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5/24/2013
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Facebook Kills HTC 'First' European Debut

Facebook asks European partners to stall planned launch of HTC First smartphone as it scurries to revamp Facebook Home.

Facebook Home Invasion
Facebook Home Invasion
(click image for slideshow)
Facebook Home is not the hit Facebook hoped it would be. The application, which replaces the home screen on Android devices, has not been widely adopted since its debut last month, and positive reviews of the software are few and far between. Facebook is taking the app back to the drawing board.

As a result, it has asked its European carrier partners to "hold off" on launching the HTC First, which is the only smartphone being sold with Facebook Home preinstalled. Further, the company won't be making the app available to new devices.

"We've listened to feedback from users on their experience using Home," said the company in a statement. "While many people love it, we've heard a lot of great feedback about how to make Home substantially better. As a result we're focusing the next few months on adding customization features that address the feedback we received."

Facebook Home is a launcher for Android devices that replaces the stock home screen with one that's focused on Facebook content. It is only available to a handful of devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S III and Note II, and the HTC One, One X and One X+. The app has seen a bit more than one million downloads since its mid-April debut, but the rate of new installs has plummeted according to the Google Play Store. The app has not scored well with users. Of the 18,000 ratings of app, 9,400 of them give the app just one star out of five. The app's cumulative rating is just 2.3 stars.

[ Want the latest in the smartphone wars? Read Apple Slips, Samsung Gains In Satisfaction Rankings. ]

Facebook Home's presence on the HTC First may have played a role in dooming the smartphone. In the U.S., it launched on AT&T's network at about the same time the Facebook Home app became available to other handsets. The phone cost $99 and includes a 4.3-inch 720p HD screen, 5-megapixel camera and 1.4-GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor. Though the phone itself received generally warm reviews, the Facebook Home application did not. Sales of the device have not been divulged, but AT&T quickly dropped the price of the handset to just 99 cents in order to move it out the door.

Facebook said that it is going to work on the app to address user concerns. Specifically, it is going to enrich the customization options within the app, as well as improve the dock and folders that appear on the home screen.

Though Facebook Home has flopped, Facebook's newest version of Messenger has been a hit. Facebook Messenger is a dedicated instant messaging application that lets Facebook users connect with one another. One of its features is called Chat Heads, which populates the app with floating bubbles of conversations. The Chat Heads make it easy to open and organize conversation threads. Chat Heads are featured prominently in Facebook Home, as well. Facebook Messenger has been downloaded between 100 and 500 million times, and has an overwhelmingly positive 4.4 star rating in the Google Play Store.

Facebook Messenger's success proves that Facebook can design good apps that people will download and use. Despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's enthusiasm for Facebook Home, it is clear the app needs a bit more time in the incubator before it is ready for a second chance.

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