SO.HO Beta And Chat Heads Are What Facebook Home Should Have Been

Social Homescreen

After a little over a week of eager anticipation, we were finally able to get our hands on the release version of Facebook’s new launcher, Facebook Home. But after using it, I’m feeling let down. And judging by other people’s reactions all over social media, they’re feeling the same way. So what’s the problem with Home?

To be fair, Home is a brilliant concept. Having your launcher actually be Facebook with statuses and photos as your interactive background is really quite smart. But therein is the problem. Home is a great concept but in real use, it has some major flaws. To begin with, it’s not exactly intuitive. You have your round profile picture at the bottom and and then an interactive, ever-changing background that is your Facebook feed. It shows photos and status updates and has the photo or person’s cover photo in the background. If you hold down on the screen, it will show you just the photo at it’s normal size rather than the zoomed in version that Facebook uses, which is a problem in itself but I’ll get to that later. If you put your finger on your profile picture, you get options to go to your app drawer, Messenger, or your last opened app. But for the consumer who’s not all that good with Android or technology in general, they might be confused by this new set-up. That’s obviously not what you want to do with your software.

But now we get to the actual background, or Cover Feed as Facebook calls it. Going back to what I said about the zoomed-in images before, this is a huge problem for Home. Most of the pictures that get posted on Facebook are already low-res and pixelated. And many pictures, especially most good ones, are taken in a landscape format. So to compensate, Facebook zooms in and pans around the picture which results in a junky, pixelated view of only part of an image. On the occasion that a decent picture taken in a vertical format does pop up, it looks simple and clean but that’s a rare occurrence.

Facebook isn’t the first one to come up with the idea of having a launcher based entirely on social media. There’s actually a beta launcher that’s been out for several weeks now called SO.HO Beta. The launcher adopts the same look as stock Android with five home screens but your central home screen is focused on your social media feeds. Currently, you have the option to switch between Facebook and Twitter and let me tell you, this is closer to what Facebook Home should have been.

SO.HO allows you to have a scrollable news feed that takes up your entire home screen. Rather than having zoomed-in images as your wallpaper, they’re displayed within the news feed and can be expanded with a simple tap. The same thing goes for statuses so that everything looks very clean and uniform. You can also update your status straight from your home screen as well. Possibly the best feature is that you have standard home screens that you can fill with your own widgets on either side of the news feed. But this entire thing is enhanced when you combine it with the Chat Heads feature from Facebook Messenger. The combo is a beautiful thing, allowing you a better way of checking your social feed from your launcher while still having the great Messenger overlay. It’s more like what Facebook Home should have been.

Unfortunately though, Facebook Home is not quite as good as this combo. And while you’re already giving us your thoughts on how you like it in our weekend poll, how do you feel that it could improve? Let us know in the comments!

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