Facebook Home: More Stuff on the Way

Upcoming tweaks will give Facebook's Android home screen better tools for managing apps and the ability to initiate Chat Head chats.

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A month ago, when Facebook released Facebook Home, its Facebook-centric home screen for Android phones, the company said it planned to update it every month. And, good to its word, it plans to release an update later today. The update is actually a new version of the Facebook app for Android, and don’t get too excited: it swats bugs and improves performance rather than introducing new features.

But at a press event at Facebook headquarters today, the company provided quick peeks at meatier additions it plans to add in the coming months. They include folders for apps (which preserve any organizing you did before installing Home), a dock that lets you place four favorite apps at the bottom of the launcher, and the ability to easily launch chat sessions in Chat Head mode as well as respond when a friend messages you. There’s also a new tutorial in the works to help new Home users figure everything out.

Folders and the dock might help Home’s user rating on Google Play, which is currently a dismal two stars overall. Facebook says that’s an average of very high reviews and very low ones, and that many of the unhappy campers are nonplussed because installing Home hasn’t provided robust features for organizing apps. Right now, it just dumps all the contents of any folders you’ve created into one pile of apps.

The company is also working on other stuff it didn’t show at the event, including support for widgets and¬†compatibility¬†with additional Android phones. It also says it plans to offer a version optimized for Android tablets.

How’s Facebook Home doing so far? Well, HTC’s First, the first phone with Home preinstalled, is now 99 cents with an AT&T contract, which suggests that it hasn’t been a blockbuster. But at today’s event, Facebook revealed that Home has been downloaded for other phones a million times so far, and that folks who use it spend 25% more time on the service — which adds up to a lot of time given that Facebook is already the world’s most popular mobile app.

It’ll be interesting to see if that number grows even more once Home doesn’t feel quite so rudimentary. (My main complaint when I reviewed the First is that the software, while clever and slick, is just too superficial.)