Well we’ve beat around this bush long enough. GR readers have gorged themselves on an unboxing, our list of 1st impressions and a lengthy comparison to the tried and true (yet defeated) iPhone 5. All that’s left is to give the HTC One some well-deserved solo attention. A quick glance around the ‘net would yield an ample stack of praise heaped on the HTC One from enthusiasts, users and journalists. Still many remain unsure. It seems the least amount of clarity is really centered on camera picture quality and battery life.
But I digress. The HTC One is a gorgeous phone. The design and construction are immaculate. We received the chrome on white version from Sprint. But it comes in black and red as well. Our unit is a very distinguished looking device that is smooth and nearly free of physical buttons protruding from its edges. Only the top power button extends up past the housing–just slightly. The volume buttons on the right side of the device are rocker style. Yet they are flush to the edge of the phone and help maintain the symmetry and smooth uniformity in the styling. The grilles at the top and bottom are the BoomSound front facing speakers we mentioned in our impressions and adds greatly to the dapper good looks.
There is little amiss with the look and feel of the HTC One. The zero-gap aluminum styling produces a phone with heft that is pleasantly solid in-hand while maintaining a lightweight 5-ounces across its super slim 9.3mm waistline. The tapered edges help with the slim look and the rounded back offers a very comfortable grip. But it will rock on a flat surface making typing a choir. The display reaches edge-to-edge with a thin bezel that offers an illusion similar to an edge-to-edge monitor, where display content seems suspended in your hand. Without a doubt, the One is a head-turner.
The tech guts in the HTC One are high end, without question. Our unit is the 32Gb storage capacity model. It uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz and 2GB of DDR RAM. This one of the speediest mobile CPUs we’ve seen in a phone. It makes work and play all fun as the phone’s responds to commands with pep and urgency. The display is 4.7-inches capable of 1920 x 1080 resolution with 468 pixels per inch, which beats the iPhone 5 at 1135 x 640 and 326 pixels per inch. The end result is an attractive window that is very pleasant to watch movies and digest rich internet content and other visual media. Colors pop and text is rich, sharp and easily discernible.
The One is also home to a bevy of radios, sensors and more including a gyro sensor, accelerometer, proximity sensor and ambient light sensor. You can also expect WiFi 802.11 a/ac/b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.0. It also supports NFC (near field communication). So the One can translate information from real world objects and products. This includes anything with an NFC chips–so stickers, images and point of sale devices are on the menu.
The top right of the phone is where the 2.5mm stereo jack is located. The mini USB 2.0 port for charging and syncing is positioned at the bottom right. The USB port also features mobile HD video link (MHL) for piping HD content over a the USB cable or HDMI (the latter requires a special cable). On the audio side of media, the aforementioned BoomSound speakers are nice and enhanced well with Beats Audio and embedded amplifier. You still want a good set of speakers or headphones on hand. But the HTC One offers better naked audio quality than the iPhone 4s or 5.
Rounding out the impressive list of heavy tech scrunched into this super slim device is a burly 2300 mAH battery and a small rebel army of photo-enhacing tools and crutches to help the 4mp and 2mp cameras on deck (rear and front respectively). Several are focused on adjusting flash levels, image stabilization, 1080p video playback and more.
The HTC One just recently stepped up to Android Jelly Bean 4.2. I’ll let you dissect that particular OS’s offering on your own time. With the One, HTC has draped Jelly Bean in its new HTC Sense 5.0 candy coating. Sense has not always been well-received by users. But here it’s rather nice. You can set a more traditional Android homescreen if you like. Otherwise it’s BlinkFeed all the way for your initial homescreen with clock and weather widgets centered above the BlinkFeed. I can’t speak highly enough about BlinkFeed. I’m a news hound always sniffing out new stories for work and my own personal entertainment. BlinkFeed accommodates these vice nicely. With it you can assign your BlinkFeed supported news sources and/or Facebook and Twitter and update them easily by pulling and releasing on the series of feeds. Your main homescreen is then populated with a stream of news feeds displayed–often–with rich media images. It’s elegant, comely, useful and snazzy way to quickly digest news.
A flick of your finger you can swipe to your next screen, which can be customized with a nearly inexhaustible selection of widgets and icons. You can double tap the home button to pull up all your open and running apps to quickly jump to where you want to go or shut them down. Finally you can bring up the traditional Android app try to view a scrollable list of all your installed apps. You can adjust the size of icons to display more and choose how they are laid out–alphabetical, recent or custom.
