Facebook announced them earlier, and now Orange France and EE in the UK have confirmed it: they will be the first two carriers in Europe to carry the 4G HTC First, the first Android device with Facebook’s new Android launcher, Facebook Home, embedded in it. Although AT&T revealed pricing and preorders from today — at $99 — the two European carriers are still mum on how much it will cost and other details, except to note that the devices will be available this summer.
But in an interview earlier today with Bloomberg, Stephane Richard, CEO of France Telecom, owner of Orange and part-owner of EE, noted that mobile consumers in FT’s markets were becoming more “frugal” and less inclined to spend top dollar for mobile handsets. That could spell opportunity for the HTC First and other Facebook Home phones if they come with pricetag’s similar to the one in the U.S.
“Orange has worked with Facebook to bring the best possible Facebook experience to our customers around the world for years, from increasing mobile access to Facebook in emerging markets to the launch of Home today,” said Jean-Paul Cottet, Executive Vice President, Marketing & Innovation at Orange, in a statement. “We are proud to be Facebook’s exclusive partner in bringing the HTC First, with the most advanced and richest mobile Facebook experience available, to our customers.”
France Telecom, which owns both Orange France and half of EE (with T-Mobile), has been a longstanding partner of Facebook’s rolling out services both in Europe and in the rest of its footprint, which is strong in emerging markets in Africa — a key target for Facebook as it looks to sign up its “next billion” users, as Zuckerberg has described them.
Those projects have included France Telecom developing services like Party Call, a social calling service that has yet to launch but will likely make its way to the Facebook Home device, as well as services so that users in emerging markets with less extensive mobile data networks and low smartphone penetration can use the devices.
Facebook Home, and a keenly-priced HTC First, will be one more piece in that strategy.