Elegantly compact design; Bright display with wide viewing angles; Cover Feed is engaging and intuitive; Chat Heads lets you message while using other apps; Pure Android Jelly Bean under the hood
Camera a bit slow and struggles in low light; Lax default security settings; No microSD Card slot
The HTC First gives Facebook fans an attractive smartphone with an immersive social experience, but the camera could be better.
Sure, every Android phone is social, but you haven't seen one like this. The HTC First for AT&T is the first handset with Facebook Home preloaded, slick new software that graces your screen with a steady stream of friends' updates. See a photo of a delicious eclair someone shared? Just double tap the display to like it. You can also chat with Facebook friends even while you use other apps. However, Facebook Home is also available as a download for several Samsung and HTC phones. Does the First do enough on its own to make it worth $99?
DesignMotorola Droid Razr M for Verizon, but is a little thicker and taller.
Overall, we love the minimalist aesthetic of the First. The soft-touch black back is not only easy to grip, but looks refreshingly clean (with only small gray HTC, Facebook and AT&T logos decorating the bottom). Other color options include white, red and pale blue. Up front, the unified display and bezel create a seamless facade. A backlit circular home button, arrow-shaped back button and dashlike settings button sit beneath the screen.
The left side of the First houses two large volume buttons that are easy to press, while a microUSB port and the SIM card tray line the right side. Up top, you'll find the headphone jack and a raised power button that was easy to activate without looking. However, a couple of times the phone shut off when we sat down with it in our front jeans pocket.
The First notched 404 lux when we hit it with our light meter, which is considerably higher than the smartphone average (299 lux), but below the Droid Razr M (449) and HTC One VX (471).
Facebook Home and Cover Feed
If someone shares a photo, it will dominate the screen with small text of the update up top and Like and Comment icons below. You can also double tap the display to like an update, after which you'll see a huge thumbs-up icon pop up to confirm your approval. We like the way photos automatically start panning, which is a neat effect.
App launcher and Jelly Bean
Just keep in mind that you can't create folders of apps on the launcher, which is a bummer. Widgets are also off the table when Facebook Home is on, since Cover Feed really plays that role.
Should you decide to turn Facebook Home off (an option in the Settings menu), you'll get the purest Android Jelly Bean (4.1.2) experience this side of a Nexus, complete with multiple home screens, widget support and much easier access to the Google Play store. The lock screen also will turn to Google's, with shortcuts for the camera and Google Now.
When Facebook Home is active, double pressing the Home button lets you switch between open apps, while long pressing launches Google Now.
Security and Privacy
Fortunately, you can uncheck "See Home When Screen Turns On" in settings, which will put the lock code prompt front and center whenever you attempt to use the First.
We ran into an issue during our testing of the First. When Facebook Home was set as the lock screen, we did not get an unlock prompt when trying to open applications. However, when we performed a fatory reset, we were not able to replicate the issue. We'll continue to investigate and update this review accordingly.
Don't have time to respond right this second? Chat Heads will remain persistent as you move from one app to the other, and you can even move the head (or group of heads) around the screen to get them out of your way. Or you can simply drag the heads to an X at the bottom of the screen if you'd rather not be bothered.
Our one pet peeve with Chat Heads is that the head of our brother didn't automatically disappear after we had responded to a message. In other words, you have to tell Facebook Home when a conversation is over. If the heads become too much, you can disable the feature in settings.
Specs and performance
On An3DBench, which measures graphics performance, the First registered 7,407. That's slightly higher than the Razr M (7,335) and beats the One VX (7,042) by a wider margin.
In everyday use, the First proved responsive when we opened apps, but was not quite as speedy as quad-core devices like the HTC One. Still, this handset easily handled the demanding graphics of "Modern Combat 4 Zero Hour," even as dozens of enemies attacked our troop on a sandy beach. The billowing smoke and beams of gunfire set against palm trees were almost surreal.
4G and Data usage
Using the Speedtest.net app, the First pulled down a solid of 12.8 Mbps for downloads and a fairly good 4.2 Mbps for uploads in and around our New York office.
Over time, Facebook Home could eat into your AT&T data plan, which is why we're glad that the Settings menu lets you choose between low, medium and high settings for data use and image quality. After one day of testing the First phone on medium data use, Android's data-usage utility showed that Facebook Home had consumed 18MB. If you have AT&T's 1GB plan, the app could use more than 50 percent of your allotted data over the course of a month.
The stock Android camera app on the First is fairly barebones compared with HTC's on other phones. You can adjust the flash, white balance, exposure and scene mode, as well as shoot panoramas, but that's pretty much it. You won't find special effects or a burst mode.
A 720p video we captured of New York traffic didn't impress. While the footage looked bright and we could make out the letters on a passing taxi ad, the video stuttered a few times.
Facebook's preloaded Facebook app is a mixed bag. We like how easy it is to upload and add a comment for multiple images at once, but we grew tired of the invitation to tag every image. Plus, the view of each image is smaller than Google's Gallery app, and you can't pinch to zoom.
The First comes delightfully free of carrier bloatware, with only AT&T Visual Voicemail populating the launcher. As you might expect, you'll find Facebook Messenger, Facebook app and Messenger on the launcher, too. As with any other Android phone, you can download any app you want from the Google Play store. Facebook doesn't include its own app store, which is fine by us.
The 2,000-mAh battery inside the HTC First delivered fair battery life, lasting 6 hours and 16 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test. That runtime is a bit higher than the average, but about 45 minutes behind such competing phones as the HTC One VX (6:58) and Droid Razr M (6:56).
Ironically, although the First does "fork" Android, this phone could very well satisfy Android purists on a budget. That's because if you disable Facebook Home, you get a very clean installation of Jelly Bean with no carrier meddling. However, we miss some of HTC's own Sense tweaks here, especially when it comes to the less-than-stellar camera.
Even though it doesn't support as many types of notifications, we believe most users will be content to download the Facebook Home app to existing Android devices. But if you're looking for an attractive and affordable smartphone that puts Facebook first, the HTC First is definitely worth a look.
|Phone Display Size||4.3|
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.1|
|CPU||Dual-core 1.4-GHz Qualcomm MSM8930 Snapdragon 400|
|Processor Family||Qualcomm Snapdragon 400|
|Memory Expansion Type|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Front Camera Resolution||1.6MP|
|Camera Resolution||5 MP|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|Size||5.0 x 2.6 x 0.4 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|