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Microsoft (and others) take digs against Facebook phone’s unoriginality

Yesterday, Facebook announced their much anticipated “Facebook Phone” aka the hilariously named HTC First, which turns out to be nothing more than a mid-range HTC device sporting Android 4.1 and yet-another-custom-skin. That skin simply features the most popular features of Facebook e.g. having it on your lockscreen, etc. but is it a game-changer? Not at all.

Indeed, after enduring the presentation, users familiar with mobile technology may have had a case of déjà vu as Zuckerberg and others focused on the “people first” aspect of their new money maker.  There’s little doubt that Facebook (and HTC) borrowed heavily from the Windows Phone philosophy of allowing your friends and family to be front and center on your phone versus “just more apps”. 

For two years now Microsoft has been pushing the “people first” slogan in mobile (they've have even filed for a patent!) and now it appears Facebook is going that route.

Silver tongued Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications at Microsoft, has now posted a blog entry on Microsoft’s page (opens in new tab) detailing how the Facebook phone is basically trying to reinvent the Windows Phone philosophy:

“I tuned into the coverage of the Facebook Home event yesterday and actually had to check my calendar a few times.Not to see if it was still April Fools Day, but to see if it was somehow still 2011.Because the content of the presentation was remarkably similar to the launch event we did for Windows Phone two years ago.When we sat down with a blank sheet of paper and designed Windows Phone, we put three words on the wall to guide the team: “Put People First”.Those three words were chosen around a pretty powerful but simple insight: People are more important than apps, so phones should be designed around you and the people you care about, not the apps you might use to reach them.”

Of course we could sympathize a bit here with Facebook as going with just a Facebook app-launcher would not suffice either and we’re not sure where else the largest social network could go but focus on people. But the real crime here is feigning originality, or being “first!” to the market with such a concept (or even making it a differentiator).  But hey, we’re just glad we weren’t tasked with trying to come up with a Facebook phone, which just sounds like punishment.

Others have already started to make fun of the “Facepalm Phone” including a rather lengthy video parody meant to mimic those over-used “let’s interview the designers” that Apple made popular. The video, posted on TechCrunch earlier today, goes out of its way to show how annoying and gimmicky such a device could be. While we had a few groans we did chuckle at the “DTF” joke at about 2 minutes in.

Recipe for failure?

Granted, we’re a Windows Phone site, so it should not be surprising that we don’t have big prospects for the Facebook phone. The hardware is unoriginal and uninspiring, especially for 2013 (5MP camera, an awful front-facing camera, 4.3” display and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU). Having said that, we are able to recognize the strengths of our competitors—we’ve given both the Galaxy S4 and BlackBerry BB10 some praise for being creative and worthy challengers—but the Facebook Phone (aka HTC First, really?) will be a passing phase.

Even our buddy Phil over at Android Central is a bit sour on the branding, noting:

"And still I'm torn over the HTC First. Never mind that confusing smartphone name. We're used to those. But "HTC First" is simply too close to "HTC One." The circles don't really overlap -- they're two very different products -- but they're too close in name to be a good thing for HTC. The last thing needed by a company struggling to rebuild from a number of dismal financial quarters is more brand confusion, and that's what we've got here."

The whole strategy is just wrong as unknowing customers will just walk in to the Store, see “Facebook phone” and then think that the device is limited to just Facebook. We’re sure some diehard FB users will want it, but does it really do anything that Android, iOS or Windows Phone can’t already do? No.

As to Facebook borrowing from Microsoft for focusing on your friends and family, well, we’ll just consider it reaffirmation that Windows Phone is on the right track. The question is, will the HTC First distract from that increased momentum of Windows Phone or will it be a blip?

