HTC First, the much ballyhooed 'Facebook phone,' gets massive price drop

AT&T has dropped the price of the HTC First from 100 bucks to 99 cents (with a contract, of course). 

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    The HTC First, pictured here, is now a whole lot more affordable.
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The HTC First, the first Android device to come pre-equipped with the Facebook Home software suite, originally launched with a price tag of $99.99.  

Six weeks later, and AT&T has slashed the price of the First to 99 cents – an indication that the much ballyhooed "Facebook phone" may be off to a less than stellar start. Some caveats: AT&T has told CNET that one-off price drops are standard operating procedure. And HTC hasn't yet disclosed exactly how many First handsets it has sold – we won't get those numbers until the release of the Q2 2013 earnings report. 

Still, it's extremely unlikely that AT&T would knock 99 bucks off the price of a solidly-performing smart phone. Analysts guess that sales are sluggish, if not really slow. Which is too bad, because the HTC First – equipped as it was with a high-quality 4.3-inch display, a 1.4GHz dual-core processor, and the Android 4.1 operating system – got a relatively warm critical reaction when it first hit shelves. For a mid-tier phone, this was one to check out.

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"The HTC First is compelling for two reasons," Brad Molen of Engadget wrote in a generally positive review of the device. "For Facebook fans, it's now easier to maintain social connections with friends and family. For the tech-savvy crowd who has little interest in the service, the phone is a stock Android 4.1 device that comes with AT&T LTE, which is still something of a rarity." 

So why wasn't the HTC First a smash hit? Well, despite the specs we listed above, this is still a middle-of-the-road phone – one that lags well behind powerhouses such as the iPhone 5 or the Samsung Galaxy S4. And as Roger Cheng notes in a piece over at CNET, there is also the fact that you can easily build your own "Facebook phone" on an HTC One or a Galaxy S4. 

"What was the point of a smartphone focused on Facebook Home when you can get Facebook Home on several different – and superior – phones?" Cheng writes. "I get that the First was a showcase phone for Facebook's new software. But consumers don't want to buy a showcase piece; they want a real product."

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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