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printed November 22, 2014
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Review: HTC First and Facebook Home

Form Performance FB Home Basics Extras Wrap-Up Comments  5  

Calls/Contacts

The phone and contact applications on the First are the stock Android 4.1 versions thereof. HTC has made no changes in their behavior or appearance. The phone app offers huge software buttons for dialing numbers, and the contact app can be stuffed with reams of data about the people you know. Both offer homescreen shortcuts/widgets, presuming you regularly access the native Jelly Bean UI to use them.

 

Calls and Contacts

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Messaging, Messenger, and Chat Heads

The First comes with all the stock Android messaging applications/services. That includes Gmail, email, Google+, Google+ Messenger, SMS, and Google Talk. They all function as they do on every other Android handset. Twitter is not preinstalled, but Instagram is.

Then there's Messenger, the third leg in the trio of FB home screen options. Messenger is essentially the stand-alone Facebook Messenger (read: instant messaging) application for Android that can now also handle SMS/MMS. You have to give the app permission to handle SMS before it does so. Once you do, all your Facebook and SMS messages are in one spot (Windows Phone 8 does this as well). It’s useful in that it reduces the number of messaging apps you use on the First, but there are some drawbacks.

FB Messenger offers threaded conversations, and makes it fairly easy to insert photos or emoticons, I've found some limitations, however. For example, you can't insert video at all, whether it be the FB chat or the SMS chat thread, but FBchat threads can be used to send voice messages.

Further, Messenger keeps separate threads for FB conversations and SMS conversations. For example, I sent Rich a text message and it built a little conversation around our messages. Later, I sent him a FB message (both from within the Messenger app). Rather than combining the two conversations into one, it keeps them separate: one for SMS, one for FB. Alternately, you can keep your SMS convos in the stock Android SMS app (out of FB Messenger completely,) which *does* support video and voice notes.

 

Messenger

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Chat Heads is an interesting piece of the whole Facebook Home experience. In a nutshell, it allows you to take any conversation from FB Messenger and pin it to the home screen. It persists in a silly little icon that shows your friend's FB profile photo in a small circle. Since most people use a picture of themselves for their profile shot, you see tiny little heads attached to chat conversations. Hence, Chat Heads.

The Chat Heads can be placed along either side of the FB Home screen (but not in the middle or at the top/bottom). When a message from that contact arrives, the little chat head will pop-up a notification, which you can act on or ignore. The Chat Heads can be set to persist across most applications on the phone (exceptions being the camera, YouTube, and several others.) Or, you can choose to leave Chat Heads active only on the FB home screen. The choice is yours. It's a neat little way to keep your favorite messaging pals in an easy-to-reach spot, but it certainly isn't for everyone. (Personally, I don't need to see little pix of my friends' faces on top of every app I use.)

Last, the Chat Heads are limited to one type of conversation due to the limitations of FB Messenger and how it handles FB versus SMS chats. I can put a Chat Head of Rich on the home screen, but it only handles either my FB thread with Rich or my SMS thread with Rich, not both. This could use some more development on Facebook's part, in my opinion.

 

Chat Heads

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

It's important to note that you can ignore Facebook Messenger if you choose, or use it even with Facebook Home turned off.

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