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HTC First demoed: A snappy and social phone

HTC and Facebook have teamed up to unveiled the first phone to come preloaded with Facebook's new Android launcher called Home. Appropriately named the First, the phone highlights Facebook's social-centric Android experience.

The device retails for $99 with a new two year contract and comes in four colors; red, white, light blue, and black. It has a 5-inch super LCD3 screen with Gorilla Glass, a dual-core Qualcomm 8930AA 1.4-GHz processor, 16 GB internal storage, 1GB RAM, a 5MP rear camera, and a 1.6MP front-facing camera. The First has a smooth, matte back, and rounded corners reminiscent of the first iPhones. The design is clean, simple, and, frankly, a bit boring.

At a lunch event, Facebook employees showed off the HTC First and Facebook Home, the social network’s home screen launcher. During the demo, the phone was snappy and responsive swiping through photos or apps, thanks to the dual-core Snapdragon processor. The screen was clear and crisp, and colors looked natural.

A Facebook representative walked us through the experience of waking the phone and using Cover Feed. After tapping the wake button, she showed the notifications that appear on the first screen. With a simple swipe, she was able to hide one or all of the pop up notices. When she tapped on a notification, the corresponding app launched.

We also saw how easy it is to use Cover Feed which includes photos, status updates, and links that your friends share to their Facebook feed. The Facebook employee swiped right to show each Cover Feed update, and showed that if you tap on a photo it will zoom out to show the entire image. Every Cover Feed page is dedicated to one update and shows either a full screen version of the photo shared, or your friend’s cover photo if they share a link or status.

Finally, the demo showed that after swiping through every Cover Feed update, an app shortcut screen pops up where you can add most-used apps for quick access. Swiping past the shortcut screen brings up the full app drawer, which looks just like stock Android.

The most striking feature of Facebook Home, as seen in the demo, is that the launcher fills your screen with Facebook content. Even the Android notifications screen is hidden away, accessible by a quick swipe down from any screen. Though it hardly looks anything like typical Android, Facebook Home's design is clean and easy to navigate.

For a reasonable price of $99 with a new contract, the HTC First looks like it will be an attractive choice for those who really, really want to keep on top of their Facebook activity. Android power users probably won't gravitate towards such a social experience, however, because Facebook really does dominate the phone.