The HTC First for AT&T ($99.99 with contract) is not a "Facebook phone," but it's the closest the social juggernaut has come to creating one so far. Will you like it? A lot of that depends on you.
Do you like Facebook? Of course you do. What I mean is: Do you like like it? Do you scroll through status updates before you get out of bed in the morning to find out what everyone did the night before? Do you use it to publicly keep track of your 3.19 mile morning run before posting a photo of the latte art on your first coffee of the day? Do you spend most of your day chatting on Facebook Messenger, because who needs text messages or emails anyway? And did you see that photo you just got tagged in? The one where you had a piece of kale salad stuck between your two front teeth? What was your friend thinking?
If you spend that much time on Facebook, then yes, you'll probably like the HTC First. It puts Facebook front and center, in a way that makes it easier to stay connected than ever before. But Facebook Home isn't perfect, and the HTC First is only an average phone otherwise. It doesn't have a state-of-the-art processor to compete with the current crop of next-generation smartphones, and it lacks simpler details, too, like a microSD card slot. And the underlying version of Android is stock without modifications, which means you miss out many of the helpful customizations you'll get on other Android phones from HTC or Samsung.
Design and Battery Life
HTC makes beautiful phones, and the First is a lovely new addition to its portfolio. It has a unibody design that's made of soft-touch plastic that gives the phone a real premium, grippy feel. The phone comes in some fun colors, too. You can get it in pale blue, red, or white. I reviewed the black model, which looks a lot more generic than the other options, but no less sleek. What I'd really like to know, though, is where is the Facebook-blue model? I'm guessing Facebook didn't want to lend its recognizable hue to the phone, lest it be considered an official piece of Facebook hardware. But there is a faint Facebook logo on the back of the phone, sandwiched between HTC and AT&T logos, which lends it an air of officialism. This may not be a Facebook phone, but it's Facebook-approved.
Color aside, the rest of the phone is attractive too. The corners are rounded, which makes for a very comfortable fit in your palm. The 4.3-inch display has curved edges that blend seamlessly into the design. It's a lot smaller than most of the 5 inchers we're seeing lately, and the 720p screen resolution is a step down from the 1080p trend. That said, it still looks great. The display offers an ultra-sharp 341 pixels per inch, and text, videos, and images all look very crisp. It's actually quite comparable to the iPhone 5, which still has one of the best displays in the business. And at 4.96 by 2.56 by 0.35 inches (HWD) and 4.37 ounces, the First feels much more natural to hold than the huge HTC One?or the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S4.
The phone's only physical controls are a Power button on top and two Volume buttons on the left. There's a hidden SIM card slot on the right, but other than that, the body is fully sealed. Unfortunately, that means you don't get a microSD card slot, and the 2,000mAh battery isn't removable. It was good for a solid 12 hours and 30 minutes of talk time, but it won't last as long as that if you spend all day on Facebook. With the screen brightness set to maximum, I was able to stream a video over LTE for 6 hours and 53 minutes before the battery called it quits, which is also quite good.
Network and Call Quality
The First is a quad-band EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), tri-band HSPA+ (850/1900/2100 MHz) device with 4G LTE. You can also use the handset as a mobile hotspot to share that data with up to 8 connected devices with the appropriate plan. The phone supports 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi over 2.4GHz, but not the faster 5GHz band.
Reception is strong, and voice performance is solid. You can turn up the volume quite loud in the phone's earpiece. Voices sound clear, rich, and full, but at the highest volume calls you can hear a bit of fuzz in the background. Calls made with the phone sound clear and natural, but mediocre noise cancellation means your voice can get swallowed up if you're calling from a particularly noisy place. The speakerphone sounds a little fuzzy, but is definitely loud enough to hear in your car, if not outside. And the First had no trouble connecting to my Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset and making calls with the Standard Android voice dialer.
(Next page: Facebook Home)