The torrent of leaks these past few days haven’t left much to the imagination, but HTC’s Peter Chou has just officially pulled back the curtain on the first phone to ship with Facebook Home — the HTC First — at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters.
According to HTC CEO Peter Chou the First will be the “ultimate social phone,” though he declined to dig into the device’s specs during his brief moments on-stage. The device will ship in four colors, and will support AT&T’s LTE network right out of the gate. Can’t wait for your chance to take it for a spin? The First will be available for $99 (with a 2 year contract naturally) starting on April 12, and pre-orders for the device kick off today. Those of you outside the U.S. will be able to join in the fun shortly too, as Mark Zuckerberg also noted that the phone would find its way to UK carriers Orange and EE in short order.
The mid-range First will be available in black, white, red and blue, and sports a 4.3-inch display that jibes with earlier reports. Facebook Home obviously serves to obscure the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean build that’s actually running the show, while one of Qualcomm’s dual-core Snapdragon 400 chipsets (and not the MSM8960 that was previously reported) provides the horsepower from inside that smooth, curved chassis. It’s not a bad looking phone and the internals aren’t quite as lousy as many had expected them to be, but all this begs a very important question — will anyone actually buy this phone when you can fire up Facebook Home on your (supported) Android handset for a whopping zero dollars?
I mean, c’mon — I’m a sucker for even mildly neat hardware, but so far neither HTC nor AT&T (whose CEOs both appeared on-stage to talk about how darned great the thing is) could provide a compelling reason why it’s worth buying. LTE? A handsome design? Neither of those are exactly hard to come by these days, are they? Facebook has said that the First will feature better integration for all those notifications you’re bound to get than if you had just installed the app, but at this point there’s little way of knowing how big a difference it’ll actually make. HTC knows how to make great hardware and I don’t mean to diminish that, but a lame device that’s been put together well is still a lame device.
This marks the second time that the social networking giant and the beleaguered Taiwanese OEM have collaborated on a peculiar hardware play. The first, if you’ll recall, were HTC Status (nee Chacha) and the Salsa released back in 2011– their main claim to fame was a dedicated Facebook button for quick access to your friends and feeds. Considering that neither device was exactly a runaway hit, it’s no surprise to see that Facebook and HTC have taken things in a different, more substantial direction with the One. Of course, the First is going to be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Facebook Home devices — Zuckerberg also pointed to a Facebook Home Program which allows hardware manufacturers to build Facebook Home into their own forthcoming handsets.