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AT&T's mobile chief: We've sold out of the Facebook phone

AT&T's Ralph de la Vega on why the HTC First is like the Motorola Rokr -- and why that's a good thing.

Facebook Home
The HTC First, preloaded with Facebook Home.
Josh Miller/CNET

So, the HTC First wasn't a complete disaster after all.

AT&T managed to get rid of most of its inventory, according to AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega. The move to a 99-cent price tag helped spur sales of the Facebook phone, which struggled to catch on with consumers.

"We sold a bunch more when we lowered the price," he said in an interview on Monday. "We sold everything we had on that."

It's unclear how many HTC First phones AT&T had in its inventory, and the company wouldn't discuss the actual number. And even if AT&T has sold out of the phone, it is by no means a success.

The HTC First seemingly ran into problems immediately after Facebook, AT&T, and HTC unveiled the device in a splashy event that also promoted the Facebook Home Android skin. The First was supposed to be the marquee product to show off Facebook's take on an enhanced mobile presence, and AT&T had promised to back it as its flagship product for the season.

Yet many were skeptical the phone would catch on. Those fears were confirmed when AT&T cut the price of the phone to 99 cents after just a few short weeks, implying weak demand. Then came rumors that AT&T was planning to return unsold inventory to HTC, and that the phone would be discontinued, which people familiar with both companies denied to CNET.

While De la Vega said that the company is done with the inventory, the phone remains available on the Web site.

CNET contacted Facebook and HTC for comment, and we'll update the story when the companies respond.

Even if AT&T managed to rid itself of the HTC First, few would disagree that the phone was a flop. But De la Vega said that he is committing to working on different iterations of products with its partners.

De la Vega compared the HTC First to the Motorola ROKR, which was the ill-received and ill-conceived music-centric phone that was technically Apple's first foray into the cell phone world (a la the ability for the Motorola-designed phone to work with iTunes). AT&T sold the ROKR, and while that phone was a failure, De la Vega believes it helped AT&T get the inside track on the iPhone.

"We have a great relationship with Apple just like we have a great relationship with Facebook," he said. "We look forward to working with them to make Home better."

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