By Kyle Romain
The smartphone market has largely been dominated by players such as Apple and Samsung, while HTC has been on the backburner for the last couple of years; unable to bring consumers a flagship device that could challenge the likes of the iPhone and Galaxy models. HTC’s response has finally come in the form the HTC One, the smartphone that not only matches the greatness of its competitors, but goes beyond them in many ways.
Before beginning, it’s important to note that the One is running Android version 4.1.2 and not Android 4.2. While it’s up to you to decide if that is a deal-breaker or not, I can certainly say that it makes only a minor difference (having used 4.2 on other devices such as the Google Nexus 4). The One can be purchased for $580-$600 on Sprint, AT&T, and TMobile in a 32GB model. I purchased the One on TMobile, opting for their new no-contract plan, paying off the phone monthly with only $100 down at purchase and $20/month for 24 months.
Design & Build:
This is the first area where the One truly shines. This is one of the best looking smartphones I have ever seen or held. Its aluminum design makes the device feel truly high end. There’s no plastic to be found anywhere on the outside of the phone except for a small strip running around the device and two small strips on the back (that may sound like a lot, but trust me, it’s not). The edges are ever so slightly curved in which make the device fit neatly in your hand. It’s truly a testament to the work that HTC has done on the One. The One shreds the notion that HTC is a second class OEM and creates a truly unique look and feel all in its own.
On the rear of the device are the obvious camera and flash lenses with a HTC logo in the middle of the panel. On the bottom is a Beats Audio logo, and because of TMobiles new plan, the One has no carrier branding to be found anywhere, which just makes the whole package even sexier. The rear panel doesn’t smudge or scratch easily either which always comes in handy when trying to keep the device as pristine as possible.
At a mere .36 inches thick, the One only weighs 5.04oz even with a height of 5.4 inches and width of 2.68 inches. While the phone is definitely large, it doesn’t feel weighted in my pocket or hard to grab (although I do wish the power button was on the side of the device instead of the top like on the Nexus 4). This is becoming less and less of an issue for many users now who have been introduced to phablet phones featuring much larger screen sizes and heavier weights.
A gorgeous 4.7-inch full 1080p display makes for an experience like no other. Few phones can boast a screen that is even close to that of the One. With a 468 PPI pixel density, the screen is by far the sharpest I’ve seen. The black are deep, the colors are vibrant, and the viewing angles are also superb. It’s really hard to fault the screen in any way. It’s perfect for watching movies (aided by Beats Audio which we’ll get into later) and even works reasonably well outdoors and in direct sunlight.
The camera is a department that HTC decided to skimp a bit… sort of. While many smartphones go for as many megapixels as they can get, the One instead opts for what it calls HTC UltraPixel with HTC Zoe. This 4-megapixel camera doesn’t produce the sharpest images, but instead uses larger megapixels to take pictures that look great at Facebook or Instagram levels. To be honest, that’s all that most people including myself need in their phone. We will surely enter the day when there will be no need for a separate high-priced DSLR camera because the cameras in our smartphones will match them in performance; but for now, 95% of users only want to upload to Facebook or Twitter, or quickly share an image/video with a friend. There’s no need to sink extra money into a high megapixel point-and-shoot camera, especially when photos look as good as they do with the UltraPixel.
Because the pixels on the UltraPixel camera are larger, they can take in up to three times more light which substantially improves quality on low light photos. The camera can also shoot faster, apply filters faster, and share to the internet faster than other smartphone cameras. It also allows for the HTC Zoe feature that I mentioned earlier. This feature lets users capture three seconds of video before and after you have snapped your photo, letting you scroll through photos frame by frame and pick the one that looks best. This is extremely useful in instances like taking a group photo and finding the frame where nobody is blinking. The camera can shoot in full 1080p HD video which is nice too and definitely an added bonus to the whole package.
The HTC Ones Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.7 GHz processor makes for a beast of a machine. Coupled with 2GB of RAM, it was hard to make the phone stutter. Its benchmark scores are literally off the charts and every game I tried ran near perfectly. The two frontward facing speakers boosted by Beats Audio are no laughing matter either. When turned into landscape mode, the speakers create a stereo effect that I can definitively say is better than any other smartphone on the market. The speakers are extremely loud and have a surprising amount of low end to them. It’s a game changer to bring this sort of sound quality to a smartphone, and it’s something I hope to see continued on other devices.
The battery life on the One leaves something to be desired however. While not necessarily bad, the One has average battery life at best. While it will easily last you through the day, it won’t do much more than that and will die quickly, especially if you are using the speakers on full blast or watching any movies or playing games. The power saver option is always intriguing, but it gimps the phone so much that it can feel weak at times when you have it on. Again, while not a deal-breaker, the battery life on the One only leaves you wanting more and halfway expecting more when everything else is so well done. There is also no wireless charging support.
Using the HTC One heavily for the last few weeks, I can easily say it’s the best smartphone I’ve ever used. Although HTC Sense is still completely underwhelming, the form factor is so spot on, the hardware so fast, and the screen so rich and vibrant that it’s easy to forgive any shortcomings that the One may have. And the thing is, I want it to succeed. If this is the pinnacle of HTCs work, then keep it coming. If they can continue to create new and innovative devices such as the One, HTC, they could rocket to the top of the industry. Many people will be deciding between the HTC One, Galaxy S4, and (rumored) iPhone 5S this summer, and my recommendation will be the One.
image sources: HTC, TechCrunch