08
May
1

When I reviewed the First, I realized it was much, much more than just a Facebook experience device. Sure, it's sporting Home out of the box, flashes a Facebook logo during the boot process, and is adorned with that same logo on the back, but it's not just about Facebook. This little diamond in the rough is running stock Android 4.1.2 beneath Facebook Home, so you're quite literally three (or so) taps away from a Nexus-like experience.

No quicker than I could say good things about this device, however, people were trying to shoot it down, with the price playing a pretty large factor in that. The argument, of course, was that "this phone is $450 off-contract, and that's one hundred monies more than a Nexus 4!" LTE lovers responded with "but I don't like HSPA+!"

And the argument went from there.

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The truth is, though, most consumers don't buy devices off contract. They fork over however many moneydollars the carrier wants, sign the dotted line, and walk away with a new smartphone. And for AT&T customers, a $99 HTC First is more affordable than a $350 Nexus 4 – there's simply no arguing that.

Today, though, AT&T has knocked the First's price tag down another notch: the phone is now $0.99 with a two-year agreement. It didn't stop there, either – the off-contract price has also been dropped to $350, putting it on the same economical playing field as the Nexus 4. Now, don't read that out of context, I'm not suggesting the First should be purchased over an N4, but if you don't want to be tied down and have a strong desire for LTE on a stock Android handset, the First is absolutely your best choice.

Of course, if you're looking for a stock Android handset that only costs a dollar, the First is your best choice in that department, too.

Basically, don't be afraid of this phone just because it's associated with Facebook. It's stock, it's snappy, the form factor is great, and it has the el tee ees. So long as the subpar camera is something you can look past, there's not a lot to dislike about this device.

Buy: White, Black, Blue, Red

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • dgarra

    $350 is about right for this phone. I can't even look at subsidized pricing anymore, stupid Verizon :(

  • Scott Adie

    Can you just install a customer launcher and not have to deal with the Facebook stuff?

    • dgarra

      If you shut off Facebook Home from the settings menu you basically have vanilla Android 4.1.2 which is why this phone was fairly well received.

      • Scott Adie

        Awesome, perfect for my girlfriend then.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.scarano Jordan Scarano

        Nice!

    • Derek Duncan

      You don't even need to install one. Just turn off Home. Stock Android launcher is already there.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.scarano Jordan Scarano

        Correct!

    • Transplanted ‘Nuck

      Can you read?

  • Steve Williamson

    never understood that Americans are always saying "this phone is only $99 *on 2 year agreement"

    Off Contract price is really the only way to look at it surely. You can get pretty much any phone for £0 on contract (at least in the UK you can) but depending on the phone you else be paying £10 or £50 per month for the same contract

    • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

      fair enough, and "we" should look at it like that, but even with subsidies, most mid- to high-end phones still cost $99 or more upfront.

      • Matt

        Yup. The Galaxy Note II was $299 with the longest contract when it arrived on AT&T. Even on contract, prices can differ significantly.

    • http://www.facebook.com/matts.lindmark.7 Matts Lindmark

      I agree. The retail price is the price of the phone. Claiming that it cost "$0.99" when you will have to pay $100 x 24, i.e. $2400 for the device with the contract is just downright wrong.

      The total price is $2400.99. In some countries, the carriers are obliged by the authorities to list the total price of the phone with contract. It will therefore state: "Minimum payment $2400.99" in a case like this. I think it is a very expensive phone then.

      $350 is much better for the wallet, especially since it can be paired with a $30 plan for example.

      The worst thing I know is reviews of phones where the whole review states "$99" and it simply pretends that "we are know comparing this "$99 device with this $199 device". In that case, I say this: buy the $199 or $299 since you will sign away $2400 anyway. It is better to get the best possible device when $2400 is about to leave your wallet. It is simply NOT the proper time to thinking about "saving" anything in the store. Even worse is "FREE" when it requires $2400 in the other end. Not free as far as I am concerned.

      Edit: For $0.99, I will buy 100 devices and then sell them on Ebay. That will make me rich, I can start the auctions with $15 per device and go with a big plus. LOL

      • gspida

        So wait I'm confused. Wouldn't you have to pay for data and minute anyway? Since I am grandfathered in to AT&T's unlimited data plan I know that I'm not leaving for 2 years anyway. What's the big deal if I get a phone on subsidy? I'm assuming the total amount 2,400 that your talking about is the amount you pay for the phone and service at the end of two years or am I missing something?

