May 24, 2013 at 7:21 PM ET
Plans to launch the HTC First, aka the "Facebook phone," in the U.K. have been indefinitely delayed and pre-orders refunded, according Facebook and the carrier that was to carry the device exclusively. In the United States, after AT&T dropped the device's price, that seemed like confirmation that sales have been nowhere near what was hoped.
The HTC First was announced in April; with bold colors, decent mid-range specs, and a nice HD screen, it seemed a reasonable device on which to launch Facebook's new Home platform for Android. Home, as the company described it, enhanced the Android experience and added better chat, an attractive new lockscreen, and other Facebook-centric features.
However, Home was also released for a number of other smartphones shortly afterwards, and it wasn't long before it became clear that the new software wasn't quite ready for prime time. Features prized by power users and valuable to casual ones were omitted, and many were wary of a phone controlled entirely by a social network notoriously cavalier about privacy.
Meanwhile, the HTC First has apparently languished on the shelf, as evidenced first by a $99 price drop (to 99 cents on-contract) after just a month of availability. Rumors abounded that it was being discontinued, though AT&T characterized the drop as promotional pricing.
Canceling the U.K. launch on the U.K.'s EE carrier suggests things may be more dire than that. Facebook issued a statement to NBC News saying it was working on refining Home based on customer feedback:
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.
Both Facebook and HTC declined to comment on sales of the First or plans for a later launch of the phone in the U.K.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.