With the release of the ‘Facebook Phone’ postponed, Chris Donkin reckons the social networking site should stick to what it does best
It was no great shock to see the HTC First, AKA the ‘Facebook Phone’, being pulled by EE in the UK given the lukewarm reception it received in the US.
As soon as carrier AT&T announced it was dropping the price to less than a dollar, the proverbial vultures were circling over HTC HQ, with the internet awash with rumours the US network was going to pull the device completely.
The key selling point – in fact the only selling point anyone mentioned at the handset’s announcement – was the fact it came with Facebook’s new interface Home built in.
Facebook Home was – and still is – available on a handful of high-end devices but the interface’s ‘flagship’ was always meant to be the First.
As with the handset Home has been panned, with very few positive comments on the Google Play Store and an underwhelming overall rating of two and a half stars out of five – compared to four and a half for Facebook Messenger.
To someone who has had a play with Home on the Galaxy S III the reaction came as no surprise. I got the distinct impression this was the social network taking over the handset completely and wondered if that’s what people really wanted.
The app sits above the Android system, bombarding you with Facebook updates from ‘friends’ and anyone else on your Facebook news feed even while the phone lock screen is on.
In what felt like quite an intrusive feature, if someone sends you a Facebook message, an image of their head appears above whatever you are doing alerting you to the fact.
Staff at the Home/HTC First launch were enthusiastically saying this was an immersive social experience, but it just felt a little too much and, though they wouldn’t admit it, there must be a detrimental effect to battery life constantly downloading everything on your newsfeed.
Taking on Home and making it central to the handset was always a risk for HTC – especially when you consider it has been burned before by the HTC ChaCha and Salsa which bombed on release in 2011.
Perhaps it’s time Facebook stuck to what it knows best – although given its recent history, it may no longer have a choice.
We suspect Twitter won’t be making the same moves any time soon.