Samsung and Apple are, needless to say, best in show when it comes to smartphones. The S3 has run circles around other Android competitors when it comes to sales figures, and Apple continues to throw a serious punch with their iterative updates and easy to use and efficient operating system. Buried beneath a cloud of smoke and rubble is HTC, a Taiwanese smartphone and tablet manufacturer known for crafting one of the world’s first touchscreen smartphones (Wikipedia) and launching the first 4G-capable phone in the United States. In the hopes of regaining market share, which dropped below the top 5, the company recently announced a new flagship phone that eschews the brands plastic bodied phones. It’s called the HTC One, as in the one.
While I haven’t had a chance to get a hands on with the device, both Engadget and The Verge have written exhaustive reviews that examine the device’s hardware, display, camera, UI and all-together build quality.
There has already been a long list of One phones from HTC, but all of them included a plastic or rubber-like build. They’re probably best described as “unremarkable”. Take a look at the iPhone 5 and you can see where the market is heading. So logically HTC followed, and it’s a stunning piece of hardware that begs to be held.
Both The Verge and Engadget said The One is very easy to grip thanks to its curved metal back. The Verge also notes that The One feels far less fragile than the Nexus 4, and since it’s machined from aluminum and uses a technique called zero-gap injection molding (no gaps between the plastic and metal frame), I’m not surprised.
The amount of detail here is staggering, and it reflects just how crucial this device is to HTC’s future. (source: Engadget)
The One is gorgeous. The aluminum slab’s design is both totally unique and somehow still understated. The slightly curved back nestles into your palm, and the chamfered edges slope from back to front, so your hands curl naturally around its sides. (source: The Verge)
And for posterity’s sake, it’s worth noting, as pointed out by Engadget, that The One doesn’t offer the following: wireless charging, a microSD card slot (you’re stuck at 32GB or 64GB), or a removable battery. There is, though, the addition of an IR blaster hidden inside the power button, which is paired up with Peels programming app – a nice touch that seems to make TV watching a pleasure.
The One houses a 4.7-inch Super LCD 3 display that produces a full HD resolution, and boasts a whopping 468ppi, besting the iPhone 5′s 326ppi (though, the iPhone’s screen is smaller). According to Engadget, darks are sufficient, though not as good as OLED. The viewing angle of the One’s screen is vastly wide, as agreed by both publications. However, The Verge wrote that the One’s screen doesn’t get very bright, making direct sunlight viewing difficult. Where as Engadget said that wasn’t a problem.
Oddly, the screen doesn’t get very bright, and it can be hard to see outdoors in sunlight. (source: The Verge)
Although smartphone cameras still aren’t up to snuff with stand alone point and shoots, they’re beginning to scratch the surface. Lending a solid assist to that statement is the HTC One. Aside from the Nokia 808 Pureview, Engadget found that The One’s low light ability out shined every other camera phone, including the Nokia Pureview 902.
The One camera truly outshines almost everything else in low-light situations. It usually produces better shots at night than the Nokia Lumia 920, and comes in second only to the current imaging king, the Nokia 808 PureView. (source: Engadget)
But – and yes there is a but – since the HTC One uses something they’re calling Ultrapixels (larger pixels on the sensor), which means The One’s camera captures a mere 4-megapixels. As a result the photos don’t do well when it comes to viewing them on a larger screen or cropping them, as pointed out by The Verge.
…it shoots so fast I sometimes didn’t believe it had actually taken a picture. That’s all nice to have, but it doesn’t change the fact that the pictures I took on the One just don’t look very good. Sure, shots are bright and colors are good, but it’s clear noise reduction processing is running roughshod all over the photos you take, leaving them soft and mushy even in good lighting. (source: The Verge)
I’m of the purist mentality, but then again I’ve only used the Nexus 4, so who am I to say? That said, I’ve long heard of the bloatware that plagues Android phones, and while the HTC One does a solid job of skinning the Android platform, it’s not totally devoid of wrong doing. First off, as told by Engadget, the lack of three buttons versus the two included is a hindrance to productivity.
Because Sense 5 eschews a menu key, it means many third-party apps have to throw in the virtual menu key at the bottom of the screen. This feels like a step backward to us, especially after the One X was updated to allow menu functionality on the recent apps soft key. (source: Engadget)
The Verge goes on to lament that the Sense 5, while better than Sense 4, still confused the otherwise clean UI that Android already offers, thus making it feel, at times, unintuitive. But that isn’t to say they thought all things were bad about Sense 5, even though you can’t turn off The One’s Blinkfeed option on the home screen, which is something akin to a Facebook feed of all the news sources of your choosing.
HTC’s skin’s biggest fault was always that it slowed down an otherwise speedy operating system, and that’s not really the case here. Aesthetically, there are still some frustrating changes, like the cartoonish icons in Settings and a few ugly app icons, but throughout the UI HTC has exercised some much-needed restraint. ( (source: The Verge))
Last, and not least, both publications were impressed by the One’s Peel TV integration, and found the embedded IR blaster found in the power button, to be useful, especially when the remote couldn’t be found within arm’s reach.
Performance and Battery Life
The HTC One includes some of the latest and greatest hardware available to smartphone manufacturers today. Under the hood is a Snapdragon 600 (APQ8064T) chipset, paired with a 1.7GHz quad-core CPU with Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB RAM. In benchmarks alone The One flies. The Verge says gaming on The One is almost flawless, especially when playing Asphalt 7: Heat, an intense racing game that is said to cause other phones to drop frame rates, and stutter graphics.
Even playing Asphalt 7: Heat, an intensive racing game that makes most phones stutter and drop frames, was near-perfect on the One. (source: The Verge)
Engadget notes that the screen is super responsive, and they even echoed The Verge’s above statement in terms of gaming. In terms of battery life, it would seem that you’ll get maybe 9-10 hours of active use on the phone, though The Verge doesn’t see this as acceptable whereas Engadget does. Nevertheless, Engadget was able to playback a full HD movie, in a loop mind you, for 6.5 hours.
We got almost nine hours of battery life with constant use. (source: Engadget)
The combination of a fast processor, high-res screen, and always-updating software is an ugly one for battery life, and indeed I struggled to make the One last a full day ; I killed the battery with about ten hours of tweeting, browsing, emailing, and not that much else. (source: The Verge)
Ultimately, the Sense 5 leaves something to be desired. Reviews are split on the camera, with Engdaget giving it a thumbs up, while The Verge finds it questionable – the same can be said about The One’s battery life. All in all, The One is an impressive phone, provided of course the company can find a way to sell the phones, and unseat (slightly) Samsung’s grip on the Android market.