HTC First

Just a few taps in the settings turns the First into an entirely new device

When we reviewed the HTC First, we found the hardware and performance to be decidedly top-notch considering its pricing and placement in AT&T's lineup. For $100 on-contract -- or $449 off -- you could have a phone with a great screen, acceptable specs and a form factor that fits in your hand without contortion. Discussion of the HTC First then took a turn towards intrigue when it was discovered that you could quickly and permanently turn off the Facebook Home software. It continued when we then saw that sitting underneath Home was something that genuinely looked like stock Android 4.1.

Just like any other Android launcher, there are no strings attached here -- turning off Facebook Home disables it until you choose to turn it back on. A small, well-built device that can simply be changed over to run a more vanilla Android experience is something that many have been looking for as average screen sizes have ballooned in the last couple of years. So what's it like to use the HTC First with Facebook Home permanently turned off? Well, it's actually a generally great experience. Stick around after the break and see some of the details.

More: HTC First Review

The best way to describe what is lurking underneath Facebook Home on the First is a "vanilla Android experience". We're not going to say that it's "stock Android" nor will we go anywhere near calling this a "Nexus", but you're getting about 98-percent of what you would expect on a stock 4.1 Jelly Bean phone. Some notable changes are the inclusion of a couple AT&T apps for managing your account and voicemail, as well as a few settings menu items. You'll be forced to see a hideously large NFC icon in your status bar when NFC is turned on, as well as AT&T's advanced Wifi settings for managing hotspots and an AT&T Software Update settings item.

But once you quickly get past those few small changes, the entire user experience of using the First is dramatically improved without Home. Functionally, nothing has changed in the software aside from HTC's inclusion of double tap and long-press actions on the capacitive keys to enable multitasking and Google Now. For those traditionalists that want a standard launcher with widgets, app icons and folders the First turns into an absolute joy to use. The software is snappy and responsive -- no matter what you may think about the specs -- and everything just works the way you expect it to.  

With such solid software available from just a quick dive into the settings, we can easily recommend the First as a device to someone who never intends to use Facebook Home after they take it out of the box. This isn't the "Facebook Phone" if you don't want it to be -- it's just a nice Android phone.


Reader comments

Using the HTC First without Facebook Home


I don't understand why Android Central doesn't send email notifications of forum replies, not on the website or this new app.

Not really the place to address this type of comment, but here you go: you can enable e-mail notifications for replies to forum threads. The app is on its initial release, more features will come in time. You can use Tapatalk to get instant notifications to your devices in the meantime as well.

$0.99 makes this an easy recommendation for the "typical" users like my parents. Honestly, I love the size and feel of the phone. I would gladly use it as well!

I agree. for 99 cents I would take one. I mean decent specs(not cutting edge but not low end) plus being able to run pretty much vanilla Android. I would never use the HTC first, Unless someone offered me one for a buck... ok ok, I might buy one for 20 bucks but no more than that. lol

So if I summarize this right, you ordered a cheeseburger without cheese and it tastes better?!? o_O? Way to go HTC & FB!

That isn't quite an adequate analogy.

They're saying that the phone is versatile. The HTC First is a great mid spec'd phone. It's good with Facebook Home, for the Facebook addicts. It's good without Facebook Home, for people who aren't looking for Facebook materialized.

So, in fact, good job FB for creating a software that caters to your audience. And good job HTC for building a phone that not only allows this, but is a great phone in its own right.

I just hope that AT&T sales people can portray this to possible customers. I can imagine this scenario happening:

Buyer "And what's this phone. It looks and feels nice."
Salesman "This is the new Facebook phone, the HTC First."
Buyer "I'm not THAT much into Facebook to buy a phone based off of it."
Salesman "Ok well let me show you another phone...."

More like he ordered a cheeseburger without onions and it tastes better. Some people like onions. Some don't.

Facebook Home is onions to me.

You know I felt that way about FB and FB Home at first as well. Now... I guess you could say I've grown to enjoy having the shits.

This makes it the same price as the Nexus 4. All things considered, I think the N4 is still probably the better choice.

The reason to get this over the Nexus 4 would be because it's smaller and/or has LTE. Having LTE and mostly stock Android with still decent specs for that price make this phone a really good deal.

You can get them cheaper else where. I picked one up off eBay for $225 just two days ago. Of course, there is some risk and you have to do your homework on things like blocked phones.

Looking forward to have it has a side kick device to the iPhone 5.

Is there any concern that in the future they disable the ability to turn Facebook Home off? I know that when I originally got the Sprint Hero, you could disable Sense, but after an update, they disabled that ability.

Home is a downloadable app everywhere else so I don't see why they would do so. It's not in HTC's interest.

Because its very similar to just the launcher that you can download to other devices, it would be more work for Facebook to try and force people to use Home on the First rather than just let it be.

Aren't you required to have a Facebook account to activate the phone?

Didn't you (AC) report that the phone's OS has deep hooks added to the OS to support the Facebook integration?

So, if you activate the phone by supplying your Facebook credentials (which you are required to have), even if you turn off First as your launcher, how do you know that the deep OS hooks for FB aren't still giving Facebook unfettered access to your private information (well, obviously, it does have that), and the Facebook isn't still mining your personal information for data? Facebook has certainly demonstrated some pretty poor judgement in the past on what it does when it has access to your private information.

I bought the first a couple days ago, and I've been using it sans-Home since taking it out of the box (I love it!). You don't need to log into Facebook to activate it. After logging in with Google, the lock screen feed has a Facebook login screen, but you can bypass it by opening the app launcher and going through the steps to disable Home.

I want this so badly on Verizon... :C

Is it possible to stick a verizon SIM into this thing? I'm just grasping at straws here! I'm desperate!

Great article and this phone just went from something I wouldn't look twice at to something I could actually consider buying my daughter.

Kinda off topic, but is the wallpaper on the phone in the caption stock or downloaded somewhere? I've seen it on a few phones on the site, but I haven't been able to find it myself? Anyone know?

Update: Ha, I read right past it. Apparently, I'm not the only fan of the wallpaper. Please disregard.

Not HTC first related but somewhat relivent, the Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini is now unofficially supported by Facebook home through the use home anyway option.