In lieu of a Facebook phone, a new Facebook 'Home'

At a press event at Facebook HQ today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced a suite of new Android apps called Home. 

Android on Facebook is getting a new look. Here, the Cover Feed feature.

For months, the tech press has frothed over the possibility of a Facebook phone. 

But the long-awaited Facebook press event Thursday did not yield a specially-branded handset.

Instead, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used the occasion to introduce "Home" – a bunch of new software for Android devices. Home, Zuckerberg says, is comprised of a series of apps that will "turn your Android phone into a great Facebook device." 

Beginning April 12, users will be able to download Home from the Google Play store; additionally, on that same day, HTC will begin selling a device called the HTC First, which will come pre-loaded with Home. TechCrunch reports that the First, an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean-powered smart phone, will sell for $99 with a two-year contract. (By comparison, the cheapest Apple iPhone 5 costs $199 with a two-year contract.) 

But back to Home for a second. Among the two most notable features in the suite of apps is Cover Feed, which allows you to turn your lock screen into a cascading Facebook feed, and the oddly-named Chat Heads, which Facebook says makes it easy to juggle multiple Facebook Messenger, SMS, and IM conversations. Both features, of course, pull you deeper into the Facebook experience – exactly what Facebook wants. 

So should we be disappointed that there's no Facebook phone? (Sorry folks, but the HTC First – essentially a mid-tier device – doesn't really count.) Well, no, writes Alexandra Chang of Wired. After all, Home is a strategy more in sync with Facebook's strengths as a company. 

"[I]t makes perfect sense: Facebook Home’s software has so much more reach than any hardware ever could," Chang writes. "Remember the HTC Chacha and HTC Status with dedicated Facebook buttons and signature Facebook blue coloring? No? That’s OK. Neither sold well. Facebook Home, on the other hand, doesn’t have to sell at all, because it can run on almost any Android phone."

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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