HTC First might be its official name, but it is really the “Facebook phone” that we all have been waiting for. An exclusive device on AT&T, HTC First is the first smartphone to come preloaded with Facebook Home. Facebook Home overlays Android with a Facebook centric user experience. Gone are the traditional Android home screens and widgets, and in their place you get a steady stream of photos and status updates from your Facebook friends.
There really is nothing like the Facebook Home U.I. out there. The user interface refreshes automatically with Facebook photos and status updates that fill up your whole screen. This feature is called Cover Feed, and it’s essentially a Live Facebook Home Stream that keeps your home screen updated with a constant, fresh stream of photos and updates. This feature is what makes the HTC First so addictive. As a matter of fact, we can’t help but describe the Cover Feed feature as crack for Facebook addicts.
That said, HTC First and Facebook Home U.I. is not for everyone. For starters, it’s just not suitable as a phone for serious business users. After all, it will really distract you with all of the full screen Facebook updates. However, we can see this phone appealing to a wide range of folks out there. If you’ve ever waited online somewhere and have snooped around at what other people are doing on their phones, then you probably have noticed that much of the time, people are using Facebook on their mobile device. Facebook really is one of the most popular apps across mobile devices – so having a phone that puts Facebook front and center, can be a very satisfying experience for many mobile phone users out there.
But despite the Facebook heavy U.I., the HTC First still makes your other notifications front and center. To that effect, the home screen will also keep you updated with alerts from apps, texts, email messages, calendars and missed calls.
Another unique feature of Facebook Home are Chat Heads. The Chat Heads feature helps integrate Facebook in to your smartphone experience, even more so, by allowing you to chat with your Facebook friends from just about anywhere. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing – whether you’re browsing a web site, or checking your email – you just have to tap your friend’s picture to reply to their message. Afterwards you can drag their Chat Head to the bottom of your home screen to close the message. Chat Heads also works for SMS. Overall, Chat Heads are a great way to multitask when messaging others, and we would love to see more message services work like this too.
As for the overall experience of the Facebook Home user interface, again, because there is nothing quite like it out there, it does take a bit of getting used too. That said, it’s still quite easy to get the hang of. Our biggest gripe however with the user interface is that it is a bit too easy to like things – after all, all you have to do is double tap to like a status. We also find it a bit of a chore to have to get to the phone application each time for making calls. Of-course, you always have the option of turning off the Facebook Home user interface on the phone, but then what would be the point?
When it comes to the actual hardware of the HTC First, this is hardly a high-end smartphone, but it’s still a very solid offering. Size wise, the phone is nice and compact measuring just 4.96″ x 2.56″ and it weighs not too much either at 4.37 oz. And fortunately, between being quite compact, and its soft touch finish and curved edges, it’s also super comfy to grip. We also appreciate that the phone is available in a choice of four colors – pale blue, white, red, and black. Of-course the latter black finish is quite dull. Under the hood you get snappy performance thanks to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.4GHz dual core processor, 1GB of RAM, 1GB of storage, and LTE support.
The HTC First packs in a 5MP rear camera with an LED Flash, with BSI sensor, a 28mm lens and 1080p video recording. Colors tend to be accurate but performance in low light and indoors is generally poor. Furthermore many outdoor shots also suffer from soft focus. Overall, the camera is adequate, but it could be a lot better – especially considering that this is a phone that is all about posting photos to Facebook!
The 4.3″ display on the HTC First is also very good. It features a 1280 x 720 resolution at 341 ppi. Visuals are super sharp with vivid and accurate color reproduction. That said, while the display is not the best and largest display out there, it does do an excellent job of showing off your friends’ latest vacation photos in all of their glory. Battery life on the HTC First is pretty good too. Thanks to its 2,000mAh Li-Polymer battery, we got about 15 hours with moderate use.
In a world crowded with way too many Android smartphone choices, it’s nice that HTC has come out with a phone that has an emphasis less on specs and more on how it integrates with your lifestyle. Overall, we think the HTC First is a good choice for mid-range smartphone and that it could be the ultimate choice for Facebook addicts, but it’s certainly not for everyone. The HTC First is available at AT&T for $99 with a 2 year contract.
The Good: Facebook Home is like crack for Facebook addicts, Excellent grip, finish and form factor, excellent display, fair price point, option to disable Facebook Home U.I. and use stock Android 4.1.2, comes with 25GB of free Dropbox storage for 2 years, decent battery life, the only smartphone to come preloaded with Instagram.
The Bad: Display will be too small for some, lacks MicroSD slot for expandable storage, camera is meh