HTC First Review

Even if you don't want Facebook to take over your phone, the HTC First is worth a look. Under Facebook Home is beautiful stock Android and the phone itself boasts a great screen and speedy performance.
Even if you don't want Facebook to take over your phone, the HTC First is worth a look. Under Facebook Home is beautiful stock Android and the phone itself boasts a great screen and speedy performance.
Even if you don't want Facebook to take over your phone, the HTC First is worth a look. Under Facebook Home is beautiful stock Android and the phone itself boasts a great screen and speedy performance.

Highs

  • Comfortable, compact, and attractive design
  • Beautiful screen
  • Stock Android under Facebook Home
  • Speedy, smooth performance

Lows

  • Lockscreen won’t….lock (bug)
  • Sealed-in battery
  • No microSD card slot
  • Facebook Home feels undercooked

DT Editors' Rating

facebook-homeHow much do you love Facebook? Do you love it enough to let the social network take over your phone? How about enough to at least allow it a prominent place on your phone while still allowing you to access all that other stuff you need (apps, email, rival networks)? That’s what the HTC First offers, a Facebook experience that is persistent and prevalent without being all-consuming. Even if this doesn’t appeal to you, the First may catch your eye. At only $100 on AT&T, it’s a tempting option, especially if you like HTC phones but don’t care for its usual, bloated ‘Sense’ user interface.

Look and Feel

The HTC First isn’t meant to be an expensive flagship phone, even though it’s the first to feature Facebook Home. Aesthetically, it’s simpler and less flashy than the HTC One series and more compact than most superphones. None of this is bad. We like the unibody design with its rounded edges, soft touch back, all glass front, and lightweight feel. All of this comes together to make the First a very comfortable, holdable phone that is elegant in its simplicity.

Though not as eye-catching as HTC’s flagship One series, the First has typical HTC hallmarks of design, such as well-placed buttons that are easy to find by feel and navigation buttons below the screen. This time around you get Back, Home, and Menu, the last of which is still relevant when dealing with Facebook Home. We like that the display glass is curved a bit at the edges, though it doesn’t flow smoothly into the plastic casing.

The unibody design means no access to the battery, plus there’s no SD card slot for expansion. For a phone with only 16GB inside, this could be a problem for some.

Screen and Sound

Due to the 4.3-inch display size, even people with small hands will be able to use the First with just one of them. The colorful and crisp 1280 x 720 pixel screen offers wide viewing angles that are only occasionally marred by reflections off the glossy surface. In the sun, the display remains visible as long as you have the brightness up high; keeping it on auto gave us good results during testing.

 htc first facebook phone favorites

Instead of placing the speaker on the back or even the front as we saw on the HTC One, the First’s speaker is on the bottom edge. Holding the phone in portrait orientation doesn’t block the sound, and in landscape we found our hand helped amplify the sound depending on what we were doing (watching video vs. playing a game). Setting the First on a table won’t muffle audio, making it good for listening to music and speakerphone calls. The speaker pumps loud volume that remains distinct even with some background noise, though the audio quality is average for phones.

Facebook Home and Android

The name HTC First is either a promise or a threat, depending on your opinion of Facebook Home. As the first device to ship with this launcher/overlay/skin/interface/apperating system, it will likely be judged based on whether people want that much Facebook in their digital lives or not. So, before we go into how Facebook Home works on the First, we should note the following: You don’t need to use it. Unlike interface skins like HTC Sense and Samsung TouchWiz, you can turn Home off without needing to root the device. Just go to Home Settings and tap the very first item. (Don’t worry, you can turn it back on.) If you turn FB Home off the First reverts to stock Android Jelly Bean. No HTC Sense to be found.

You don’t need to turn FB Home off to get to the normal Android part of the phone. It’s always there, sitting behind all the Facebook stuff quietly, waiting for you to notice it.

However, your first experience of the First will be the Facebook one. Right from go the screen is filled with status updates on top of a Ken Burns-style pan of an image punctuated by your profile picture in a circle at the bottom. On first boot, the system guides the user through basic operations, such as swiping to open up Facebook, Messenger, or the Apps tray – and tapping to just swipe through status updates in the glorious full-screen.

Facebook Home is well designed and seems simple at first blush. Once we started to use it, we hit a few snags, such as figuring out that the first App Tray Facebook shows does not list all the apps, just a few important ones (similar to a Home screen). When browsing status updates in the full-screen, prettified view, you can Like and comment but not share easily. The Chat Heads function is probably great for people who use Facebook as their primary messaging system. But having the head of your friend looming over every app you open (except full-screen ones) can get creepy.

We’ll have a full review of Facebook Home soon. Overall, the experience isn’t that bad. We’re still glad you can easily turn it off.

*Bug: On our HTC First and a One X+ running FB Home, we’ve had an issue with the lockscreen. If you have security settings on your lockscreen, like a code or pin, they do not show up when Home is activated. There’s currently no way to fix this. Other news outlets have reported the issue, as well. HTC and Facebook claim they are looking into the problem.

Specs and Performance

The First is a mid-range smartphone with mid-range hardware, but don’t assume that means sub-par performance. The 1.4GHz Qualcomm dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM scored 5,975 on the Quadrant benchmark. That puts it on par with the Galaxy Note 2 (6,000) and outscores the HTC One X+ (5,100) and the Nexus 4 (4,900). This matches our hands-on experience with the phone – we found it smooth and responsive, both when using Facebook Home and the default version of Android. We experienced high framerates when playing games, watching video, and swiping around the interface.

htc first facebook phone apps

Connectivity options include Micro USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and GPS. There’s no microSD card slot and only 16GB of internal memory, which could be a problem for people who like to download a ton of apps and take lots of pictures and video.

