No, Facebook is not building its own smartphone.
"There is no phone," said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder and CEO, taking on the latest rash of rumors at the company's announcement today. "We are going to talk about how you're going to be able to turn your Android phone into a great, simple social device."
The Facebook-focused home screen, which will arrive first for smartphones and later on for tablets, has been dubbed Facebook Home. The launcher is designed to work with the apps you already have on your phone, along with Facebook's new line of apps.
Home isn't an operating system. It sits on top of the Android operating system, essentially as a user interface (UI) wrapper.
It's scheduled to be available as a free download from the Google Play Store starting April 12.
"Everyone has their phones with them all the time and they just want to know what is going on, no matter where they are," said Zuckerberg, noting that people generally look at their phone's home screen about 100 times a day. "It's just about saying connected with what's going on in your world.... The home screen is really the soul of your phone."
Home is designed to bring you directly into your social network with a feature called Cover Feed, which replaces s phone's traditional lock screen and home screen. It means the first thing you look at when you pick up your phone is giving you information about what your friends are doing, a family birthday party or your favorite sports team's big win.
Chat Heads is a new app that lets you chat with friends even while you're doing other things in your phone.
You could be listening to music or writing an email, and your friend's face will pop up on the screen if he or she is trying to reach you. Chat Heads will offer access to text and Facebook messages.
According to Facebook, Home works on the HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung GALAXY S III and the Samsung GALAXY Note II. Home also will work on the upcoming HTC One and Samsung GALAXY S4.
HTC and AT&T are the first companies working together to deliver a phone with Home. The HTC First, which goes on sale April 12, is available for preorder from att.com.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is email@example.com.
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