UPDATED: Facebook brings Chat heads from Home for Android to iOS


NEW YORK--Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) introduced the Chat heads messaging multitasking feature of its Home launcher for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android to the Facebook app for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS.

Chat Heads - iOS


Chat heads for iOS

"Now you can keep chatting even when you're doing other stuff on Facebook, like checking your News Feed. Tap chat heads to reply, drag them around, or flick them down to close, wrote Facebook's Kumar Iyer and Michael Sharon in a blog post.

Mike Schroepfer, Facebook's CTO and vice president of engineering, teased the announcement here at AllThingsD's D: Dive Into Mobile conference. He said that Facebook would push that update to its iOS Facebook app and that the Chat heads feature will be in the Facebook app itself. Schroepfer said the app should be updated April 16.

"Chat heads and stickers on the Facebook app for iPhone will roll out fully over the next few weeks," explained Iyer and Sharon.

Facebook Home, which rolled out late last week, is an alternative homescreen promising users more immediate and efficient access to Android applications and social media updates, deeply integrating the social networking platform into the mobile user experience. Chat heads, a key feature, enables users to message with friends while accessing other mobile applications. When a text message or Facebook message arrives, a circular "chat head" bearing that contact's profile photo appears onscreen regardless of whether the device owner is checking email, browsing the web or listening to music; tapping the chat head lets the user respond directly from the other app.

Schroepfer's announcement was presaged by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, said the company will not be directly porting Facebook Home to iOS, but some of its features will be coming to Apple devices in the near future.

"We're working closely with Apple, with Microsoft to get as good a Facebook experience as you can get," Schroepfer said.

Schroepfer and Cory Ondrejka, Facebook's director of mobile engineering, also made another announcements about Home. Schroepfer said the first update to Home for Android will be coming in the first week of May. He did not provide details on what the update will include but hinted that the phone's dialer or camera features are areas where Facebook could experiment.

Ondrejka also said that Facebook is opening up Home to Android devices outside of the United States. A company spokesperson later confirmed to CNet that Facebook Home is available globally. He also said that Facebook is considering Home for tablets. "We think that we might have to make some tweaks on it to make it really good on tablets, which is why didn't open it up on tablets," he said, adding, "We wanted to make sure we had the time to make it great."

Ondrejka said that Facebook views the mobile Web as "the clear third platform." However, said Facebook watches what he called "emerging platforms" like Windows Phone and BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) 10 to see how they are gaining traction and adding features to decide where to devote mobile engineering resources.

Schroepfer said that he is not worried about Google exerting control over Android and blocking Facebook Home. Earlier at the conference Google Executive Chairman Schmidt also praised Home, and he said it was a marker of Android's openness. He said Google would not try to block Home if it became popular. "It would be counter to our public statements, our policies, our religion," Schroepfer said.

"I think that fundamentally the product developers at Google are trying to do the same things we are, which is build products that people love," Schroepfer said.

For more:
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this SlashGear article
- see this Facebook blog
- see this CNet story

Related articles:
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Microsoft exec slams Facebook Home, calls Android 'complicated enough'
Facebook divulges Home data collection policies to quell privacy fears
Facebook takes over Android with Home, AT&T to offer HTC First Facebook phone
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Updated to include global availability of Facebook home and to include more information about the Chat heads release.