AT&T’s Network

The phone runs on AT&T’s network and is LTE-capable. During our testing we weren’t able to pick up an LTE signal; we found the performance on 4G impressive, anyway.

Call quality is good on both ends. The recipients of our calls heard us clearly even with some background noise. Their voices came through loud and clear as well.

Cameras

HTC doesn’t provide any customization of the First beyond adding Facebook Home, which means that the camera app is stock, just like everything else. Thus, the 5-megapixel shooter on the back doesn’t get any help on the hardware side (unless you download a third-party app). As a result, images lack crispness and don’t balance light and dark as well as we’d like, even when the overall light is good. Pictures are okay for sharing digitally, especially when viewed on small screens. Look at them on a computer and their flaws jump out.

htc first facebook phone camera zoom

The upside to this is that pictures of this type benefit most from Instagram filters. That app is pre-loaded and should probably be your default if another app doesn’t already have your heart.

The 1.6-megapixel front camera is wide-angle, but not as wide as other recent HTC phones. The quality here is good enough for self-portraits and video chats.

Battery Life

Just as with the One series phones, the HTC First has a sealed-in 2000 mAh battery that isn’t user replaceable. We haven’t had time to run our full battery tests yet, but so far it looks like the phone can last all day under medium to heavy usage, though some heavy-duty tasks tend to drain the battery faster than we expected. With a few common battery saving tricks, such as keeping the screen brightness on low and connecting to Wi-Fi when possible, even heavy users should find themselves satisfied with the First’s longevity. We will update the review with more results.

Conclusion

The HTC First is a budget phone that doesn’t feel like one. In fact, it reminds us a lot of recent Lumia handsets in look, feel, power, and price. Putting aside Facebook Home, you get excellent performance, comfortable design, a good display, and stock Android when you want it. And if you do like having Facebook all up in your face at all times, the integration is smooth. We could do without the sealed-in battery and lack of microSD slot. For a phone at this price these drawbacks are forgivable, especially considering its other great qualities.

Highs

  • Comfortable, compact, and attractive design
  • Beautiful screen
  • Stock Android under Facebook Home
  • Speedy, smooth performance

Lows

  • Lockscreen won’t….lock (bug)
  • Sealed-in battery
  • No microSD card slot
  • Facebook Home feels undercooked
Product Review

LG's new V40 has 5 cameras, but ThinQ twice before you buy

The LG V40 ThinQ has five cameras -- three on the back and two on the front. This makes it one of the most versatile camera phones LG has released to date, and it’s creatively fun to use. Read on for more in-depth analysis.
Mobile

LG V40 ThinQ vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Can the V40 unseat the king?

The LG V40 ThinQ is packing a massive display and an incredible five lenses, making it a unique offering in the market. But is it better than the Galaxy Note 9, another phone with a huge display and great cameras?
Mobile

Key settings you need to change on your brand-new Google Pixel 3 or 3 XL phone

Google's Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones are now available. If you've set the phone up, we've rounded up a handful of key settings we think you should tweak or turn on to get the most out of your new device.
Mobile

Google Pixel 3 vs. Apple iPhone XS: Does Google’s A.I. take down Apple?

The Google Pixel 3 is here, boasting top-tier specs like a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and 4GB of RAM, and some of the world's best artificial intelligence features on a phone. But can it take out the Apple iPhone XS?
Mobile

There are four versions of the Mate 20, but which one is the best?

Huawei revealed its full range of Mate 20 handsets, and it seems that there is a device that fits everyone's needs. We've compared all the options, including the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the Mate 20 X, the Mate 20, and the Mate 20 Lite.
Mobile

Keep your new Google phone pixel perfect with the best Pixel 3 cases

If you want your new Google phone to stay pixel perfect, then you should snag one of the best Pixel 3 cases. We've scoped out some of your best options so far based on different styles, levels of protection, and budgets.
Mobile

Huawei is working on a 5G foldable phone, the Mate 20 X may be its template

Huawei is working on a folding 5G smartphone, according to the company's CEO, Richard Yu. He also provoked speculation the phone may have something in common with the massive Mate 20 X and its 7.2-inch screen.
Mobile

Master your new Google phone with these handy Pixel 3 and 3 XL tips

If you’re hunting for some Pixel 3 tips to help you get more from your Google phone, then you’ll find them right here. We’ve got tips for shortcuts, camera controls, and more. All these tips will also work for the Pixel 3 XL.
Mobile

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are now available for purchase

Google's latest flagships, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, are now official and we have all the details from the October 9 event in New York City and Paris. Here's everything we know about the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Mobile

The five-camera LG V40 ThinQ is now available from the major carriers

LG has finally taken the wraps off the new LG V40 ThinQ, the company's latest and greatest flagship phone that packs a whopping five cameras. Here's how to buy the new LG V40 ThinQ.
Mobile

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.
Mobile

Google may charge up to $40 per Android device for app suite following EU ruling

Google announced that it will be charging Android device manufacturers in Europe a licensing fee to use its apps and services. The announcement is part of an effort to comply with new European Commission regulations.
Product Review

Huawei’s monster Mate 20 X makes the Galaxy Note 9 look small

The Huawei Mate 20 X has a 7.2-inch screen, but is surprisingly manageable to hold, yet still a little too big to carry around. Huawei’s pushing the phone’s ability as a mobile gaming handheld, challenging the Nintendo Switch.
Mobile

How to sell your old Google Pixel or Pixel 2 for the most money

So, it's time for a expensive new smartphone, and you'd like to partially fund the purchase by selling your old Google Pixel. Find all the information you need to get as much money as possible for your Pixel or Pixel 2 here in our guide.