Despite all the negativity around the Facebook phone, the early reviewers can all agree on one thing: The Facebook phone got them using Facebook—a lot. Maybe even too much. Ahead of Friday's official release of the $99 HTC First that comes preloaded with the new Facebook Home software, which will also be available for download by Android users, a bunch of gadget reviewers have been playing with the phone for a few days, bestowing their thoughts and feelings for our reading pleasure on the Internet today. Overall, they sound pleasantly surprised. In his review at TechCrunch, the noted Apple-phile MG Siegler even calls it "really good"—twice. Most of the reviewers spend so much time using fancier phones (and not all that much Facebook, apparently) that they ultimately conclude the HTC First isn't really for them. They did, however, find that when the social network was put right in front of them, they wanted to use all the Facebook functions, and pretty much all the time.
All of which is to say that if people go out and buy this thing, Facebook will at least succeed in getting people to spend even more time on Facebook.
The Cover Feed, which shows Facebook photos and notifications right on the lock screen, is "surprisingly addictive," says Siegler:
And it’s surprisingly addictive. Because you can swipe to scroll through these images/statuses all without unlocking the phone, I’ve found myself doing this each day that I’ve been testing the phone more than I care to admit. The fact that you can double-tap to “like” any of these (an action taken right out of the Instagram playbook) is even more addicting.
In addition, "regular" Facebookers will find that they use the other Facebook apps more than they would before, according to "regular Facebook user" Walt Mossberg over at AllThingsD:
I found Facebook Home to be easy to use, elegantly designed and addictive. Although I’m a regular Facebook user, I found that, with Home, I paid more attention than ever to my news feed, Liked items more often and used Facebook’s Messenger service more often. So, if you are a big Facebook fan, Facebook Home can be a big win.
And even a "very infrequent" user of the social network will want to play with the Facebook parts over the very hidden Android stuff, adds The Verge's Dieter Bohn:
That said, I find it very telling that even this infrequent Facebook user found himself interacting with status updates instead of doing other stuff on my phone — Home radically increased my Facebook usage. If Facebook makes good on its promise to release monthly updates and these updates can significantly increase the basic utility of the homescreen, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a lot of people start using it.
David Pogue over at The New York Times had "all kinds of fun" with his device:
You can have all kinds of fun on the Cover Feed. If the stately scrolling is too slow for your tastes, you can flick to the next photo, and the next, and the next. You can double-tap the screen to "like" a post. You can hold a finger down on the screen to see the entire photo, smaller; big parts of it are generally chopped off in the process of enlarging it to fill the phone’s screen. And you can tap a tiny speech-balloon icon to read people’s comments, or to leave one of your own.
Wired's Alexandra Chang, also an infrequent Facebook user, goes so far to say that all of that "adds value" to the overall experience:
For people who spend a lot of time on Facebook and want to stay connected to their Facebook friends, Facebook Home makes absolute sense. There’s little reason not to get Facebook Home if you already have a compatible Android device. And even if, like myself, you don’t spend tons of time on the social networking site, Facebook Home adds value to the Android experience without feeling invasive.
Though, "productivity minded people"—so, like, business people? or maybe people who want to use their phone for stuff other than Facebook?—shouldn't touch the thing because it's that addictive, notes Engadget's Brad Molen:
In its current state, Home isn't the best fit for productivity-minded people, although it does offer a bit of mindless entertainment for anyone just looking to burn a minute or two throughout the day. More importantly, Home is proof that Facebook wants to attack the saturated mobile market. It's hard to say if it will win the battle, but it's bringing a heavy load of artillery to the fight.
CNET's Jessica Doulcourt found her "engagement dramatically jumped," but she wasn't sure that was such a good thing:
My engagement dramatically jumped while I was using Home, although I also wasn't sure I was seeing the highest-quality "news" in my feed. Since I couldn't view my entire news feed, I couldn't tell if I was viewing the most complete or recent list of updates. Scrolling through Cover Feed may have made me a little more entertained, but it sure didn't make me feel any smarter.
Ultimately, people who don't want to be addicted to Facebook might see the whole thing as a distraction, argues ABC's Joanna Stern.
That's the beauty of trying out Facebook Home or buying the HTC First. Facebook's Android layer can be disabled at any time. And my guess is that will be the case for many people -- not because the software isn't nicely designed and Chat Heads aren't the future of mobile messaging, but because you can't control the updates that appear on the front of your screen and ultimately having people all over the face of your phone is distracting.