Daniel Rubino
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • Thought they described windows phone at first, yes...
  • Actually the Kin did this before anyone -- its home screen was a big list of current FB feeds. So if you want to talk about what Facebook looked to for inspiration...
  • This is why Microsoft is not doing enough in terms of marketing!!
  • MS should really show of the FUNCTIONS and INTEGRATION in Windows Phone...
  • ^this
  • You guys are kind'a reaffirming something I've been saying about the average buyer for a while... very short memory, and even narrower vision.
    MS did speak, and show the integration... in 2010.  
    The problem is they aren't going to keep beating people over the head with their very deep FB integration especially when the majority of you will turn on them and blame them for not having instagram.
  • I agree, people tend to be scared of change, so instead of WP being a "different" OS, I would have marketed it as a perfect socially integrated device....with a fresh new interface to "enjoy the people you love" . On a different note, I don't think Microsoft has anything to worry about in this device. 
  • Yup, most people will think Facebook, HTC, & Android came up with this concept first. Oh well, it's Microsoft's own fault.
  • ^exactly, Microsoft needs to do more to make it crystal clear that these ideas originate with them and their revolutianary WP platform, otherwise the average lay person will think it was facebook/google/whoever-crap-else idea.
  • 100% agree!!
  • Well its too late now isn't it?
    When Facebook has already shown the world they were the original ones who put people first, its kinda lame for MS to say we've been doing it for 2 years now and no one noticed.
    MS only has themselves to blame for not doing enough marketing
  • Its astonishing that Microsoft hasnt woken up to the fact that their current ad company cant market themselves out of a wet paper bag. I wonder if any of them actually use the products or know how they work. Total shambles all round from Microsoft and really its all on the CEO.
  • Agreed. The dancing people with the Surface tablets? Sure it grabs your attention at first but it does nothing to make people want to buy it. Especially after you've seen it 12 freaking times. They rethought WM, they need to do the same thing with their marketing.
  • Agreed times 999999. Where's Microsoft's marketing team.
  • You are 100% correct my dear son!! WP marketing is better than ever, but it still is not good enough....
  • I cannot see anyone goin for it. I guess they can though. Its just meagh!!!
  • Teenagers
  • no, no teenager with a brain will buy that crap, believe me, i'm a teenager to :-)
  • How many teenagers our there have brains? As an ex-teenager trust me when I say NONE.
  • I don't know why after every smartphone related release Windows Phone fans have to jump up and act like sore losers? First the BlackBerry 10, it happened with iOS 6 and with Galaxy S IV. I don't see this on any other website but it's always here on WPCentral. Take digs when you have some figures to back it up; because right now, Windows Phone is at 4th behind BlackBerry.
  • Only reading WPcentral? ;)
  • Criticism, when not wrapped in fanyboy language, is not something to be avoided. It's not being a "sore loser" and if you see anything truly remarkable about yesterday's announcement and how it will shakeup or disrupt mobile technology, please, do share with us your deep insight. We even cite our sister site who focuses on Android (!) as having criticisms about yesterday's announcement. Some of you complain we even mentioned Facebook yesterday, now you're complaining that we (and Microsoft themselves) are judging the OS? Please... (And regarding market share, trends are more important not last quarter's numbers, just FYI)
  • Actually WP is now 3rd. Also there are plenty of options to choose from if you don't like it. Apple fanboi, then go to CNET. Android fanboi, well there's dozens out there. This is a WP site and yes they will point out when another OS or service is blatantly ripping off WP.
  • It's not "digs" nor "figures" it's facts. Old timers sell more, it takes charisma to be an innovation leader.
  • Ammarmalik, you have any figures to back that claim? Please do care to share that titbit...
  • You seem to have a negative response for everything.
  • Asking for figures isn't negative.
  • What is your problem exactly? You don't own a Windows Phone so what are you doing here, why are you reading those articles and why are you commenting here, calling us losers in the process?
  • Isn't this a Windows Phone site?
  • Doesn't Microsoft own part of Facebook?
  • So please enlighten us with your objection to the things talked about in the article point by point, not your usual rant agsint Windows Phone and their supporters. ammarmali2011 is a known hack on WP Central.
