Facebook delays Home in Europe, wants a stronger 'First' impression

Facebook Home needs some customization features before it will ship on the HTC First outside the US

By Zach Miners, IDG News Service |  

Users in the U.K. and France will have to wait a bit longer to get their hands on the HTC First. The first smartphone to come preinstalled with Facebook Home has been delayed in those countries while Facebook updates the software to address some negative user feedback.

Facebook is wise to delay the rollout, one analyst said, rather than release the product to other markets and risk turning people off.

"It's like the old adage, 'You don't get a second chance to make a first impression,'" said Greg Sterling, senior analyst with Opus Research.

"Facebook is trying to maximize Home's potential in these other markets," he said.

Facebook Home is a suite of software that sits on top of the Android OS to put the social network front and center on smartphones. In the U.S. it can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and also comes pre-installed on certain smartphones out of the box, starting with the HTC First.

Home was unveiled last month, but so far it has not exactly been a home run. The software has a rating of 2.3 out of 5 stars in the Play Store, based on about 18,000 reviews. A common complaint concerns the way Home takes control of a user's home screen.

Facebook reported earlier this month that Home had attracted close to a million downloads, though that figure constitutes a small slice of the company's 1 billion-plus user base.

Facebook is working on new versions of the product to address feedback from those first adopters, it said during a recent media briefing. Users have complained about the way Home's app launcher reorganizes their apps, and asked for an easier way to initiate chats.

"There's been a lot of criticism about accessing apps," Sterling said. "Facebook needs to overhaul it pretty substantially to appease those who roasted it."

"While many people love it, we've heard a lot of great feedback about how to make Home substantially better," Facebook said Thursday in a statement.

"As a result, we're focusing the next few months on adding customization features that address the feedback we received," it said.

In the meantime, EE and Orange, the largest carriers in the U.K. and France, respectively, will hold off on shipping the HTC First. There was no word when it will arrive in those countries.

"We will shortly be contacting those who registered their interest with us to let them know of this decision," an EE spokeswoman said.

The Home software download, meanwhile, was made available globally on April 16 on Android-supported devices, which also include the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III.

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