HTC’s One is the company’s latest flagship smartphone and its latest attempt to create a market defining Android device, and with a sexy design, expensive feel, and market leading specs the company could hit the jackpot.
Despite HTC’s recent woes that include some miss-firing handsets and an ailing financial state, the company has actually managed to create something in the HTC One that is exceptional. Whether that is enough to steal the Android crown from Samsung is another issue, but at least from our time with the device we think the HTC One will at least give consumers something to think about.
Design and Screen
HTC has got it wrong in recent years, delivering a host of plastic and rather cheap feeling phones, even ones intended for the high-end market. However, the company has now gone back to the days when it used metals to construct its handsets, and the HTC One is all the better for that. The back plate is composed of machined aluminum which gives the phone a real feel of quality and sturdiness.
That back plate comes with its cons though, such as it makes the phone weighty when next to rivals, but to the average user the difference should be unnoticeable. The One isn’t the thinnest of smartphones either, coming in at 9mm thick, but again when we are talking in millimetres, the difference compared to rivals is negligible.
That said the device feels good in the hand, comfortable and in a weird way feels as if it has purpose. I was initially uncertain about the two front facing speakers, but aside from having practical purposes they are actually pleasing on the eye and give the HTC One a defining design feature that its competitors do not have.
The only gripe I really have about the look of the One is that it looks a little like a mix between the iPhone and the Blackberry Z10. However I can temper that by saying when dealing with touchscreens there is not a whole lot that can be done in terms of radical design and the fact the One looks good means I can forgive the similarities with other devices.
The 4.7-inch 1080p screen is crisp and clear, while colours are delivered brightly and with clarity. I did not get a load of time to put it through its paces, but from what I saw I would say this should be at least up the standard of rivals in terms of video playback, general browsing, and photography.
The HTC One runs off Android 4.1.2 but as normal HTC has pasted its Sense interface over the top, although this is a new version of Sense, which will be a relief to those who used the poor Sense experience from last year’s handsets.
The major new feature of Sense is something HTC calls BlinkFeed, a new home screen designed to act as your hub. BlinkFeed works by scraping data from your favourite websites, social media venues, and your camera and putting them together on a tiled interface homepage. Tapping on any tile will open it to full screen and reveal the full contents for you to read.
Look, it is fairly obvious that BlinkFeed is a RSS feed of sorts, albeit a good looking glorified one. As such it works as you would expect, meaning you can choose what content is shown on the homepage and you can also use swipe gestures to refresh the screen. If you imagine a hybrid of Windows 8 and the popular FlipBoard app then you have a good idea of what BlinkFeed is. It is attractive there is no doubt about that, and while I think the feature has potential there are a load of apps available that already offer all the features.
From my few minutes fiddling with the device I could see that the 1.7GHz quad-core processor, backed up by 2GB of RAM moves at a fair clip. The HTC One is fast and I doubt there is an app or game that is going to push this handset to its limit.
Perhaps the most discussed feature of the HTC One is the camera. At a time when smartphone manufacturers are trying to outdo each other by boosting their megapixels, HTC has gone the other way and delivered a camera that is just 4-megapixels. HTC anticipated an outcry from the more megapixels the better brigade but the company has been eager to stress that the camera on the HTC One features individual pixels on the sensor that allow in more light than rival lenses, 300% more light actually.
One ability of the camera is the “ZOE” video, a feature that allows users to take a short video much like Twitter’s Vine app. However, with the ZOE system you can then examine the video frame by frame to find the perfect shot. The gallery also has a lot to offer thanks to the ability to view photos that are displayed side-by-side as a frame; this happens like a slide show and allows users to make short 30-second frame by frame animations.
There are some cool features, but this camera is a huge gamble by HTC and we will be eager to see how this snapper works in the field before we make a proper judgement on it.
HTC has made a very good smartphone and we think the One is a really viable alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S3. However, with the Galaxy S4 just around the corner, it is probably the case that the HTC One does just enough to be current now, but is not advanced enough to compete with up and coming flagship like the next Galaxy or the iPhone 5S. That doesn’t mean the game is up, at least for the time being it is the best of the rest, but with the Sony Xperia Z and the LG Optimus Pro hitting the market, the race for third place is really hotting up.