  • Dude bb10 is not innovative for shit !!! They port over apps from android and their ui is stolen meego Nokiabelle android ios lol grow up dude blackberry is 4th
  • Yeah what did they say when WP came out? And, this isn't about market share its about what a phone actually has to offer, and how it goes about offering it. You don't make Smartphone of the year just because you have huge market share, and the Lumia 920 made SPOTY even though it didn't sell as well as a myriad of Android devices, and even the iP5!! Did the devices you use make SPOTY? Well, mine did!! So seeing that we use a device that is not only fully capable, but highly innovative, that gives us the right to "take digs" as you say. Just because idiots like you, and the rest of the other sheep, won't try WP because it's not as popular doesn't mean that its not a very good OS and Hardware..... Perspective??.. They sell more Honda Civics than Ferrari's... I guess you think a Ferrari is a bad car because it doesn't have a huge market share.. You're a idiot go home.
  • Clearly, you haven't visited Android Central when iOS 5 & 6 came out ...
    Wait until June when Apple announces iOS 7 & check Android Central ...
  • Wow.........
  • Wow, I can't believe what I've just read.
  • And I don't know why you bother commenting on this site if you are so against the operating system? And the only "argument" you have ever had is about market share: "this sold more than that so it must be better" or to put it simply, you have nothing objective to say so don't try to act all high and mighty by claiming that people here are sore losers. And guess what? This Facebook home screen gimmick does suck. It doesn't matter how many hipster editors rave over how cool it is, it just sucks. I can't think of anyone with a brain bigger than the size of a pea who would willingly put that thing on their phone but you obviously aren't in that category.
  • Sad really need a psychiatrist...all you have to contribute is scepticism, criticism and negativity...if you think otherwise show us one instance where you have said something positive regarding anything WP....youre either bonkers or a double agent from one of those fandroid groups trying to blend in with us just to deliver your daily quota of criticism...damn, that's even more sad...! Now Choose what kinda sad you'd like to be...!
  • Well, his coment have many indications of a psychiatric disorder and he must be medicated, so be careful as he could be the next James Holmes and start shooting people in a public place. o_O
  • just off topic but I think we are giving facebook too much of our lives to it. I realized this when i was filing taxes and hrblock asked if i wanted to login with my FB account.
  • the same could be said for twitter and iG Lol
  • That's nice. So now you can share your personal tax return with your family and friends, and that creepy person who always checking out your fb page...wonderful...:/
  • It is inevitable, if it's not Facebook, it will be Google+ or whatever else. We love it when people sneak into our lives through social networks to know more about us. We're 'voyeurs' and 'exhibitionists' I guess. No matter how many of us prefer to keep their private life private there will always be a majority that would rather have all the eyes on them. Besides, would you rather type all your personal information or simply click on the Facebook login link?
  • And one can simply choose not to log into anything with your FB account. 
  • Lol!!!
  • Doesn't matter. MS is the underdog. It'll been seen as the hottest thing even its a copy from MS.
  • Maybe. For its ubiquity, Facebook still lacks a coherent business plan, and this is a big risk, one fraught with challenges i.e. when was the last time you wanted service-branded hardware? Google faced this reality with "Google TV" and failed, hard.
  • I could be wrong but from the publicity its getting, seems pretty strong at the moment. Lolz, "at the moment."
  • GoogleTV failed because the networks iced them out.  It's basically a Netflix/YouTube/BluRay/Pandora device for me.
  • We’re sure some diehard FB users will want it
    Uh, is there such a thing as a "diehard FB user"? I mean, I only tolerate going to Facebook out of necessity (Groups for school) and boredom.
    And yeah. Total ripoff. No other way of saying it.
  • Trust me there are diehard users, many of which who are no longer my Facebook friends because I dropped them or blocked them from seeing my updates because they annoyed the crap out of me. I'm talking about the kinds that always like and reply to my posts within 30 seconds, regardless of the time of day.
  • Out of 1 billion accounts, half a million turn out to be die hard fans.
