The HTC First, also known as "the Facebook phone" thanks to its Facebook Home integration, is looking more and more like a flop.
The phone has reportedly been a sales disaster in the United States, and while official sales figures are unknown, Facebook has told its U.K. launch partner EE to hold off on selling the phone in light of negative feedback in the United States.
EE has canceled all pre-orders for the phone, and it doesn't seem like the carrier will be taking orders again anytime soon.
"Following customer feedback, Facebook has decided to focus on adding new customization features to Facebook Home over the coming months," EE said in a statement to Engadget. "While they are working to make a better Facebook Home experience, they have recommended holding off launching the HTC First in the UK, and so we will shortly be contacting those who registered their interest with us to let them know of this decision."
The HTC First runs Facebook Home, a launcher for Android phones that adds Facebook status updates to the lock screen. It also integrates Facebook messages and text messages into a single system called "Chat Heads," which can float on top of other running apps. Facebook announced Home and the HTC First at a big press event in April.
But roughly one month after the First's U.S. launch, AT&T slashed the phone's price from $99 to $0.99 on-contact. Although AT&T called the price reduction a "promotion," rumors suggest that the phone hasn't been selling well. Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry estimated that AT&T only sold 10,000 HTC First phones in the initial 60 hours, and a recent report by The Verge quotes an inside source who called the phone "a disaster."
The reception for Facebook Home hasn't been much better. The launcher is available for several existing Android phones, including the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, but user reviews in the Google Play Store are hovering around 2.3 out of 5 stars. Most reviewers have given Home a one-star rating.
Facebook is well aware of the criticisms, and says it's working on improvements. The company plans to add folders for apps and a dock for favorite apps at the bottom of the screen. According to TechCrunch, Facebook may eventually allow widgets—a classic Android feature—on the home screen.
In other words, Facebook needs to make Home more app-centric, despite CEO Mark Zuckerberg's vision for more people-centric computing. ("Home, by putting people first, and then apps—by just flipping the order—is one of many small but meaningful changes in our relationship with technology over time," Zuckerberg said during the launch event.) At least for now, it seems people aren't so eager to see that order flipped. And until Facebook makes some necessary changes, the HTC First will be stuck in limbo.
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