HTC First, the Facebook Smartphone (Sort Of)

| Analysis

On March 28th, online reports claimed that Facebook would launch a Facebook smartphone on Thursday (today). That didn't happen, but the source of the rumor was the HTC First, a sort of dedicated Facebook smartphone made with cooperation from AT&T. Let's take a look.

The Facebook smartphone was supposed to run what was essentially a Facebook OS, a forked version of Android dedicated to all things Facebook. That's not what Facebook announced, unveiling instead "Home," an Android-only app that takes over your Android home screen and lock screen, offering you omnipresent access to chats and status updates (see our full coverage of Home for more).

Here's Facebook's promo video for Home:

AT&T and HTC developed the First, the first Android device to ship with Home installed out of the box. It's set apart from the other four Android devices that will run Home on April 12th by the fact that you won't have to download Home from Google Play.

And that's it.

HTC First

The HTC First in Pale Blue
Also available in Black, White, Red
(Screen is Facebook Home's Notifications Screen)

AT&T and HTC want to make it out like this is in some way super cool, and maybe it will be to folks who yearn for Facebook content to be shoved in their face the moment they activate their smartphone. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went so far as to introduce it at the end of the "Home" launch event using a Steve Jobs-like "There's one more big thing that we want to talk about."

The device is available for pre-order and will ship on April 12th, the same day that Home will be released. It's priced at $99.95 with a two-year contract. It features a 1280 x 720 resolution screen, runs Android 4.1 out of the box (current version of Android is 4.2.2, so that's pretty cool), has a 2,000mAh battery, and has 16GB of storage. It works on AT&T's LTE network.

We are very interested to see what end-users make of both Home and the HTC First. The price is attractive and the specs are respectable. If folks embrace Home, AT&T and HTC will sell some units. If not, well...nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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Lee Dronick

Bryan, I am having trouble seeing the video, a place to click. I can see the border, but no content. If I inspect the element I can see that it is an iframe with a link to youtube. I can click on that link and go to youtube.

Any other visitors having this problem, or is it just me?

Bryan Chaffin

Video plays fine for me, Lee. This is the first I’ve seen of your complaint, but we’ve seen some issues recently with Flash-related plugins on some browsers auto-playing a video even when though the video is flagged to not auto-play.

Lee Dronick

Let me check it on my iPad, I am currently on the iMac.

Lee Dronick

It worked fine on my iPad.

I just turned off Safari Extensions and reloaded the page, the video then was displayed in the iframe. I will see if I can find the culprit.

Lee Dronick

Found it, Google Disconnect which is supposed to keep Google from tracking you around.


Lee, the video played fine for me too.

(Mac OS 10.8.3)

Lee Dronick

Getting back on topic. I am certain that a lot of people will want this app. I won’t even if it was available for iOS.

Bryan Chaffin

I’m not so sure, though I am trying hard not to project. As a different way of browsing Facebook, Home might be compelling. Being taken straight to Facebook every time I open up my smartphone, however, is not compelling.

I suspect that Facebook will eventually launch a version of Home that runs just like any other app with the option not to replace your home screen and lock screen.

Adam Christianson

Sorry it was giving you trouble. Sounds like it was an extension. There are some known issues with the YouTube5 extension. The developer is aware of them and working on a patch for those. If it’s a different extension, please let me know and I’ll reach out to the developer for a fix. We use the standard code from YouTube so if there isn’t something else tweaking our code then it should work as normal.

Lee Dronick

Adam, it seems to be a a problem with a Safari extension called Google Disconnect. When I disabled that particular one the video displayed properly.

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