  • MS needs to hire a new ad agency. They have ads of Windows 8 in the UK, which does not even highlight the OS's uniqueness when it comes to social. And don't get me started on those stupid dancing Surface ads that shows you nothing about what Windows 8 can do.
    HP has done well with marketing their Windows 8 computers, even managing to highlight the people first concept better than Microsoft.
    I love Windows Phone, but man, sometimes I wished it was someone else who created the whole concept.
  • Dancing Surface ads are the Tech equivalent of Mentos commercials
  • Can't show too much in 30 seconds. But you can do 30 seconds worth of, HEY LOOK AT ME!!
    So yeah, mission accomplished.
  • Won't even make a blip considering Facebook Home will be made available to a few other android devices on the 12th, and probably all Android devices soon after.
  • Don't forget the flood of angry letters and emails Zuckerburg will have to sift through when Facebook Home starts crashing applications running in the background and eventually, the entire OS. You'd be amazed how much RAM Facebook alone uses on Android....
  • Just one more option for Android to continue its dominance. If they can steal Windows Phone ideas so easily and have such a huge app selection and user base, why go to Windows Phone? And this is coming from someone with a Windows Phone.
  • Guess that's why Samsung's still is in to WP, getting code and ripping off... ;)
  • This author may be correct but no doubt this is a biased article.
  • It is an editorial, filed under that category...that's the whole point, to be biased (and everyone is biased who writes on technology...everyone).
  • Daniel, as you once told me in the past, you don't have to explain yourself. That fits this situation perfectly :)
  • I don't see why this is even being brought up. You're on a WP site. Would you expect Android to be pumped up when its clearly infringing on something that's already done?
  • I have a hard time seeing how you can put correct and biased in the same sentence. The two don't seem to mix. Your comment may be correct but you are definitely biased, No?
  • Not the first time Mark has copied someone's idea to make money
  • Oh no you d'int! LOL
  • Forward! Into the Past!
  • If you are facing backwards, forward will take you to the past. Head spin! LOL
  • Facebook and HTC: Using yesterday's technology, today, for a better tomorrow!
  • Lol! That's dramatic and catchy enough to become their slogan!
  • Except they'd be stealing from Monsters Incorporated...too.
  • Who lifted it from Saturday Night Live :D
  • that's the first thing I said when I say that keynote, it's windows phone knock off...that why I know the WP8 is the best phone out there.
  • I'm not keen on the prospect of ads being pushed to the "Facebook Phone" in time (Zuckerberg himself has said it'll happen - that's FB's primary business model).  And while I'm sure the claim can be levied at Microsoft too by some, I'm leery of giving FB and Google too much information about myself.  (They both seem more about data-mining and targetted messaging than Microsoft) So, we'll see.  I think Windows Phone is better just because the social stuff is integrated into the OS in such a way that I can dip into it easily if I want: I can pin certain friends or groups to my home if I like - but I'm not forced to use it, and of course there's no ads. I think the "introverts" like myself are largely going to want to avoid Facebook Home and lean towards a subtler approach that still lets them be social when they want.  And the extroverts who love Facebook will love Home.  The problem is the extroverts will loudly say how great Home is, basically free advertising - the introverts will quietly be happy without, on iOS, a different flavour of Android, BB10, etc... or (hopefully!) Windows Phone. So we - and Microsoft! - need to be better at promoting a more practical, less "always social" UI that is a better balance of fun, work, and social elements than the competition.
  • As I posted on CNET
    "The one thing that I appreciate most about my Lumia 920 Windows 8 Phone is that I have access to all of the social media I want, but I don't have to got thru an app unless I want to. The last think I want to do is have my life driving my Facebook. Since I changed form the iPhone to the Lumia 920 I find that I spend more time with real people instead of staring at my phone. While I think that Zuckerburg is correct that connecting with people is the future, I don't think that having a device between you and them is.  I understand the FB needs to make cash, and they will, but you will not see me on "Home"."
