Seems like everybody was too busy philosophizing over Peter Chou and Mark Zuckerberg’s new “Facebook Phone” — er, HTC First — that most overlooked something much more epic with the phone: the HTC First will not only be the world’s first Android device tailored to run Facebook Home, but it’s also the first HTC device to run stock Android since the T-Mobile G2. Yup, you heard right. Not since the failed G2 have we seen HTC return to their roots and ironically, their partnership with Facebook is what made this happen.
We briefly covered the HTC First’s Android stockness after asking the Facebook rep to jump into the HTC First’s settings app in our hands-off video. I can’t really say what I was expecting (Sense perhaps?), but I can tell you I was quite surprised to find a completely stock Android Jelly Bean settings and notification pulldown, all cleverly hidden behind Facebook Home’s slick visuals. And that’s not all, the stock Android homescreen is also dormant on the device and can be activated by simply clearing by either clearing defaults Facebook Home, or disabling Facebook Home directly from its own settings.
So, what does this mean exactly? Well, I should start out by saying that when I say “stock Android,” I’m not talking about pure AOSP with direct updates from Google. Only Nexus (and for a short time, Sony) devices get those kinda privileges. What I mean by “stock” is a version of Android that simply isn’t skinned and comes with stock Android apps like messaging, camera, gallery, stock notification bar, etc., but may or may not have some of the underlying software tweaked. This is exactly what happened with the G2 back in the day which, for all intents and purposes, was running stock Android, but wasn’t running AOSP with direct updates from Google. HTC still had to build their version of stock Android and submit it to T-Mobile to look over and push out.
I just found it interesting that a device like the HTC First that most Android fans are looking over because of its close ties with Facebook is doing something they’ve been clamoring for forever now. A phone from a Android manufacturer running a UI “skin” (in this case Facebook Home launcher) that can be easily disabled by the user, and switched over to a plain Android experience. The HTC First is that device. The first device in quite sometime time making this happen and nobody really knows about it.
Of course, there will be those that ask, “Why can’t HTC do this with Sense? Just turn it into an optional launcher and be done with it?” Quite frankly, I don’t want to get into the openness of Android or the fact that it was created for manufacturers to brand and call it their own. We’ll have to save that discussion for another time. Right now, I just want to know if stock/vanilla/plain/whatever-you-wanna-call-it Android is as big a selling point as Android fanboys make it out to be? If so, is the HTC First suddenly looking a little more appealing to anyone out there?