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HTC Facebook phone status: available July 17 on AT&T

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The first handset with a dedicated Facebook button on AT&T’s (s t) network will be available on July 17. The aptly named HTC Status costs $49.99 with 2-year contract and can be pre-ordered directly from AT&T’s website starting today. HTC debuted the Android 2.3 device at February’s Mobile World Congress event, saying then that photos, videos, songs, websites and more could be instantly shared on Facebook using the hardware button at the bottom right of the handset.

AT&T must be betting that simple Facebook sharing will trump overall hardware specifications and performance, because I’d consider the handset to be a low-tiered device, as represented by the low cost. The handset uses a single-core, 600 MHz processor at a time where dual-core chips running at 1.2 GHz or better are becoming the norm. Granted, such high-end handsets are typically priced around $199. Other features found in the HTC Status include a 2.6-inch touchscreen display with 480×320 resolution, a paltry 512 MB of memory but microSD card support for expansion, and a QWERTY keypad beneath the display. On the other hand, the device does have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G connectivity, GPS and two cameras.

The ease of sharing items to Facebook is welcome, but it’s actually not that difficult to do that now on most Android (s goog) handsets. Tapping the menu button in the browser or many other apps brings up a sharing option and if Facebook is installed on the phone, it appears as a sharing option automatically. This functionality is native to Android, so the Status appears to be more of a handset designed to ride Facebook’s coattails to some degree. However, HTC’s software atop Android adds other integrations, such as the Facebook status of an incoming caller, Facebook photo galleries and more.

I do wonder if changes to Facebook could actually break the sharing functionality on the HTC Status, since its tied to hardware and not the operating system itself. Perhaps this will be a non-issue, but I’d be concerned because the primary differentiating factor in this $50 handset is the Facebook button. And if that doesn’t work due to changes made by Facebook, the Status is simply a standard, inexpensive and slow smartphone. At least until HTC works out a software update, AT&T tests it and pushes it over the air to customers, that is, meaning this could be a choke point for the handset in a worst-case scenario.