  • First of all (no pun intended...ok may just a bit) to label a mid or low end device too synonymous with the technologically advanced "One" was not a smart marketing move in my opinion. When something is "The One" it needs to stand alone. Secondly, it appears that this is a device marketed to young consumers. I would have chosen a catchier name, like the "HTC LOL" or the "HTC Status" or "htc Share". Lastly, I didn't know that Microsoft had the "put people first" concept during the development of Windows Phone...that explains the OS so much better!
  • SHOOT IT!!!
  • The phone is a joke and the app is probably not much better.  However, it would be nice if WP8 had a 1st-class Facebook app.  The POS solution provided by MSFT is terrible and I've tried several others that don't come anywhere close to the current solutions on iOS or Android.  For 2 companies that are suppose to have a strong partnership, the lack of an app FROM Facebook on WP (and Win8, for that matter) is rather pathetic.
    I'll likely give the app a shot on my Nexus 7, but the phone is as gimmicky as the Motorola Cliq and another HTC flop, the Cha Cha (complete with aFacebook button).
  • Apps! Apps! Apps! Apps!
    This is why so much of WP is lost on a lot of people. Apps aren't the only thing that drives WP. With the FB INTEGRATION using the app is kisda unnecessary for the most part. Not saying it has all FB features, but it's pretty damn close... and it's easy, and it's built in. I know that's not comfortable for a lot of people who feel like their not *doing* anything if their not jumping in and out of apps.
  • Plus one Sean D.
  • Yeah I use the people hub more than the fb app. I use the app for only chat and notifications.
  • No joking when I say this, but I honestly though this was very similar to the MS Kin idea. I don't see this going too far with this initial release.
  • Windows Phone is an excellent OS and the people hub is probably the most organized, integrated and clean method of being "People First" :)  - During yesterday's Facebook event, I concluded that Microsoft needs to get better fast at two things:  1. Marketing their mobile products - Windows Phone and Surface to start with and 2. Get some serious manufacturer support behind Windows Phone.  Right now with Nokia being the only "visible" player, it seems like manufacturer buy-in is lacking.  WIth Samsung spending a few hundred million dollars on marketing the S4, Microsoft needs to do somehting much bigger than they are currently doing. Come on Microsoft! My Lumia 920 is the best smartphone I have used but I am surprised by the lack of Windows Phone awareness everytime I show it to someone!  What should be comforting is most people's reaction to the OS - "this is amazing!" but clearly that cannot be enough.
  • Here we go, short sighted, and narrow focus. Go here and see how many of these videos have actually been on TV commercials, Now in movie theaters, and adds on other sites, or even product placement in TV shows. Scroll down as fas as you can.
    Have we all forgotten TV spots like the guy shopping with his WINDOWS PHONE, while his kids sat on the computer at home and added candy (or whatever) to the shopping list and it showed up on his phone??
    WP adds go back a ways. Honestly I'd be willing to vet MS is spending more $$$ marketing their devices than anyone else right now
    That is not what has MS "behind". iPhone has a weird type of peer pressure selling their devices (think about it), android has full on market saturation. Go into any carrier and you'll understand why I say that. With it being "free", every OEM has adopted it because it costs them nothing (till MS gets in their pocekts), so they flood carriers with them. MS doesn't and won't have that. 
  • It's "file for a trademark" patents and trademarks are two different things but you already know that just wanted to point out the typo :)
  • I think the concept is great, its something I think Microsoft kinda put out there as having that sort of ability in their mobile OS. Seeing how this is HTC we're talking about they have too many different devices to keep support, even when they tried to make fewer devices it seemed the support faded away and those devices just became generic Android devices; that's the differing factor from Samsung on Android and Nokia on Windows Phone. Teaming up with Facebook will only help them if they keep supporting their own devices with unique services and software.
  • I'm not one of the people who are dying for instagram, but Microsoft should sue Facebook for this and get them to build the instagram app instead of asking for money
  • It's exclusive to Verizon no glory. 822 sales more than 920
  • Lol how is bb10 innovative wow really wpcentral team are u guys smoking crack wow All they did was borrow from meego , Nokia belle , android , ios and they ported apps from android lol omy gosh huge fail Can see tht wpcentral team goes all out for bb10 -_-
