HTC’s “Facebook Phone” flop: Now selling for less than a buck

US telco giant AT&T has slashed the contract subsidised price of the HTC First, the first smartphone to come with the Facebook Home interface pre-installed, from $US99 to just US99 cents within weeks of its launch.

As SmartCompany reported in early April, when the Facebook Home app launcher interface was announced for Android, Facebook also announced the new interface would come pre-installed on a new HTC smartphone called the HTC First.

The unveiling of the HTC First, in turn, came after years of rumours about a collaboration between Facebook and HTC on a smartphone.

The smartphone was launched by HTC for an initial asking price of $US99 on a contract, with the carrier holding out high hopes for the new smartphone.

“The HTC First will offer the best Facebook Home experience on mobile, right out of the box. That’s why we’re committed to this phone and making it exclusive in our stores,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility.

HTC has a track record of providing beautiful hardware design, and of being first-to-market with smartphone innovations,” said HTC chief executive Peter Chou.

“The HTC First continues that track record, providing AT&T customers with a unique home experience that puts a user’s friends and family at the centre of their mobile experience.”

However, by the end of April, Facebook Home had exceeded 500,000 downloads and hit a rating on the Google Play store of just 2.2 out of five stars.

Richard Windsor, an independent smartphone industry analyst, says on his Radio Free Mobile blog the price cut does not bode well for Facebook’s platform.

“The final verdict on Facebook Home was brutally handed down yesterday with AT&T slashing the price of the HTC First from $99 to $0.99,” Windsor says.

“With that one slash of the knife, AT&T has confirmed what everyone had already gathered; the Facebook phone is proving very unpopular.

“If this was an isolated incident, then one could put it down to poor hardware, but installations and reviews of the software on other devices have also been poor.”

Aside from being a set-back to HTC, which is currently the third largest smartphone manufacturer in the US by marketshare, the execution of Facebook Home suggests the social media giant might need a change of direction in the future.

“Facebook Home looked to me like the right idea but its execution and design appears to be somewhat clumsy and the users simply do not like it,” Windsor says.

“The failure of Home is not a disaster; it just means that Facebook needs to try another way to engage users outside of social networking.”

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