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HTC First is the phone for Facebook junkies (and no one else)

Armando Rodriguez | April 22, 2013
The HTC First may not look that impressive on paper, but its close ties with Facebook make it the phone for fans of the social network.

Aside from its low price tag, the First's other big selling point is its deep integration with Facebook Home. Facebook Home is available for download on a handful of other Android handsets, but HTC worked closely with Facebook to optimize the launcher for the First. Notifications from third-party apps show up on the home screen alongside Facebook notifications, and the app ran surprisingly well on the First's dual-core 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor.

Though I consider myself a very casual Facebook user (I usually only check the damn thing two to three times per week), I found my activity on the social network increased dramatically while using Facebook Home. The app made it effortless to like and comment on my friends' posts--photos and status updates I wouldn't have seen had Facebook Home not shoved them in my face.

After some time, however, Facebook Home's downsides became much more apparent: Doing anything that wasn't related to Facebook, such as playing music or browsing for apps, took more effort than it did on other smartphones, as you'd have to dig through the app drawer to find the appropriate apps. You can't put app shortcuts or widgets on your home screen, and the status bar is hidden away until you swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal it. (You can check out Caitlin McGarry's review of Facebook Home for more details on the app, but if you don't live your entire life on Facebook you probably won't benefit from it in any meaningful way.)

The big secret

So why should you even consider picking up this seemingly mediocre smartphone? For all of its flaws, the HTC First has one thing going for it: You can easily turn off Facebook Home to access a stock version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, giving you all the benefits of Android without any of the added bloat-ware that usually plagues the OS.

This is a big deal. The only other phone currently shipping with raw Android is the Google Nexus 4--a phone that doesn't work with LTE networks here in the states. Granted, the Nexus 4 runs a newer version of Android Jelly Bean, but HTC's offering is compatible with AT&T's potent LTE network and can still access most of the major Jelly Bean features, such as Google Now and the performance improvements brought by Project Butter.

Another of the First's hidden strengths is its battery life. The embedded 2000mAh battery in the phone may not sound all that impressive next to the 3300mAh battery found in the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD, but I managed to squeeze a full 8 hours of use out of the First before I had to seek out a charger. With Facebook Home disabled, however, that number increased by another hour or so. Obviously these times will vary depending on how you're using your phone and the types of apps you install, but I found them impressive nonetheless.

 

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