  • Windows Phone's people-centric design was heavily influenced by the rise in popularity of social networks such as Facebook.  It's not that FB is ripping off WP, it's that WP jacked FB quite some time ago.
  • You got that wrong. We're talking about a new UX on smartphones. FB can't take credit as the first to offer a "people first" UX smartphone. Microsoft did it first.
  • The question is has Microsoft been emphasizing this "people first" design of WP in an effective way? Their commercials don't drive the point home in my opinion; thus, leaving the door open for their competitors to "own" it.
  • Regardless of whatever ways Facebook Home is similar to Windows Phones philosophy, you guys have to admit that the messaging system they've implemented is pretty damn cool.
  • Facebook has no business making a phone. This is going to be laughable!
  • as for the specs, it has better specs than most windows phones (a better CPU, a 720P screen, 1GB of RAM...), just pointing out that windows phones need better hardware
    but I like how you can chat with someone then continue what you were doing with ease
  • Really, what about the Samsung ATIV S, 4.8" 720p Display, Dual Core 1.5Ghz processor and 1Gb RAM. I would also bet that my HD7 with its inferior spec would outpace the "Facebook Phone" any day of the week.
  • I must say (at least to me) the (HTC First) Fafone's design is simplistically attractive. My biggest gripe (besides terrible specs) is that if I were to buy this phone, all scrutiny would rein down upon me because I bought "the Facebook phone" and "OMGOLLY you must be addicted to Facebook." I guess that last one could be true... but I do so love Chatheads...
  • Whatever, this is dumb just like facebook in general is dumb. That's right I said it!
  • One word why!
  • Can you search Facebook from peoples hub trying to look for an old friend but can't seem to do so from peoples hub only Facebook website or the app
  • Like they said Microsoft is on the right track. Keep it going. With Nokia pushing their phones and gaining a ton of ground ms will definitely be ok.
  • Nokia is helping bring in developers. MS is pushing the product. I see as many adds with HTC's as I do Nokia's.
  • soon there will be Twitter Phone, Skype Phone, Youtube Phone.. it's an APP c'mon be real.. IT'S AN APP!!
  • Its not like Android needs to Snag anymore ideas? Even as Facebook created such a weak phone. Even as in Droids the Galaxy S4 slams it, but The Galaxy S4 will slam the users, because users are clumsy to be exact and big phones break just like laptops and tablets. But getting back to the Facebook phone, I just think its so funny that they have to try to steal Microsofts idea, I remember the first Windows phone, I just didn't see many, So far in the past 2 weeks, I have seen 5 on people I don't know from Adam and one I know thats a manager and I talked to him and he has issued Iphone 5 but his personal phone is a Windows phone and I sent him some links and we talked and a month later, I saw him and he was like, tell you the truth you bout can take the I phone, I do about everything on my Windows phone its just so much easier.
    But I agree with everybody Microsoft needs to get the word out more on functionality, because word of mouth works, but good commercials work bettter.
    And the Facepalm phone, will die a horrible death.
  • Thats what i hate about wp, always talking trash about the competition, face it windows phone 8 it's rubbish, just starting with the apps. The only good thing are hardwares is a shame not to see nokia 920 running android !
  • Oh look, someone else who doesn't actually own a Windows Phone talking shit about it on a Windows Phone website!!!!
  • Your market analysis hability is bullcrap...
  • I haven't seen the keynote , but what I know is, the social integration in WP was a good start two years ago, but wasn't improved enough... news feed in people hub not good enough, not even close ... I find my self opening the many times for mini stuff :S.. messaging needs lots of work, needs to be alot faster with sending and receiving messages and more reliable too.. and receive offline Facebook messages(I guess its some API limitation, but still needs a fix).. Skype app needs to go away, and get fully integerated in messaging and ppl hub.. lots of work to be done :S
  • I just see copy cats of nokia/wp everywhere, the Samsung hub thing on gs4, the people first of fb, the new curved back curved front of the rumored iPhone 5s, each company is taking a bite of us wp/nokia owners, claiming its their idea! I don't like unoriginal ideas.
  • Eww Facebook phone? No thanks.  Keep your ads and candy crush requests off my phone!
    Marketing idea - for a laugh: MS should air the "Put people first" ad again, that'll serve that zuckerberg! ;)
  • I don't understand. People is always talking about ms bad advertising. Is that so bad?