The Dallas-based wireless carrier, which is the exclusive partner to Facebook and HTC for the First, is promising to give the device its most prominent position in stores when it launches on Friday. That's because AT&T considers the HTC First its flagship smartphone for the spring, Claudia Knop, a device executive with the carrier, told CNET.
It's a curious decision by AT&T, which also has the
The First provides an intriguing gauge of AT&T's clout with consumers and could force the industry to re-evaluate the value of a carrier flagship phone. While vendors have used such coveted positions in the past as a springboard to success, many of them are now opting to skip the exclusivity deal and seek the widest distribution possible.
On the other hand, Nokia has held fast to the tradition of signing an exclusive deal, giving AT&T the sole rights to sell the
HTC did so last year as well with the Droid DNA for Verizon, although it looks to be changing its tune now. The First likely won't be thethe company is looking for.
The HTC First faces similar challenges, with the HTC One and Galaxy S4 expected to monopolize consumers' attention. Beyond the Facebook Home user interface, the phone itself is wholly unremarkable, with specifications that are far from a typical flagship device.
Given the onslaught of two high-profile phones, and a rumored new iPhone around the corner, few give the HTC First much of a chance.
There's even some question about whether Facebook even has the draw to justify a "Facebook phone," with one Piper Jaffray study finding a sharp drop in teen interest in the social network versus a year ago. Facebook, of course, counters that if even a small fraction of its billion-strong user base uses Facebook Home, it would be deemed a success.
Knop, meanwhile, said she believes the lower price and focus on Facebook will be attractive to certain users, but conceded power users would likely look to the higher-end devices.
While the First isn't likely to drop off the face of the Earth like the ill-fated