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HTC First review

The so-called Facebook phone is great once you dial back all that Facebook

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Our Verdict

The HTC First is a good phone, but not for any of the reasons being highlighted in its marketing. It's compact, durable and has great LTE service from AT&T. Sans Facebook Home, it's exactly the type of device we wish we'd see more often.

For

  • Finally, a 4.3-inch LTE-capable stock Android phone
  • Solid, durable construction with a good screen
  • There's stock Jelly Bean under Facebook Home
  • Chat Heads are fun and functional

Against

  • Facebook Home is a glorified screensaver
  • Below average camera
  • Variable battery performance
  • No removable storage or battery
  • The Facebook phone needs a dedicated camera button

The HTC First sports a 5-megapixel lens, with is pretty below average for this day in age. This is one place where the First's budget build really bumps up against its supposed status as the Facebook phone.

Sharing photos of your friends, your meals and some possibly regrettable moments your friends will untag themselves in is a big part of the Facebook experience. The First's camera isn't capable of creating share-worthy in anything but the best of lighting.

HTC First review

The camera's lens is also flush with the back of the phone, making it easy to smudge. You'll have to give it a wipe every so often, or shots can come out blurry.

We also think the lack of a dedicated shutter button is a big mistake. The ultimate Facebook device needs fast snapper access. Every Windows Phone 8 device has one, a decision that struck us as really smart. And Microsoft would claim that Windows Phone was already putting people first.

At least Facebook favorite Instagram is pre-loaded on the First. That way you can slap a filter on your otherwise ho-hum shots and make them worth looking at.

Camera samples

HTC First review
Strong colors and even lighting make for a nice HTC First shot

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HTC First review

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HTC First

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HTC First review
The First does its best work with bright colors

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HTC First
Lighter tones end up noisy, and lack detail

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HTC First review
Uneven light really gives the camera trouble

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HTC First review
Manual adjustment helps, but you're not going to get a great shot

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HTC First review

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HTC First review
Indoor shots with subdued colors come out dull and noisy

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HTC First review
Indoor shots with lower light look unappetizing

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HTC First review
And the flash gives everything a jaundiced yellow look

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HTC First review
No flash

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HTC First review
With flash

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HTC First review
The First is panorama ready. Here's one we shot inside

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It's obvious that keeping the first Facebook Phone affordable was a priority, but corners have been cut in places where that make the First less than ideal for the most "important" Facebook task: taking and sharing pictures.

HTC First review

This sort of camera performance is to be expected on a mid-range device, but the Facebook phone should be able to readily take the most share-worthy of shots, and it simply can't. Just 5-megapixels and no physical camera button, also this is the one of a few places where the stock Android sofware we love so much let us down.

HTC has put better camera options on cheaper phones, such as the One VX, so it's a shame the First didn't get any love here. At least there's Instagram preloaded on the device, but it almost feels like it should be stock camera option here. This was supposed to be the Facebook Phone, right?