Facebook Home attracts close to 1 million downloads

The Android app has been available for about a month

Facebook has attracted "just about" 1 million downloads of its Home application in its first month of availability.

The app, which takes the place of the home screen on supported devices, puts Facebook much more at the center of the phone. Rather than an app launch or home screen appearing when a phone is woken from sleep, the user sees the Facebook Home screen and pictures and updates from their friends.

"That's very much in line with our expectations for the launch," said Cory Ondrejka, director of mobile engineering at Facebook, during a briefing for reporters. "We thought that was a large enough number to start getting data."

The users are typically early adopters who have specifically searched the Android Play Store to find the app, said the company. Facebook isn't currently using its main app to promote Home, but word has spread via the social network.

Putting Facebook updates in front of users has led to a 25 percent increase in the amount of time they spend using Facebook, Ondrejka said.

"Facebook is already the most-used app on mobile devices, so being able to bump that is something we are very excited about," he said.

A new version of Facebook Home will launch Thursday, along with the latest version of the Facebook app.

The latest version of the software addresses bugs, but Facebook is working on subsequent versions that will address feedback and complaints from those first million users. They include a new way to launch non-Facebook apps and an easier way to initiate chats.

The complaints about the app launcher were mostly related to the way it reorganized apps. If users had spent time organizing and curating their home screen, the Home app changed that.

"Any launcher that juggled apps would get this feedback," said Ondrejka. "Since I've spent time curating my apps, I don't want Facebook to move them around."

A new version of the app launcher, previewed on Thursday but due in a future update, looks much more like the traditional Android home screen.

One of the more subtle changes coming with Thursday's update is in the way the app handles loading on phones that aren't supported.

Users of unsupported devices still won't be able to download and install the app from the Android Play Store, but updates will be available to users who have installed it through a process called sideloading.

Sideloading involves getting a copy of the software from a phone that is supported and manually loading it onto an unsupported device. A software block would try to prevent that, leading users to hack the software to force it on the phone. A side effect of that is the inability to get updates.

With the latest version, users will get an alert that tells them their handset isn't supported but the manual hack to the software won't be required.

Facebook puts the number of those who have downloaded the app onto unsupported devices at "over 10,000" people, which is more than 1 percent of the current user base.

Support is not imminent for additional handsets.

"We're working on it now. We're excited about a couple of the new phones that are out there," said Adam Mosseri, product director at Facebook. "It will be months."

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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