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Facebook prepares to dominate Android

'We'll own your homescreen'

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Facebook's upcoming Android announcement could see Zuckerberg & Co. take over smartphone homescreens, making the social network an ever-present companion for people with a thirst for e-validation.

The company will announce on Thursday an HTC phone that comes loaded with a Facebook app that supplants the traditional smartphone homescreen, according to a report on Monday by the Android Police.

Zuck & Co. have embedded Facebook on phones before, but the method has always been more ornamental than functional*. That could change on Thursday when the company holds an event whose invitation reads "Come see our new home on Android".

If Android Police's report is to be believed, the announcement will see Facebook wire a full-fat homescreen app into a mid-range HTC phone, letting people get a hit of digi-social stimulus in fewer steps than ever before.

The app has the requisite Android permissions necessary for a homescreen, the report contends, including the ability to turn off your lock screen, inspect apps that are currently running, alter system settings, change Wi-Fi connections, launch at phone startup, and spawn windows that stay on top of other Android windows.

This means the app can prioritize Facebook's software tools – messaging, camera, etc. – above others.

Initially, it will run on top of a mid-range HTC handset, Android Police reports. The phone will have 1GB of RAM, a 4.3-inch screen, Android 4.1.2 "Jelly Bean", HTC Sense 4.5, a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 1.6-megapixel front camera, no SD card, and its brain will be a dual-core MSM8960 Snapdragon chip from Qualcomm, Android Police says.

But the fun doesn't stop there – the Facebook app has the ability to read settings for the HTC Launcher, the stock Android launcher, and the Touchwiz launcher – this, Android Police believes, is a smoking gun that indicates the app may become available as a standalone app in the Google Play Store as well.

All will become clear on Thursday when the company makes its announcement, and if rumors from other publications are to be believed, e-retail giant Amazon may follow on Facebook's heels with its own phone.

Dominating mobile devices is a necessary step for Facebook, as the company looks to squeeze more revenue out of its attention-deficit denizens, who are fleeing en masse from traditional PCs onto smartmobs and tablets. With Zuck & Co. controlling the homescreen, users are likely to be ever more conscious of the need to maintain a lively and alluring digital presence on the Facebook farm, and that means mobile money for the company and its shareholders. ®

*Bootnote

Facebook tied up with HTC for the 'ChaCha" handset in 2011, which crammed a blue-and-white Facebook "F" logo dimple onto the bottom right of the handset. It has also grabbed Snaptu for tech that lets it deliver its software to feature phones in emerging markets.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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