Today saw some interesting news from Facebook, which announced a new Android experience named Facebook Home, and alongside a new handset from HTC which will run it out of the box, the rather ironically named HTC First. This isn't Facebook or HTC's first attempt at a Facebook-specific handset, either, if you recall the HTC Status, or its codename ChaCha.

First is Home, which is part Android launcher replacement, part Facebook Skin. Home replaces the lock screen, application launcher, notification, and chat system with Facebook designed counterparts. Home overlays Facebook and Instagram views atop the lock screen, statuses and stories alike. The UI looks like a drastic departure from Android and takes cues from Web OS with lots of transparent regions. Facebook has dubbed its chat interface on Home 'Chat Heads' and intercepts SMS notifications from Android and augments them with Facebook chat as well. These persist throughout the UI atop active applications. Facebook has videos explaining Cover Feed, Notifications, and Chat Heads on their YouTube page.

Rather than build a complete platform from scratch, it makes sense for Facebook to leverage Android and deliver something like Home which essentially is part launcher replacement, part UI skin. Home will be available on April 12 through the Play Store for a limited subset of devices - the HTC One X, X+, Samsung Galaxy S 3, and Note 2, and in the coming months the Galaxy S 4 and HTC One. What's interesting is that subset of devices which Home will work with, it's a bit more than a launcher replacement since it is intercepting some notifications from the OS.

The other part of the announcement is an HTC-made phone called the HTC First. It's a midrange specification HTC handset which will be, well, home to Facebook Home, First, get it? Phew. I've put together a table with the specifications of the HTC First.

HTC First Specifications
Device HTC First
SoC 1.4 GHz Snapdragon 400
(MSM8930AA, 2x Krait, Adreno 305 GPU)
RAM/NAND/Expansion 1 GB LPDDR2, 16 GB Storage with USB-OTG
Display 4.3-inch 720p LCD
Network GSM/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
WCDMA: 850/1900/2100 MHz
LTE: 700/850/AWS/1900 MHz
Dimensions 4.96 x 2.56 x 0.35 inches, 4.37 oz
Camera 5.0 MP F/2.0 (Rear), 1.6 MP F/2.2 (Front)
Battery 2000 mAh 3.8V
OS Android 4.1 with Facebook Home
Connectivity NFC, BT 4.0, 802.11a/b/g/n

The First is at present an AT&T exclusive officially, which is further backed up considering the presence of Band 17 LTE. AT&T is taking preorders for the HTC First which will go on sale for $99 with a two year contract starting April 12th.

Update: I clarified the LTE band situation on the HTC First, which reflects the newer AT&T RFP with LTE on both its current WCDMA bands (850/1900 MHz) in addition to Band 17 (700) and 4 (AWS 1700/2100 MHz).

Source: HTC (First Page), AT&T (Preorders), Facebook (Introducing Home)

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  • uhuznaa - Thursday, April 04, 2013 - link

    So this basically is a Hub which revolves all around people? Provided all of this happens on Facebook? There's no support for SMS, email and so on? On the home screen? This is just disgusting. Reply
  • perry1mm - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    What are you talking about...of course there is support for all of that stuff, it's just integrated into the Facebook UX, but it is Android so you could install whatever apps/clients you want as well. And if you really wanted to you could install a different launcher too. Though if you're buying this phone it's probably for the specific FB integration as there are other phones that are similarly priced with higher specs if you don't care about that stuff. Reply
  • evonitzer - Thursday, April 04, 2013 - link

    Hey! It's a 4.3" phone with 720p! Given all the griping amongst reviewers about oversized Android devices, this should be perfect. 340ppi to boot. I wonder if the facebook experience can be removed or if HTC will release the same phone in another guise. One can hope. Reply
  • perry1mm - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    I am on board with this! I love the 4.3-4.5" displays, and with 720p or even higher resolution they look fantastic for everything but are still very manageable with one hand...just slim up the bezel a little bit, add all the high specs of the One with similar software, 32GB storage, the rubber back of the DNA, and maybe some other new features like the ultrapixel camera, wireless charging, and maybe a little larger battery and I think it'd be my perfect phone! That's asking a lot I suppose >_< Droid Incredible One! Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Thursday, April 04, 2013 - link

    Poor Facebook. Still trying to polish that turd and make it shiny. Keep on rubbin', Marky Mark. I'm sure you won't wind up with hands covered in crap... Reply
  • Roland00Address - Thursday, April 04, 2013 - link

    It is a small android phone that is not a piece of junk spec wise Reply
  • flyingpants1 - Thursday, April 04, 2013 - link

    This is almost identical to HTC One S, which was $99 early last year. Look forward to seeing benchmarks before I pass on it forever. Reply
  • chubbypanda - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    "ChaCha" wasn't just a codename, it was sold as HTC ChaCha on certain markets. Reply
  • Amit kumar - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Well-meaning update for me even I have believe you It is awesome. I saw fairly a few decent features of this device this website as well. http://www.gadtecho.com/ Reply
  • htc - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    Looks like this phone is totally made to use Facebook and nothing else , similarly http://goo.gl/yH62c was told about this phone . Reply

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