Why the HTC Facebook phone ultimately failed

Rob Rich - Jan 13, 2022, 9:35am CST
Why the HTC Facebook phone ultimately failed

Back in the year 2011, Facebook teamed up with HTC to release two different phones — the Chacha and the Salsa — each of which gave the social media platform its own dedicated hardware button. While the dedicated Facebook feature didn’t quite pan out, that didn’t stop both companies from trying again in 2013 with the HTC First.

Photo: SlashGear

It didn’t go well.

Less than a month after the HTC First launched, AT&T was already dropping the subsidy price to $0.99 in an attempt to move units. Then, less than a week after that, there were rumors of the carrier discontinuing sales entirely. Shortly after that, the HTC First gave its last gasp with confirmation that UK brands wouldn’t even begin to carry the device.

One could speculate that the First wasn’t able to cut it because it was trying to be a Facebook machine in a world where people were (and still are, really) using multiple social media services. Most users simply wouldn’t be content with only using Facebook, and as Vincent Nguyen pointed out in SlashGear’s HTC First review, the First had a tendency to push Facebook while also attempting to discourage using other platforms.

A far more likely cause is that the HTC First was just an “okay” phone trying to compete with some extremely heavy hitters.

Fierce Competition

Galaxy S4 in a jeans pocket running Facebook

Yeamake/Shutterstock

In the smartphone landscape of 2013, the HTC First had to try and compete with the Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5S. These were a couple of the most popular smartphones at the time, and from a purely technical standpoint the First just didn’t measure up. It wasn’t as fast, didn’t offer as many storage options, and the screen wasn’t quite as nice.

In addition to that, HTC was also competing with itself. It had just released the HTC One a month before. If anyone wanted an HTC phone and bought that one, it’s unlikely that they’d switch again a month later. Also by SlashGear’s account the HTC One was the better of the two phones, with generally better performance, better picture quality, and so on (as seen in our HTC First review linked above).

Really, it seems that the best way to answer the question of why the HTC First failed would be to answer it with another question: why would the average smartphone user buy a middling phone when a better one (no pun intended) from the same company came out the month before, a better Galaxy phone was released by Samsung in the same month, and a better iPhone was due out towards the end of the year?


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