Rumor Mill: Facebook Home leak points to Android homescreen replacement

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Leaked images obtained by Android Police suggest Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is poised to launch a replacement homescreen for Android smartphones, offering users an expanded number of permissions and controls compared to previous Facebook applications.

According to Android Police, the new Facebook Home launcher runs on top of HTC's Sense 4.5 skin and Android 4.1.2. Permissions include a system alert window that stays on top of all other windows, a disable keyguard to turn off the lockscreen and control over Wi-Fi connections and system settings. Facebook Home also features a dedicated "compose" button, a dedicated Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) search button and Chat Heads, which appears to offer similar functionality to the social network's standalone Facebook Messenger app.

Facebook Home will roll out via the mid-range HTC Myst smartphone, which touts a 4.3-inch 720p screen, 1GB of RAM, a 5-megapixel camera and Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) dual-core Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor. Android Police notes the app includes permissions to read settings for the stock Android launcher, the HTC launcher and Samsung Electronics' TouchWiz launcher, adding "Having permissions for TouchWiz on an HTC phone is a dead giveaway that Facebook plans on releasing Facebook Home not just on this phone, but as a standalone app in the Play Store."

Late last week, Facebook mailed out invitations to an April 4 press event, encouraging media to "come see our new home on Android." The Android Police report also corresponds with an earlier Wall Street Journal report indicating Facebook plans to announce new software for Android that displays content from a user's account on the smartphone's homescreen, pushing its services above the level of a third-party app. That report additionally stated Facebook will demonstrate the service on an HTC device: The two companies previously collaborated on HTC's ChaCha and Salsa phones, which feature a dedicated Facebook button.

Separately, TechCrunch reported that Facebook plans to announce a "software layer" running on top of Android that would provide direct access to Facebook services like Messenger and VoIP calling. Facebook has not responded to requests for comment.

Facebook now boasts more than 680 million mobile monthly active users in all. The company has repeatedly denied rumors it will expand its business into the mobile hardware segment. In addition, insiders say Facebook has privately promised both Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google  that a branded smartphone is not in the cards.

For more:
- read this Android Police article
- read this Verge article
- read this PCMag.com article

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