Facebook’s first deep hardware integration is a custom version of the Android operating system, packaged on a new HTC smartphone called “HTC First.”
“We didn’t want to build our own phone or an OS,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during the press conference at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters. “We want to provide the best experience for every person on every phone so we didn’t want to build an operating system that only some people could use.”
Unsurprisingly, no mention was made of the advertising opportunities that Facebook Home will offer, but as vendors have noted, as people spend more time using the social network’s features on mobile devices, Facebook gains significant new sources of data.
“OS level access will provide Facebook with a better understanding of their users around the clock,” Adelphic Mobile cofounder Jennifer Lum told AdExchanger earlier this week. “Additional data could come from search, location and commuting patterns, payments, cross-app activity and lead to powerful targeting opportunities.”
One of the phone’s core features is Chat Head, which allows users to receive Facebook and text message notifications as rounded images of the person sending the message. The floating heads or Chat Heads follow the user throughout the phone and he or she can respond to the message without leaving the app or screen.
With Facebook Home, users can also scroll through, comment on, and like photos as they would on Facebook’s app. For now, the phone will only run on AT&T but it will soon be available on other networks like Orange, Samsung, Sony and Qualcomm.
According to IDC, smartphone users check Facebook an average of 14 times a day.
Facebook has become increasingly focused on mobile since it went public last year. Over the past year, the company has started displaying ads on mobile devices and revamped its iOS and Android mobile apps. Facebook is the second largest mobile ad publisher in the U.S. after Google, according to a new report from eMarketer, which predicts the social network will pull in $964.9 million in mobile ad revenue this year.