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HTC's Facebook phone launch postponed in UK and Europe

The launch has been put on hold after a negative reaction to the HTC handset in the US
  • @jjvincent

Facebook is "holding off" the launch of its new phone in the UK following negative reaction to the phone and low sales in the US.

The phone, called the HTC First, was first released in the US in mid-April and aimed to base its success around Facebook Home – a “super app” that overlays the phone’s home screen with news and pictures from the user’s Facebook account.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, launched the software on 4 April, claiming it would “change the relationship” users had with their phones. Facebook has an impressive presence on mobiles with more than 680 million of its 1 billion users using the company’s app.

It was downloaded 500,000 times in the first two weeks but received lukewarm feedback, with users dismayed about the “clunky” interface, lack of new features, and personal Facebook posts appearing on phones’ lock screens- prompting privacy fears.

Reviews commented that while the basic handset was well-built and relatively fast, the addition of Facebook Home was little more than a ‘skin’ for the existing software; adding little functionality and providing customers with no reason to switch to the phone.

Facebook planned to release the phone in the UK this summer but is now asking its European carriers, Orange and EE, to stall the launch indefinitely.

“While we focus on making Home better, we are going to limit supporting new devices and think it makes a lot of sense for EE and Orange to hold off deploying the HTC First in Europe,” said the company in a statement.

The news of the cancelled launch comes amid further troubles for manufacturer HTC. The Taiwanese company has been suffering from a string of high-profile executive departures, shrinking revenues, and fierce competition from Samsung – whose Galaxy S4 recently became the fastest selling Android smartphone, shifting 10 million units in a month.