lets you see the world through people, not apps,” Facebook noted in a press release.

Facebook Home features

Cover feed: It is the Facebook replacement of your Android lock-screen and home-screen. It is an image-centric version of Facebook newsfeed.

Chat Heads: It is a unified messaging feature from Facebook. It combines Facebook messenger and SMS

Notifications:  Information about stuff that is directly meant for you on Facebook.

Apps: A list of your favourite Android apps from your phone. You can add or remove as many you want. It can be accessed by swiping up the screen.

 

 

Watch Facebook’s Android event here [Live]

For those of you, who were living under a rock or something, Facebook is holding a press event in about an hour and will announce something related to Android. Thanks to all the leaks in the recent few weeks, we have some idea of what to expect today.

Here is a break-up of things, while you wait for the event to begin, which is scheduled for 1:00pm EDT — Thu Apr 4, 2013.  Live-stream below.

  1. Facebook Home: As per reports circulating around the web and all the leaks that we have seen so far, Facebook will be introducing “Facebook Home” today. It is a customised user interface (in simpler terms – launcher, doesn’t seem more than that) for Android. It will have Facebook integration ‘right in your face’ kind, allowing you to post, access, check-in or chat on Facebook from almost everywhere in the least number of steps.
  2. HTC First: HTC is also expected to make an appearance at the event and why not – because when you are showing off a user interface, you need a device. HTC and Facebook will most probably be announcing ‘HTC First’ smartphone at the event, which will be the first phone to come with Facebook Home interface.
  3. Information about other Facebook Home devices: Along with HTC First, Facebook is also expected to reveal information about other phones or tablets that will come pre-loaded with Facebook Home UI. According to reports, company has been in active talks with several other manufacturers and we might see results today, but we won’t really bet on it as HTC would not certainly like to see a competitor with it on the podium.
  4. Carrier Partnerships: For markets like US, every manufacturer needs active carrier partnerships to launch a device and successfully market it. Facebook and HTC also need such partnerships and we would ideally see at least one major telecom operator from the markets where Facebook Home powered HTC First is going on sale first.
  5.  

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/817005/events/1980369

Google Now updated, gets real time package tracking

Google has released a small update for the Google Search app for Android 4.1+ devices to add few nifty features to Google Now. The update, which is now available via Google Play, brings real time package tracking from select carriers among other features.

More on Google Now Package tracking:  Google Now tracking card is displayed when you receive a shipping notification for online purchases. For some shippers, cards update when the package ships, is out for delivery, or has been delivered. Links on each card bring you to more detailed tracking information.

The new update also enables faster search results on the app now. Here is the full change-log:

For Android 4.1+ (Jelly Bean):

–          Real time package tracking from select carriers

–          Quick feedback and settings on cards

–          Faster Google search results

 

   Download Google Search

Firefox for Android updated, brings per-tab private browsing

Mozilla has updated Firefox of Android to version 20.0 along with the Windows, Linux and Mac versions. The new update is now available in Google Play and brings some new features along with lower hardware requirements.

Android users will now be able to enjoy per-tab private browsing in Firefox for Android along with ability to edit top sites section in Firefox home. Here is the full change-log:

  • Per-Tab private browsing
  • Gingerbread and Honeycomb support for H.264/AAC/MP3 hardware decoding
  • Top Sites in about:home is now customizable
  • The ‘Quit’ menu item has been removed from Firefox versions running on ICS and higher. When done browsing just tap swipe off recent application list. Use the QuitNow add-on if you want more control
  • System requirements have been lowered to 384MB of RAM and QVGA displays

“Firefox for Android adds support for additional devices running on a less powerful processor architecture, ARMv6 processors. This includes popular phones like Samsung Galaxy Next, HTC Aria, HTC Legend, Samsung Dart, Samsung Galaxy Pop and the Samsung Galaxy Q,” Mozilla noted in a blog post.

Download Firefox for Android from Google Play

Google to stop using WebKit rendering engine, introduces Blink

Google has announced that it is going to stop using the WebKit rendering engine in its Chrome web browser and will switch of Blink, which is a forked version of WebKit.  According to Google, this move will speed up development of Chrome as it will reduce complexity.

Google is not alone in this open-source Blink rendering engine move, Opera has also revealed that it will also be contributing to Blink in the future and it will be the new rendering engine to power Opera browsers. To remind you, Opera had very recently switched to WebKit for its Android browser.

Why the change to Blink?

Although, Google sings all praises for WebKit in its Blink announcement blog post, company notes that Chromium (the project behind Chrome) uses a different multi-process architecture unlike other WebKit based browsers and over the year of Chrome development, this has led to increased complexity. Google wants to remove this complexity and speed up development of Chrome and Chromium projects.

“This was not an easy decision. We know that the introduction of a new rendering engine can have significant implications for the web. Nevertheless, we believe that having multiple rendering engines—similar to having multiple browsers—will spur innovation and over time improve the health of the entire open web ecosystem,” Adam Barth, Software Engineer, Google noted in a blog post.

What will be the implications for consumers or web developers?

In short term, very little for both, however in long term, consumers might notice some change on the front-end, developers will have to make the websites compliant with the Blink rendering engine and given the Chrome market-share and also Opera’s involvement, you can’t ignore it. Web developers can read more about Blink here.

Facebook Home UI screenshots leaked online

It is no secret that Facebook is going to unveil its Android home-screen replacement (or launcher) app – Facebook Home – tomorrow at a press event. The leaks have coming from all over and after the alleged press-render of the first phone to come pre-loaded with Facebook Home – HTC First, we have the first screenshots of this Android launcher.

