AT&T CEO compares HTC First Facebook phone to Apple's ill-fated ROKR

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AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) CEO Ralph de la Vega said the company has sold out of the HTC First, the first smartphone to preload Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) much-maligned Home launcher for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android.

Ralph de la Vega

Ralph de la Vega

Facebook Home, introduced in early April, is an alternative homescreen promising Android device users more immediate and efficient access to Facebook social media applications and services. Consumer reaction to Home has been overwhelmingly negative, and weeks after AT&T Mobility introduced the HTC First, the operator slashed the smartphone to a clearance price of 99 cents, along with a two-year contract.

"We sold a bunch more when we lowered the price," de la Vega told CNET Monday. "We sold everything we had on that." AT&T declined to specify how many HTC First units it has sold.

De la Vega compared the HTC First to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) ROKR, the Motorola-produced, iTunes-enabled music phone introduced in fall 2005, roughly two years ahead of the first iPhone. AT&T sold the ROKR, and while the device was a commercial disaster, de la Vega credits the partnership for giving the carrier the inside track on its eventual iPhone partnership.

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

The final fate of the HTC First is unclear. Telecommunications providers EE and Orange planned to release the phone to U.K. subscribers this summer, but Facebook has halted those plans for the time being. HTC did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to the HTC First, Facebook has extended Home support to a handful of devices including the HTC One, One X and One X+, Samsung's Galaxy S4, Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II and Sony's Xperia ZL. Last month, Facebook vowed to make significant Home improvements directly inspired by consumer feedback: The social network recently added a new favorites tray enabling consumers to customize their Home experience by pinning the other apps and games they use most, a move to assuage criticisms that Home is too rigid and makes it too difficult to access other mobile features and functions.

In other AT&T news, the carrier announced it will launch new AT&T Foundry facilities in Atlanta and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas to "speed up the development of the latest technologies and applications that will help enrich your life whether at home, work or on the road." The AT&T Foundry in Atlanta will focus on products for the carrier's Digital Life home security and automation effort, and the one in Dallas-Fort Worth will focus on machine-to-machine technologies, connected devices and the Internet of things.

For more:
- see this AT&T release
- read this CNET article

Related articles:
Facebook Home kicks off makeover with new favorite apps tray
Facebook COO Sandberg acknowledges Facebook Home issues, is optimistic about its future
Facebook vows Home improvements, halts U.K. launch of HTC First
Facebook Home quietly expands to Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One
Facebook Home needs an extreme makeover
Facebook Home downloads top 500K in first week, reviewers give it 2.2 stars

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