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HTC First integrates entirely new Facebook features into Android and Google services.
Anticipated to dominate Android, displace Google services and increase Facebook's collection of user information to the level of CIA surveillance, the HTC First integrates entirely new Facebook features into Android and Google services. Currently the only smartphone featuring preinstalled Facebook Home, the First is smart in both its design and marketing strategy. Its look, feel, size and specifications line up nicely with the iPhone 5, but costs $100 less on a two-year plan. Co-branding with Facebook shines a spotlight on HTC that the company might not have had the ability to buy on its own.
The first two screens that greet HTC First owners are typical for Android phones. After confirming the user's choice of language, the HTC First requests the user to log in with a Google email address, confirming this is a Google Android device and setting the expectation for all the typical Google services.
Google first, Facebook second
After authenticating with Google, the user is prompted to log in to Facebook Home. This will authenticate the user with all the Facebook features he or she is accustomed to, such as News Feed and Facebook Messenger, and turn on Home features, most notably Cover Feed and message notifications.
Google and Facebook share the interface
The new interface runs on top of Facebook Home's Cover Feed, a rich, graphic-revolving stream from the user's Facebook News Feed. On top of Coverfeed are open conversations designated by Chat Heads, a feature that shows a circular image of the Facebook friends who have recently sent messages. Also displayed are notifications for new emails, Facebook messages and activity, Google Now updates, and upcoming Google Calendar events. Those concerned about privacy can turn off Cover Feed.
Facebook messaging is constant
Chat Heads are personalized notifications of the status of your messaging conversations. Home shows the user the status of each conversation. Chat Heads remain on the screen as the user navigates to Android apps, enabling Facebook messaging while the user is engaged in other tasks.
Access to apps from the locked screen
By pressing and holding the user's own Facebook icon, as depicted in the screenshot to the left, three icons emerge in the bottom left corner: Facebook Messenger at left, the user's app drawer in the center, and the last app used to the right, in this case Gmail. Dragging the image to the icon takes the user to the underlying destination. If the user has elected Android access security, a lock screen will prevent navigation to any of the three destinations without authentication, as depicted on the right-hand side of the screen.
Google Now and Google Notifications
Android users who want to venture outside of Facebook Home, Messaging and News Feed can use standard Android features. Drawing a finger down from the top of the screen displays Google Android Notifications. Holding the home button launches Google Now.
Location can be turned off
Users can optionally post their status to Facebook with and without Facebook Home. To be doubly certain that location won't be tracked, Home's access to the user's location can be turned off. It will also turn off location information for other apps, such as Google Plus, Foursquare or Banjo. But those concerned with privacy won't differentiate between any of the many apps that track location, and won't want to trade privacy for the convenience or benefit of the app.
iPhone friends will pause when handed an HTC First
The HTC First is not the top of HTC's line, falling short to the HTC One, but it's a full-featured smartphone that can challenge the iPhone 5. Except for storage and resolution on its rear camera, the HTC First specifications are equivalent to or better than the iPhone 5. The First features 4G LTE, a dual-core processor, and a 4.3-inch, 720x1280-pixel display.
Nothing really new or scary about what Facebook tracks
Although Facebook Home's permissions are described in quite verbose terminology, it does not appear to have added any new permission, aside from those disclosed by Facebook. Facebook tracks the apps the user has chosen to keep in Facebook Home's quick launcher, called the "app drawer." Facebook also tracks how Home is used, which is the standard method for all top-end app developers working to measure and improve user experience. And for those who choose to display system notifications through Home, notification information relevant to the user experience is also collected.
The Brave New World of Internet privacy
Digging further into the permissions granted apps, it's clear that the "license fee" for many free apps is information about the user. But one can't be part of a social network and be anonymous. Facebook Home's permissions compared to Google+ are similar. The exception is the "System Tools" permissions. Facebook is granted permission to collect information about app usage so notifications from native apps, such as Gmail, can be presented on the Home interface.