        • Steve Williamson

          Assuming that AT&T is the same as in the UK, once you are in a 2 year contract you aren't getting any deals on phones. you have been given your phone (maybe had to pay money for it) which is now meant to last you the length of your contract.

          So yes the money you paid for the phone + (contract length x monthly payments) is your total cost

          If you went with a off contract phone you would have no monthly contract, a high cost to buy the phone initially (effectively the real price of a phone) but your contract should cost you much much less

          I would guess high end phone contracts tend to be 65% paying for the phone and 35% paying for the contract. I am by no means saying that getting a phone on a 2 year contract is bad what so ever or even more expensive. Some people will find it cheaper to keep off contract, others will find it cheaper to tie into a 2 year contract.

          Just reviews should list the real price of phones as on contract prices are simply not the price of the phone.

          If i said you have two choices of buying a sofa

          pay me $100 now and $50 per month for 1 year for the warranty... or
          pay me $500 now for the sofa our right and if you want warrenty you can pay me $20 a month for warrenty.

          How much is your sofa?

          • Joe

            In the US, you typically don't receive a discount for purchasing an off-contract phone.
            For example:
            I could pay $0.99 for the phone and $100 a month for service for 2 years minimum.

            OR
            I could pay $350 for the phone and $100 a month for service for however long I want to have service.
            Most large US Telcom companies (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint) don't offer discounts by purchasing off contract.

          • http://www.facebook.com/matts.lindmark.7 Matts Lindmark

            You can pay $350 for the phone and put it OFF contract - prepaid in this case and pay between $30-49 for service. I don't see any reason to sign contracts or even use a plan for $100 per month. It is true that it is only T-Mobile that offer a BYOD discount for postpaid but the logical choice is prepaid.

            The only time contracts and postpaid can make sense in the US is when you have corporate discounts on a family plan. If you have more than one line with those discounts, it is possible to get the monthly cost below $100.

            Don't forget the nice "regulatory taxes and fees" that are tucked on top of the postpaid bill. They increase the benefit of going prepaid.

            In other countries, having postpaid service makes sense but not in the US. In Sweden for example, you can have postpaid service for as low as $5 per month or you can get a flagship device on an installment plan and pay $50 per month INCLUDING 5 GB of data and a lot of talk and text. But in the US, postpaid is just expensive without strong benefits since the big part of the bill covers subsidies, support, altering of devices and related expenses.

        • http://www.facebook.com/matts.lindmark.7 Matts Lindmark

          Those $2400 includes subsidy for the phone and a lot of mark up for the carrier (buying bulks of altered, branded devices, offering support for those devices, testing firmware upgrades etc). Those expenses that are totally related to the AT&T phone "manufacturing" business has to be covered and that makes the plan extremely expensive.

          Buying off contract and putting a prepaid card in the phone saves all those expenses. It is very simple math:

          $0.99 + $100 x 24 = $2400.99

          $350 + $30-49 x 24 = $1070-1526 depending on plan - please notice that there's no contract so you can switch whenever you want

          So the "$0.99" phone is $874.99-1330.99 more EXPENSIVE than the off contract one.

          Phone subsidies are just marketing, the customer is the biggest loser. To me, paying for the carrier "manufacturing" business through an insane $100 per month plan is out of the question. For the money I save I can buy a new flagship every year and still be on plus compared to the contract route. Today, 24 months contracts are just pure stupidity since the development is so quick. I usually buy a new phone every year and would never consider locking myself in to a contract, especially not when it is much more expensive and gives an inferior branded phone with delayed updates and bloatware onboard.

          It is important to realize that the costs for subsidies are:

          1. The purchase of a big amount of devices in bulk (the manufacturer requires a committed order when they are accepting alterations). An unlocked device don't requires bulk purchasing, they can be obtained from a wholesales in much smaller quantities (there's no need for a huge expense in the first place).
          2. Re-engineering of the device like altering the design, altering the firmware, changing the hardware configuration etc is costly and not a free service. The carrier has to pay the manufacturer for this, hence the requirement for bulk purchases.
          3. Producing different packaging and manuals etc drives up the cost (compared to just selling plain standard devices).
          4. Supporting the special made device is a carrier business, the carrier undertakes what the manufacturer usually do. This increases the cost (obviously). The carrier need extra staffing and has to undertake a lot of CS work that the manufacturer should do.

