Last week, Facebook announced two new products to expand their reach in the mobile market: Facebook Home, a downloadable Facebook-intergrated skin for Android phones and the HTC Facebook First, the first official hardware by the company. The First is scheduled to be released April 12th for $99 exclusively through AT&T. Naturally, the First comes pre-loaded with Facebook Home.
Facebook Home is a downloadable launcher for Android phones only, and a few of its key features such as Chat Heads are getting much praise by reviewers. On the other hand, the First is being criticized for its lack-luster hardware such as the mediocre 5MP camera and lack of a dedicated shutter button.
If you want to read all about Facebook’s new duo of software and hardware, below is a round-up of some of the reviews from around the web…
The HTC First is compelling for two reasons. For Facebook fans, it’s now easier to maintain social connections with friends and family. For the tech-savvy crowd who has little interest in the service, the phone is a stock Android 4.1 device that comes with AT&T LTE, which is still something of a rarity. Including this opt-out was a smart move on Facebook’s part, because it’s difficult to recommend that consumers sign two-year contracts on an unproven product that depends so heavily on their engagement with Facebook. Worst case, it’s a decent mid-range phone for $99 on contract (or $450 without any commitment).
Facebook Home isn’t perfect, nor will it convince many non-Facebookers to start Liking and commenting with reckless abandon. But it’s aesthetically pleasing, and surprisingly polished for a 1.0 product.
The good:Facebook Home puts the social network front and center, and introduces a chatting system that’s immediately addictive and useful. It’s easy to tweak for maximal (or minimal) interaction.
The bad: In full effect, Facebook Home forces you to relearn how to navigate your phone. The transition from Facebook Home to the chatting and mobile apps should be smoother.
The bottom line: Because Facebook Home dominates your Android start screen, it really only makes sense if you’re a Facebook junkie. Luckily, you can dial down Facebook Home or completely remove it, even if it comes preloaded on your device.
The HTC First is aptly named. It’s just the first “Facebook Phone”. Facebook has devised the Home Program where it will offer other handset manufacturers guidance on how to fiddle with the versions of Android they run to optimize Home. It might take six months, but I expect some OEMs will bite. If you’re deadset on getting a Facebook Phone, this probably won’t be your only option.
In the end, if you want the latest mobile technology, the First lags behind. Still, it’s a great device beyond the camera. So if the HTC First’s strengths align with your priorities, go ahead and pre-order.
For those who principally use their smartphone for managing their interaction with Facebook, then sure, it’s nice, but it’s a long way from being essential. However, a nip and a tuck here, wider provision for accommodating the other things you do with your phone, and Facebook Home would be much more compelling.
HTC Facebook First:
The HTC First is a weird phone. It’s a mid-range Android device that shows just how far the “mid-range” has come over the past few years. It’s a Facebook Phone that gives you the very best software that Google has to offer. It will likely appeal to new smartphone adopters and Android die-hards in equal measure. If you’re a Facebook devotee, or just want a cheap phone that runs well, by all means check out the First (but test the camera before you leave the store). If you absolutely want a smaller-sized Android phone with LTE, the First is probably the best option out there right now. The First is an intriguing option for a lot of different people — but all of them will find there are compromises to be made.
I don’t know if Facebook will reach its target audience with Facebook Home. Although Chat Heads are great, the Home experience itself simplifies app management to a fault. I fully recognize that most people don’t give their homescreens much thought and don’t invest much time in customization, so it’s entirely possible that I’m off the mark and there’s enough functionality here for casual smartphone users — but I don’t think I am.
- HTC officially unveils the Facebook Home-powered ‘HTC First’ smartphone, available Apr 12 for $99(9to5google.com)
- HTC One, reviewed: a standout, breathtaking Android phone for everyone(9to5google.com)
- Facebook unveils ‘Home’ for Android phones (Photos)(9to5google.com)
- Facebook Home offers a fresh take on Android UI (Photos)(9to5google.com)
- HTC ‘first’ ‘Facebook Home’ phone to come in multiple colors(9to5google.com)