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The Facebook Phone: Goodbye Icons, Hello Photos


Nearly three years after Facebook (FB) and Taiwanese device-maker HTC first offered up the unpopular ChaCha and Salsa phones to highlight the social networking site, they're at it again. Only this time, there's a twist. With the newest offering, you don't necessarily have to buy a particular phone, you can also download Facebook's just unveiled Home to any Android device.

The question now is, will you want to?

Some users will surely embrace what CEO Mark Zuckerberg describes as a "new experience" and "a simple, social device that was designed around people rather than applications and tasks." Others may balk when it comes to actually handing over the familiar icons of their Android home screen for an unending stream of photos, messages, texts, "likes", and alerts known as Chat heads that automatically pop into view.

"It's an effort to be more relevant," says David Garrity, principal with GVA Research in the attached video, while acknowledging that Facebook has tried to "cover as much of the mobile operating system as possible" by pairing with Google's (GOOG) Android platform.

While this new image-heavy, interactive system falls short of being granted game-changer status, Garrity thinks it will take a long period of "consumer road testing" before we know if Home is actually a behavior changer or simply fun to look at.

In explaining the new product to a live audience at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, Zuckerberg said the average smart phone user glances at their homescreen for updates about 100 times a day; an occurrence he thinks ''should be deeply personal" and reflect "the soul of your phone."

For his part, Garrity is unsure "how you stop people and get them to engage for a longer period of time" when the product, by nature, is designed for people on the go.

"What Facebook is trying to say here is, look, you really need only one app and that's it," he says, calling that "a wonderful marketing message" albeit one that will have to compete for consumer attention against millions of existing applications.

One clear stumble in the launch was the fact that, for some undisclosed reason, it will not be available for tablets for several months, while the pre-installed HTC First phone and the Home download will be available for test drives starting April 12th.