          5. All firmware updates has to go through the carrier that need to "certify" them, this is also a cost driver.

          So out of $100 per month, a huge chunk goes to supporting their device business. It is obvious that "service" itself can be obtained for far less money. It is the "device manufacturing, supporting, retailing and subsidizing" that makes the plans expensive.

    • faceless128

      Steve, the problem is in the USA, (other than T-Mobile's recent move) the service rates are fixed.so you pay the same $100 a month whether you upgrade or not, contract period or not. the only difference is that if you're no longer under the 24 month contract, you can leave with no early termination fee.

      so the $0, $1, $50, $99, $199 $299, etc you pay upfront is the only difference consumers see.

    • Jay

      Any phone in the UK is way cheaper on contract compared to the USA, I can walk away with a Samsung Galaxy S4 for Free on a 24 Month contract at £37 per month which gives Unlimited calls, texts and data...

      Seems crazy to have to pay an up front price and a per month price for a phone, surely the monthly payment would cover the cost of the phone...

      Or buy a nexus 4 out right for £280 and get a check £10 per month phone contract, saving myself £350 pounds over 2 years :)

  • Macklemore

    "But shit, it was ninety-nine cents!"

    • Ryan Lewis

      hahahahahahahha oh god youre a hero

    • http://twitter.com/RyanDack Ryan Dack

      Okay, that was pretty funny.

  • Alex

    When is this phone coming to Europe >_<

    • Jadephyre

      No one knows yet. I have found a store that carries it, but for the insane price of 499 Euros.
      I'm not really a fan of the Nexus 4, partly because I think it's too big, but for that kind of money i'd rather buy one before I buy a First.
      It needs to be said however that all Firsts you can get in Europe at the moment are grey imports from the States, because since the Phone is a Pentaband Device, it works globally.
      Still, the other thing i've heard is that if it comes to Europe, the CPU will be slower.

  • BML51

    I ended up buying the First off-contract last week because I wanted an Android phone (coming from a Lumia 920) that wasn't huge and bulky. I hate that trend with current phones, and the First is the perfect size. Also, LTE is available in my area, so those were two big selling points over the Nexus 4 (although admittedly, paying the extra $100 over the Nexus was a little tough, but I just didn't want a phone that size).

    Now it's ~$90 cheaper off-contract? Awesome. Called AT&T and got a bill credit for the difference since I'm still in the 14-day return period. Roughly the same price as the Nexus 4, with a smaller form factor and LTE included. Love it.

    • Transplanted ‘Nuck

      Nice work.

  • http://the-jade-domain.com Jaime J. Denizard

    "dislike" huh? I see what you did there...

  • PhilNelwyn

    Don't forget that vanilla Android isn't the biggest advantage of Nexus devices, to me it's rather direct updates by Google.
    This phone isn't shipping with the latest version of the OS, when a new one is about to be announced...

    • RocketScience11

      Good point. It should be really easy to port new versions of aosp as soon as they are released though.

  • http://twitter.com/s99nj S. Ali

    $0.99*

    *$350 + Upgrade/Activation Fee + 2-Year Contract

    Why AP insists on pushing these scam contracts on it users is beyond me. Must be getting a paid for these post.

    • RocketScience11

      $0.99 with contract, $350 off contract. So complicated! It must be a scam!
      -_-

  • GraveUypo

    $100 a month? i'd rather keep my phone on wifi only.

  • Freak4Dell

    Ugh, so tempting. I really need to get myself to an AT&T store.

  • TomasHunter

    I got my EVO LTE for a $1, too bad sprint coulnd live up to their end of the whole lte thing.

  • Jadephyre

    I can't believe that i'm considering buying this phone now. Not because it is available for cheaps on AT&T, because that doesn't do me any good, i'm not living in the States, but because of the fact that against what I heard before the release the underlying Android OS is not themed to hell and back.

    Of course I would disable FBH or even flash a different ROM altogether, but it's still astounding how close this thing is to stock when thinking about how extremely HTC still themes its phones.

  • http://mobilepricesnews.com/ Mobile

    A great attractive strategy to pull the customer on HTC first device. as well as with connection with second largest network.