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Facebook unmasks the HTC First handset

Facebook and HTC take another swing at an Android smartphone. Called the HTC First, this Facebook-branded phone will feature the company's new Facebook Home mobile software.

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Facebook just pulled the wraps off of a new and specially branded smartphone today, and we're relieved it isn't a return to the disaster of the HTC Status, which featured a Facebook button on the keyboard to launch a status update.

Crafted in partnership with mobile hardware manufacturer HTC, the HTC First will run Facebook Home, a custom layer on top of Google's Android software that's tightly integrated with Facebook's social networking service.

Power Android users, though, likely won't find much to tempt them in this latest HTC creation.

Specs for the device are decidedly midrange and not packed to the gills with cutting-edge technology. Equipped with a 4.3-inch HD screen (1280x720 pixels); a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash; a 1.6-megapixel front-facing camera; and a 1.4GHz dual-core Snapdragon MSM8930AA processor, this isn't HTC's most thrilling moment.

To dig a little deeper, the HTC First captures up to 1080p HD video and plays back 720p HD. There's support for NFC and Bluetooth 4.0, plus 16GB internal storage and 1GB RAM. The HTC First houses a 2,000mAh embedded battery. Sorry, folks, that may be nonremovable, but it does rustle up a rated talk time of up to 14.3 hours and up to 18.2 days of standby time.

HTC fans seeking the most advanced smartphone the company can muster should look no further than the upcoming HTC One, which boasts an impressive array of bells and whistles.

Unlike most HTC handsets, which have interesting accents and fine craftsmanship, this First phone is a whole lot of "blah," with a plain body and soft-touch coating all around.

If it's excitement you're after, you could opt for the HTC First in white, red, or light blue in addition to black.

HTC First
James Martin/CNET

Still, the phone does feature Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and a connection to AT&T's 4G LTE data network. Beyond that, unless you're an enormous Facebook addict, there's little we've seen so far to compel anyone to purchase the phone. That could change as we spend time with the device, but Facebook's demo crew didn't let anyone other than demo staff hold the phone.

The HTC First will cost $99.99 (with a new two-year contract) when it ships as an AT&T exclusive on April 12. Preorders begin today.

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