Despite a step down in camera and display specs compared to current smartphone titans, the HTC First still serves up an excellent Android experience on a mid-range device. As the first smartphone preloaded with the Facebook Home interface, the One fills a niche market for Facebook fanatics and Android purists seeking a "functional Android phone," according to Jessica Dolcourt of CNET. "Everyone else can move along."
Comfortable grip. The First's 6-by-2.6-by-0.4-inch chassis fits comfortably in a single hand, with little sacrifice to screen space. Weighing 4.3 ounces, it feels sturdy but not overly heavy. The virtually untouched stock Android operating system, designed for customization, seems at odds with the beginner-friendly Facebook interface. This customization freedom is excellent for more experienced Android users but "less intuitive" for newcomers, says Alex Colon of PCMag.com.
Fast, but a battery hog. Great battery life, strong reception and good call quality combine with AT&T's 4G LTE network to make the First smartphone excel at talking, texting and browsing the web. This "data demon" is "speedy and responsive," says Dolcourt. However, Facebook Home's constant updates can hog battery life, and experts recommend switching to low data usage to go longer between charges.
Strong, but can't remove the battery. Though plain-looking, the HTC First is sturdy and likely to hold up against bumps, bangs and bruises. Manufactured as a smooth slab of polycarbonate, the First is grippy yet strong. The trade-off is the lack of a removable battery or microSD card slot.
Humdrum design. Reminiscent of previous HTC candy bar devices, the First is compact yet lacks any design points of interest for reviewers. While the display is technically at a lower resolution than those of top-notch phones, it's still crisp and "quite comparable to the iPhone 5," states Colon. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a better-looking screen on a midrange Android phone," says Mark Spoonauer of Laptop Magazine.
Social features galore. At first glance the HTC First caters only to Facebook fanatics, but experts have fallen in love with some of its more intuitive features. The First is meant to be a social phone, and the included Chat Heads app (now available for most Android phones) allows users to see and respond to messages even while using other apps. When a new message arrives, your friend's floating head (aka profile picture) appears in a bubble on the screen; simply click and respond. Notifications sync onto a single home screen, where a single swipe can erase one or all. The 5-megapixel camera captures images nicely, but lacks the details and color accuracy of high-end shots. Aside from its Facebook Home interface, what sets the HTC First apart is its near-stock Android experience. Android fans who turn off Facebook altogether will be treated to a highly customizable, vanilla Android 4.1 Jellybean interface.
Rating the HTC First at 3 out of 5 stars, Jessica Dolcourt concludes it's an excellent device for Facebook fanatics and Android purists but offers little for anyone else.
Review: Humdrum Phone Puts Facebook First, Not Much Else, Jessica Dolcourt, April 9, 2013
Jessica Dolcourt also reviews Facebook's new Home app, concluding it's good for Facebook users but may be too overwhelming for the average consumer's tastes.
Review: A Promising "Home" for the Facebook Obsessed, Jessica Dolcourt, April 9, 2013
3. Laptop Magazine
Mark Spoonauer praises the HTC First for its "immersive social experience" but finds the camera lacking. He thinks most users "will be content to download the Facebook Home app" rather than buying a Facebook phone.
Review: HTC First (AT&T) Review, Mark Spoonauer, April 12, 2013
Scoring the HTC First at 3.5 out of 5, Alex Colon concludes that while Facebook Home is an interesting new app, the smartphone isn't the best choice to display it.
Review: HTC First (AT&T), Alex Colon, April 10, 2013
5. The Verge
Dieter Bohn ranks the HTC First at 7.9 out of 10, stating it's an excellent stock Android smartphone but not very appealing for anything else.
Review: HTC First Review: A Facebook Phone That's Pure Google at Heart, Dieter Bohn, April 9, 2013