Review by Andrew Kameka on Thursday May 02, 2013.
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A Facebook phone has supposedly been in development for years, but the whispers were always deemed false until Facebook announced Home earlier this month. Replacing a few standard Android apps and injecting itself into major aspects of the OS, Facebook found a way to finally make an impact on mobile that's bigger than releasing an app.
The trouble with this narrative is that Facebook still isn't building phones. It's not in the company's interest, says CEO Mark Zuckerberg, so the social networking giant built the software and told phone makers to use Home to make smartphones more social. HTC is the first company to embrace that initiative by debuting the appropriately named HTC First. Can the HTC First offer something worthwhile and be more than just a "Facebook phone," or is this just a placeholder for something bigger and better to come?
Hardware & Key specs
Since 2010, screen sizes and total dimensions of Android smartphones have grown with little sign of slowing down. The HTC First bucks that trend by being a more manageable size of 4.96 x 2.56 x 0.35 inches (125.98 x 65.02 x 8.89mm). It's moderately sized and made to be held without needing to contort or stretch in awkward positions to use a massive device. The phone is also big on comfort because it's made with a polycarbonate plastic that keeps cool. The texture is a little strange because it's neither rough nor smooth - it's just there.
The HTC First is a rectangle with pronounced corners and a big bezel. Three capacitive buttons - Back, Home, and Menu - are at the bottom of the phone. The power button rests at the top, volume keys to the left, and a micro USB charging port and micro-SIM slot to the right. Minimalism is the defining factor of the First when in black, but there are also red, white, and light blue color options to accompany otherwise stoic form factor. The phone has 16GB of internal storage, yet only 11.96 GB are actually available to the user. There's no microSD slot, so managing space will be critical. It's disappointing to have such a hard cap on storage, but it is possible to get by with the allotted space.
- 4.3-inch display with 1280x720 resolution
- 4.96 x 2.56 x 0.35 inches (125.98 x 65.02 x 8.89mm)
- Weight: 4.37 oz (123.89g)
- NFC capable
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
The HTC First has a 4.3 SuperLCD display that gets practically everything right. An Android phone with this screen typically has a qHD resolution, but HTC employs a 720p resolution that provides best in class visuals. The dense display looks great with crisp text and colors that mirror what one would expect to see in real life. The brightness, color, text, and viewing angles all work well on the HTC First. The only complaint that can be levied against it is that outdoor visibility isn't the best, but the HTC First is exceptional in all other instances.
Though quad-core processors are coming to define what it means to have a top of the line Android phone, the 1.4 GHz dual-core processor in the HTC First can still offer a relatively smooth ride. The phone has 1GB of RAM, which combines with the Qualcomm processor to deliver performance better than one might expect. Graphical performance on high-end gaming is the only time things are noticeably a couple of steps behind the competition. The First is obviously not on par with the HTC One, but it's still nimble enough to move at a reasonable pace.
Facebook Home has a slightly negative effect on performance. The lock screen and home screen replacement sometimes stutter when sifting through updates or trying to launch the app drawer. Benchmarks scores are identical whether using Home or turning it off for the stock Android appearance, so it's not a major difference. Real world performance is noticeable despite what the numeric data suggests. The phone typically handles day-to-day activities without major concerns or slowdowns, but the software requires some fine-tuning that will probably arrive in a future update.
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.