Never before has a company's fortunes rested so much on one product. Just three years ago, HTC was the go-to maker for Android handsets. The HTC Hero, the HTC Desire and so on were gadgets to behold until Samsung came along and spoiled the party.
Last year's One X failed to set the world alight - even when it was rebadged with a plus symbol on the end. Something truly special had to be pulled out of the bag.
Which is exactly what HTC's boss, Peter Chou, did when he unveiled the HTC One - the worst kept secret in recent months. He said he'd resign if it didn't sell. Let's hope for his sake it does.
Design and Build
Just one word here: "wow". Search the web, you'll find few people criticising the build quality of the HTC One. This is widely regarded as being one of the most beautiful handsets of recent years.
We won't go in for the PR speak which sounds great but makes zero sense, just to say this: the HTC One is a perfect amalgamation of beautifully treated aluminium and glass.
It's the kind of thing that, had it come with an Apple logo on, would have induced hysteria. I've been using it for weeks - and each time I get it out in public, there are always questions like: "Wow, what's that?"
It's one of those rare devices that is just stunningly beautiful - they only come along once in a while and evoke memories of the first iPhone or the arrival of the iPhone 4 back in 2010.
The One is fairly slim and not too humungous at 137.4. 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm. It's not the lightest handset you'll come across at 143g but is not really noticeable once you've been carrying it around for a day or two.
In fact, the only really problem you'll have is that it is such an expensive looking device, you'll want to cover it up, lest you drop it. And that'll ruin the aesthetics. Talk about first world problems.
Much is made of phones with HD displays - they're ten a penny now. In fact, anything that's not HD seems a bit backward.
So what makes the HTC One display so special? The fact that this is full HD. Yup, we're 1080 x 1920 pixels - that's what some TV sets come up with. And this is split over a mere 4.7-inches, breaking out an incredible 469ppi.
Here's what it means practically: this is, in our experience, the best mobile screen out there. For the trade off in size and clarity, you get something that is truly as sharp as the eye can take. And with that screen pressed right up against the glass, it looks like images are printed on.
What's more, viewing angles are great, meaning the washed-out problems that comparable handsets like the Xperia Z suffer are just not present here. It's Super LCD3 at its finest.
Interface and OS
Naturally, the HTC One comes with Jelly Bean and straight out of the box, you'll be chomping on Android 4.1.2. But it's what's on top of that that makes the headlines here: Sense 5.
HTC's custom skin has always been one of the best out there, despite a period where it got a little too convoluted a couple of years ago.
Here, we have it rewritten, and boy is it sleek. Colours are subtle and businesslike, icons are less cartoony. And then, there's Sense 5's signature service: Blinkfeed. If you've used Flipboard, you'll understand.
The default homescreen pulls in news articles from websites you've chosen (from a pre-defined list) and gives you them with pics so you see them as soon as you unlock your screen.
It's good, it's functional, and you'll find yourself reading things you never thought you would. In fact, the only problems are you can't disable it (although you can change to a different default homescreen if you'd rather) and you can't choose your own news sources. At least not yet - but expect that to change as the service develops.
HTC's decided it doesn't want to win the megapixel number race and has decided to go for the brains option, rather than brawn. The HTC One comes with a 4MP snapper (whereas similar handsets are pushing 13MP now) but it keeps this number quiet, instead preferring to use the term 'Ultrapixel.'
It reckons that by increasing the size of the pixels, more light can get in and photos are better.
It's also introduced a feature called 'Zoe' where the camera shoots a number of photos as a kind of video clip, allowing you to then pick which frames you'd rather have as stills and making your gallery come alive like pictures on a Harry Potter staircase.
From a practical level, it works well with photos in low light coming in better than, say, the iPhone 5. But daylight photos aren't amazing. Not bad, but not brilliant. They certainly look better on the screen than they do on a larger one like a computer.
And while Zoe is great, it does have its drawbacks - for example, those files are HUGE and you only have limited memory because there is no SD slot.
On top of that, if you have auto-upload to Dropbox, it sends every frame, which means you end up with 80-odd pics of the dog licking its genitals when you only really wanted one.
Performance and Battery Life
There's no doubt the HTC One comes with both brains and brawn. It's got a quad-core 1.7 GHz Krait 300 processor powering it and boy, does it fly. There was literally nothing we could to slow it down. And believe us, we tried.
Unfortunately, the battery is sealed in - but at least it's large at 2,300mAh. Problem is, it's not amazing. We'll put this into context and say it's not bad per se. You'll get through a 12 hour day with moderate use.
But if you have lots of Google push services (you know, the things you'd tend to want) enabled as well as Twitter etc and you deign to take a lot of photos, you'll be struggling to get through a whole day.
It's worse than an iPhone 5 battery in our experience, and the sad thing is that it takes twice as long to charge compared to said Apple handset. Add to this, you can't uninstall Blinkfeed which saps the battery whether you like it or not, you have to say this is the one problem with an otherwise almost perfect device.
Author: Phil Lavelle
- Stunning design
- Incredible sound - Boomsound is more than just a name
- Much-improved HTC Sense
- Silm and solid
- Beautiful screen
- Not the lightest
- Camera has its quirks
- Battery could be better
- Blinkfeed can't be disabled
Verdict: The HTC One marks a new direction for HTC - this is the year the Taiwanese manufacturer really came of age. There's a lot riding on this - but all the signs are that the company's scored a blinder here. The only fly in the ointment is that the Samsung Galaxy S4's arrival means the One might not be having its own way as hands-down the best Android handset out there for very long.
More info: HTC One spec