The first real Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) Phone with Home pre-installed, the HTC First, has officially bombed. The device launched exclusively on AT&T last month, and has fared so poorly that Ma Bell almost immediately slashed the price to $1 and is reportedly looking to discontinue the device as soon as it's satisfied contractual obligations to HTC. Ma Bell had reportedly only sold 15,000 units in the first month.
The First was originally expected to roll out to other countries, but due to its poor performance stateside, that won't be happening. The First's U.K. launch has been halted due to negative feedback in the U.S., and all pre-orders have been cancelled. The device was set to launch exclusively on EE, and the British carrier said that the decision was Facebook's -- not HTC's. The social networker will instead focus on adding new customization features to its new software suite, and addressing user complaints.
This comes at a time when HTC's future is up in the air, and has seen numerous high-level execs abandon ship recently. The First has been an absolute debacle for HTC. Home was reportedly planned as an HTC exclusive on the First, giving it a shot and differentiating itself from other Android phones. At the last minute, Facebook decided that it wanted to make Home widely available through Google Play. An anonymous source at HTC told The Verge that the device was "a disaster."
All the while, Facebook has actually been making the right calls, even if it hasn't translated into positive results. Home is very much an experiment, and launching the software suite exclusively on one device would have limited the experimental reach. Quickly responding to consumer backlash and stopping the U.K. launch is also the right thing to do in order to stop more backlash, even if it's absorbing some of the costs.
The important thing for Facebook is to continue refining its mobile strategy. Home is an ambitious attempt to revamp Android, and Facebook's biggest flaw with Home is execution, not vision.
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