HTC to be first with Facebook-integrated phone

The HTC First will go on sale April 12

It's not quite the long-rumored Facebook Phone, but HTC's new First phone isn't far off.

The phone will run "Home," a new Facebook application that brings photos, comments and status updates from the social network to the home screen of the device. The integration goes deep into the phone and in many ways will become the default interface for the entire phone.

For example, the App launcher provides an interface for all other apps in the phone from within the Facebook environment, potentially meaning users don't have to drop into the basic Android interface. And new chat integration means markers for incoming messages pop up on-screen in front of any app that happens to be running.

Facebook has begun courting phone makers to include the software in some devices and said it is already working with companies including Samsung, Sony, Lenovo and Alcatel OneTouch.

But first out of the gate will be HTC.

"It's a great opportunity to bring mobile and social together," said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC, speaking at a news conference at Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters. "It's the ultimate social phone."

The HTC First will be available through AT&T in the U.S. from April 12 for $100.

The phone, which is compatible with AT&T's LTE network, appears to be a pretty standard Android smartphone.

It is based on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and has a 4.3-inch screen and a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

"We think this is the best version of Facebook there is," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

For users of other Android phones, the application will become available through the Google Play Store from April 12 for the HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II. Versions for the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and other phones will be available in the coming months, the company said. It is also planning a tablet version.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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