Review: HTC First and Facebook Home
The Google Play Store is your one-stop-shop for music, movies, TV shows, books, and magazines. It addition to the Store itself, the First comes with all the ancillary apps that are used to interact with each type of content (Play Music, Play Movies, etc.). There are no other installed music or video services, but the app store has plenty from which to pick.
The First uses the stock Android camera. What bugs me most is how difficult it is to get to. If you don't disable the FB Home lock screen, it takes fours steps to get to the camera. That's just annoying. Once you find it, it opens quickly.
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The viewfinder encompasses about two-thirds of the display, with the right-most portion reserved for the controls. There is a thin sliver of a line next to these that can be used to zoom in and out, and all the fine-tune controls can be accessed by pressing the little Settings button at the bottom of the screen.
Users can control the flash, white balance, exposure, scene (action, night, sunset, party), and image size.
The camera works quickly. It focuses in a blink and captures images in less than a second.
The First's 5-megapixel camera is not all that impressive. Focus is a bit soft and exposure was inconsistent. Dark areas often lost detail, and bright objects were often blown out. At least white balance was accurate. The First takes okay pictures, but I'd be lying if I said they were all Facebook worthy.
The video performance was a little bit better. Focus was more consistently accurate, as was exposure. I didn't notice any herky-jerky movement, ghosting, or artifacting, and panning the camera about didn't make me sick to my stomach. The First can record up to 1080p HD, and I was less hesitant about sharing the results.
As with the camera, the First uses the stock Android 4.1 tools when it comes to the gallery software. The central image library ties together all the photos associated with your Google accounts, including Google+, and you can sync them to the device for offline access if you want.
When you dive into individual libraries, the images are arranged in vertical columns. Poke the image you want to manipulate, and it will load after several seconds.
Editing features include the ability to add effects, such as highlights, shadows, and so on; add filters such as fisheye effects; and adjust colors and tones with sepia, B&W, etc. It also lets you crop the image, fix red-eye, adjust for face glow, straighten images, rotate or flip them, and sharpen them.
The First ships with just 36 apps on board. That has to be a record for the least-ever on a device from AT&T. Only the presence of MyAT&T gives the First away as an AT&T device at all. Every other app is stock Android or from Facebook. Nice! Users have access to 12GB of storage space on the First, so even if you stuff some big apps in there (such as Temple Run 2), you'll have plenty of room left over for media.
The First's Bluetooth radio worked perfectly. I was able to connect with an array of other gadgets and pass phone calls and music to mono and stereo headphones. Calls sounded good through my favorite headset, but the volume was a bit low (even though both phone and headset were turned all the way up). The same was true of music.
The First includes Google's Chrome browser. I find Chrome to be the best choice for Android handsets, but there are plenty of alternatives in the Google Play Store. It worked perfectly at rendering web sites over AT&T's network. Web sites were quick to load no matter what sort of connection was available.
The First has a fairly big and easily-read white digital clock on the lockscreen, but it's only visible if you deactivate the FB Home lock screen.
The First's GPS radio worked just fine. Google Maps is the only navigation service on board and it performed like a champ. Together with Maps, the GPS radio pinpointed me to within about 15 feet in 5 to 10 seconds. It was very quick. Google maps is a great tool for plotting directions or searching for local points of interest.
Hands-On: HTC First
The HTC First is an Android smartphone dedicated to Facebook Home. Here is a really quick look at the hardware.
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