As you can see in this image (more below), Facebook Home just seems like a Facebook-oriented launcher for Android. The social giant wants to completely take over home-screen of Android users with Facebook Home and aims to be in front and center.

EVLeaks, which has posted these screenshots at 9to5Google notes:

From the imagery we’ve seen, Facebook Home incorporates a minimal aesthetic with a lot of focus on full screen photography. As expected, there are hooks to the primary Facebook functions available from most menus, obviating the need to actually navigate to the dedicated app or site in many instances.

We will know more tomorrow, when Facebook showcases Facebook Home and HTC First smartphone. The phone is rumoured to come with 4.3-inch 720p display, dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, Android 4.1.2, Sense 4.5, 5MP rear camera, 1.6MP front camera, No SD Card, Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi a/b/g/n.

 

Google to begin selling second-gen Nexus 7 from July: Report

Reuters is reporting that Google will begin selling the next-gen Nexus 7  tablet from July in the markets globally. The tablet, as previously rumoured, will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, added the report.

Google is also aiming to sell 8 million units of this tablet in the second half of the year.  There is still no word on how the search giant aims to price the tablet as that would a key factor in achieving this target.

The new Nexus 7 tablet will come with a thinner bezel, higher-resolution display (probably full HD) and Snapdragon processor, as previously said.

Google seems to be choosing Qualcomm Snapdragon processor over NVIDIA’s Tegra 4 because of ‘power’ related reasons.  Google, Qualcomm or NVIDIA did not comment on this report to the Reuters.

Google had originally jumped in the tablet arena with the release of original Nexus 7 tablet last June, when it partnered with Asus to manufacture the tablet, Asus is also making the second-generation tablet, showing the confidence that Google is showing this Taiwanese manufacturer.

One of the Reuters sources speculated that Nexus 7 might be priced beginning $199 like the first-generation model, but had no clear information about the pricing.

HTC First, the rumoured phone to feature Facebook Home, appears online

We have been hearing about the rumoured HTC built phone that is going to be the first device to feature Facebook’s upcoming home-screen replacement. Well, it is likely to be known as HTC First, and not Myst, which was earlier rumoured, and was probably an internal code-name.

As per the press renders shared by EVLeaks, HTC First will be available in four colour options – red, white, black and light blue.

In the earlier reports, we have heard that HTC First will come with a 4.3-inch 720p display, Qualcomm MSM8960 Dual-Core processor, 1GB RAM, Android 4.1.2, Sense 4.5, 5MP rear camera, 1.6MP front camera, No SD Card, Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi a/b/g/n.

The press event, where we are going to see the Facebook Home and HTC First announcements, is just over 30 hours away.

APK Teardown shows details about Facebook Home

More news is trickling in about the elusive Facebook Phone that will run Facebook’s mobile platform called Home and is supposed to be showcased at an event on April 4. It looks like the phone will be running Android 4.1.2 and HTC’s Sense 4.5 skin.

Android Police managed to get their hands on a system software dump from the device and conducted a tear down. The phone requires your Facebook credentials to work pretty much anything. Think of it as the Google or Apple login page that needs to be filled in while activating your Android or iOS device

.

Unfortunately, since the platform is still a pre-release, it required Facebook employee credentials to work. The lack of it means we will still have to wait for the event to get details about most specifications and features of the phone.

It does however look like the HTC-built phone, codenamed Myst, will allow for a super-customised Facebook homescreen that will be a slightly modified version of Android. The phone specifications according to the build.prop file confirms that it is a simply-built 4.3-inch sporting phone. HTC Myst will run Android version 4.1.2 and have HTC’s Sense 4.5 UI. Surprisingly, it does not have HTC’s latest Sense 5.

Myst is to have a 5 megapixel rear and 1.6 megapixel front camera to make video calls. The phone is supposed to be available only on AT&T when it is launched, with the potential of it expanding to other carriers around the world.

As far as Facebook Home goes, Myst is to have a version of the Facebook app that isn’t available anywhere else. While the package name for the regular Facebook app is “com.facebook.katana”, this one is called “com.facebook.wakizashi”.

There is a new set of permissions required to run the remade version of the Facebook app:

 

  • SYSTEM_ALERT_WINDOW – The Facebook app can spawn windows that stay on top of all other windows. According to the Android docs, “these windows are intended for system-level interaction with the user.”
  • DISABLE_KEYGUARD – It can turn off your lock screen.
  • RECEIVE_BOOT_COMPLETED – Facebook starts as soon as your phone starts.
  • GET_TASKS – The Facebook app can see what apps you have currently running.
  • CHANGE_WIFI_STATE – It can control your WiFi connection
  • WRITE_SETTINGS – It can change your system settings

Interestingly, there are a bunch of new permissions that allow Facebook to read the settings for the stock Android launcher, the HTC launcher and the Touchwiz launcher. It looks like Facebook Home is probably going to hit the Android Play store as a standalone app. Myst could well be a Facebook phone and not the Facebook Phone. Home could find its way to other Android phones, but as a milder version.

The layout XML and image files also indicate that Facebook Home will allow you to view your Facebook news stories, a standalone clock screen, search via a blue coloured Google app and will have shortcuts for launching apps. Another important feature discovered during the APK teardown shows something called “Chat Heads” that will have the ability to “pop out chat head”. Essentially, when you’re even within other apps, your Facebook chat notifications will remain above your screen.

Facebook Home is going to ensure a tighter integration of Facebook in the phone. While it could also be an app you can simply download from the Play Store, it could signal the beginning of a range of new phones that have an Android and Facebook marriage at the heart of it.