I found the One to be pleasantly lacking in bloatware. Sprint does offer a Discovery It section–a window into their Sprint Zone which is like a section of Sprint-highlighted apps to found on the Play Marketplace, where you find all Android apps. I don’t mind this. It could be useful to users as their Sprint account info can be accessed here with upgrade eligibility, minutes used, view and pay bill options and more. But you don’t have to install Discover It at all if you choose.
HTC is using what they call an Ultrapixel Camera. Let me begin with… I have no issues whatsoever, with the soul stealer on the HTC One. But then I’m no professional photographer. To my eye, images look far better than they did on the Motorola Atrix HD and my iPhone 4s (which to me still takes great pics). But the war of words rages on between those happy and less so with the HTC One’s camera. I snapped several images here for you judge for yourself. Sure, it’s on a 4 megapixel camera. Yet it makes use of 5-levels of flash that adjust automatically based on proximity, image stabilization that works great and the lens is able to capture more light than traditional camera with more than double the pixel count.
What I’m most impressed with is the allotment of utilities blanketing the One’s camera and pics. I shouted from oh high about these already. But HTC Zoe and HTC Share are just plain fun to muck around with and really that’s the feel a smartphone camera should instill. HTC Zoe is a cool feature for amateur photographers or anyone shooting quick shots on the go. While enabled, a simple click of the shutter will capture 20 pictures and a 3-second video. You can then choose the one you prefer. The 3-second video is also handy for show transitions between photos and providing clarity in a fast moving scene where a still shot might provide too much blur and distortion.
HTC Share allows you to package your various photos and short clips into a mini presentation to be shared across via email, text message or across your favorite social networking platforms. You can play with it to produce some cool effects add music and more. But by default it will compile your captured photos and video and create a cool little piece of memorabilia with family and friends. Click the link and see how the One will convert your HTC Zoe images into an elegant living gallery.
The 2300 mAh battery found in the One is sizeable with some laudable “light use” performance. Battery life drops a mere 1% after two hours of testing in Battery Compare benchmark. Light to medium use will see the One sustain a full work day before 14% low batt life notifications start appearing. Running a lot of apps that exceed “light use” like HD movie playback, HTC Zoe, HD video recording and such–changes things dramatically. But still you can get a good 6-7+ hours of video playback depending on size and resolution. On paper HTC clocks the batt life at 27hrs of talk time over GSM 3G and 479 hours of standby. You can be sure 4G LTE will zap that down significantly. So my official take? HTC has a decent battery in the One for moderate to heavy use and excellent stamina for light use with phone calls, and a handful of notifications and apps whirring behind the scenes.
I am really enjoying this phone–and I’m not the only one. It seems it’s even doing quite well for HTC. The One is an immensely attractive device in any color. I have a hard time putting it down and when I do I’m looking for reasons to snatch it up again–if only to update the BlinkFeed and digest more news. Subtle and intelligent attention-to-detail goes a long way. Little things like the touch-sensitive Home and Back buttons glow automatically in low-light settings. Also the there is a tiny green led in the upper left of the top speaker. It blinks when there are any new unanswered notifications waiting–so you know instantly at a glance.
Call quality is all pluses as well, with clarity on both ends. HTC want us to know about Sense Voice, but I don’t hear anything special on either end with basic calls. Maybe Sense keeps call quality from completely sucking. In that case, go Sense! The look and feel of the One are spot on. The displays is wonderful with richness and vibrancy that enhances photos, web surfing and movies. The quad-core Snapdragon 600 was an excellent selection. It’s easily one of the fastest processors in a phone to date. It can crunch 1080p video and video games without batting an eye. Android Jelly Bean 4.2 is as intuitive and customizable as you would expect. I wish I could customize the location of apps and widget on the lockscreen, a bit more. But it’s far from a deal breaker.
My biggest fear for the One is that it’s a bit ahead of its time. There are more features offered than many users will ever get a chance to enjoy. They are novelty features like NFC and DLNA wireless video streaming, set top box remote control functionality, etc. The rumor mill, however, is bubbling with talk of a poor-man’s HTC One with reduced features that still retains the impressive construction and build materials. But the price from any carrier makes obtaining the current HTC One slightly pricey, but feasible.
You can buy the HTC One is available at Amazon for $99-$549 depending on contract.
Marvelous performance, features and speed Incredible craftsmanship 1080p video recording on both cameras HTC Zoe and HTC Share are great fun Weighted feel is comfortable and easy to hold
No microSD slot support Battery is easily taxed on moderate to heavy use
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.