HTC One review

HTC One reviewNever 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.

Display

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.

Camera

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

Pros

  • Stunning design
  • Incredible sound - Boomsound is more than just a name
  • Much-improved HTC Sense
  • Silm and solid
  • Beautiful screen

Cons

  • Expensive
  • 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

Price: £520

HTC One review

Read more about: AndroidHTC One

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16 comments

matt101101 / MOD  May. 1, 2013 at 15:41

The only fly in the ointment is that the Samsung Galaxy S4 comes out very soon
I guess this wasn't this week then ;)?

martinjjames / MOD  May. 1, 2013 at 15:47

The only fly in the ointment is that the Samsung Galaxy S4 comes out very soon
I guess this wasn't this week then ;)?


Ha! Well spotted - thanks Matt, has been fixed now :)

matt101101 / MOD  May. 1, 2013 at 15:54

The only fly in the ointment is that the Samsung Galaxy S4 comes out very soon
I guess this wasn't this week then ;)?


Ha! Well spotted - thanks Matt, has been fixed now :)

Apart from the time travelling, it's a good summary of the One :)

JanSt / MOD  May. 1, 2013 at 17:01

It's the only Android device I would buy - like, with my own money and a gun to my head.
It;s gorgeous and I have seen what the camera can do, and the speakers and sound are amazing. A complete standout device. Shame about the expansion...and, well, Android :p

matt101101 / MOD  May. 1, 2013 at 17:58

It's the only Android device I would buy - like, with my own money and a gun to my head.
It;s gorgeous and I have seen what the camera can do, and the speakers and sound are amazing. A complete standout device. Shame about the expansion...and, well, Android :p


I don't see how Android is such an issue. Sense UI basically replaces all the stock Android apps and UI features with its own versions. If you didn't know any better, being able to tell that: this, the Nexus 4 and the Galaxy S4 all run the same OS would be pretty difficult, IMHO.

JanSt / MOD  May. 1, 2013 at 21:01

It's the only Android device I would buy - like, with my own money and a gun to my head.
It;s gorgeous and I have seen what the camera can do, and the speakers and sound are amazing. A complete standout device. Shame about the expansion...and, well, Android :p


I don't see how Android is such an issue. Sense UI basically replaces all the stock Android apps and UI features with its own versions. If you didn't know any better, being able to tell that: this, the Nexus 4 and the Galaxy S4 all run the same OS would be pretty difficult, IMHO.


True. Blinkfeed aside, Sense on the One seems a lot more subtle than prior versions.

matt101101 / MOD  May. 1, 2013 at 21:46

It's the only Android device I would buy - like, with my own money and a gun to my head.
It;s gorgeous and I have seen what the camera can do, and the speakers and sound are amazing. A complete standout device. Shame about the expansion...and, well, Android :p


I don't see how Android is such an issue. Sense UI basically replaces all the stock Android apps and UI features with its own versions. If you didn't know any better, being able to tell that: this, the Nexus 4 and the Galaxy S4 all run the same OS would be pretty difficult, IMHO.


True. Blinkfeed aside, Sense on the One seems a lot more subtle than prior versions.

Definitely, HTC seem to have finally realised that the last decent version of sense was the one on the Desire HD. It all went wrong with the fancy animations on the Sensation back in 2011.

Can't blinkfeed be turned off? It seems like a pretty pointless waste of precious battery life, IMO.

My biggest issue with the One is, ironically, the build quality and materials. Firstly, HTC have this horrible habit of using nice materials and then sticking them together with PVA glue; their phones just seem to fall apart a lot faster than Samsung's do. Secondly, that lovely aluminium back is going to be an absolute magnet for dents, scratches and general marks. The only way to avoid that is to stick the phone in a case...which negates the primary reason everyone is raving about the One; the build (or more specifically, materials) quality. I just can't shake the feeling that a 6 month old One which has never been in a case will look a lot more "used" than a 6 month old Galaxy S4...

JanSt / MOD  May. 2, 2013 at 09:23

I totally agree, matt - but only with the rational, ahem, lawyer side of my brain.
The feel of a nice slab of metal still beats any plastic device. Logic be damned. Most big devices these days feel insubstantial... No matter how sturdy and powerful.
And also: I feel, oddly, there's a difference between a scratch or scoff mark on metal and one on bucket material... Maybe it's some atavistic amphibian thing?

On a more logical level: I doubt you can get the awesome sound the One is capable of delivering through its built in speakers from a plastic case?!
I may be wrong - admittedly, but the only other phone I can personally recall having a similar wroom combined with clarity is the Nokia N91 - another metal construct.

As to the PVA glue part of your comment: lets wait and see... Samsung weren't always good at delivering topnotch assembly, either - just revisit their highend WinMo devices. The "Pro" range was pathetic. Loose slides, ill fitting battery covers, pre-scoffed faux metal trimmings...
So, maybe HTC learned a lesson?
Maybe not.

matt101101 / MOD  May. 3, 2013 at 21:00

TechRadar (my benchmark for decent, UK based reviews) just gave the One 5 stars, the first phone they have given their top rating to since the Galaxy S2 and before that the original HTC Desire.

Now all we have to do is how well it sells, I guess this is the year when we find out how much weight the "Galaxy" brand really carries. Before now, it's always had better reviews than the equivalent HTC model to rely on, it appears that is not so this time around. I think HTC might have finally, after three long years, brought back their A game.

matt101101 / MOD  May. 3, 2013 at 21:03

Hmm, interestingly Techradar's review of the original Desire no longer exists (the links just go the the Desire C's review) and they've knocked the S2 down from 5 stars to 4.5...

I guess having technology look like it's going backwards, or at least not progressing in any meaningful way, isn't good for their business.

JanSt / MOD  May. 3, 2013 at 21:39

Been offered a new, boxed sim-free ONE with full warranty for £380... Should I take it?

matt101101 / MOD  May. 3, 2013 at 21:42

Been offered a new, boxed sim-free ONE with full warranty for £380... Should I take it?
You'd be mad not to, even if you hate it you can make a tidy profit selling it on.

JanSt / MOD  May. 4, 2013 at 07:02

Yeah, it's what I figured...

JanSt / MOD  May. 5, 2013 at 00:07

Okay, got one One this afternoon. Already back in the box.
I don't wanna make a scene here... my disagreement is mostly with Android, not the phone.
But I disagree re Blinkfeed. Like Flipboard? LOL... No way. Flipboard is a lot faster, more intuitive and it can be personalised to a much higher degree.
Haven't played much with the camera, yet.
Annoyed about getting a Software update after syncing the phone, and transferring 15GB of stuff, only to have the update wipe the entire memory. How very 2006! Thanks.
Yes, the Sense 5 UI is nicer than Touchwiz or vanilla JB, but it's still a tad tacky imho - though hey, aesthetics... And anyhoo, it only enhances the shock you get when you start a 3rd party app and you're back to the Android comic book look :p

I guess IF you like Android, the review is pretty much spot-on (exc. for the Blinkfeed bit... really. )

JanSt / MOD  May. 5, 2013 at 09:33

Tried the camera. Impressive, especially in low light.
Getting content onto the One without Windows is a b*tch, though. HTC Sync for Mac does pretty much nothing. Android File Transfer fails mostly, too.
And at home on my Linux machine is some stuff I can absolutely not transfer. No way.
I guess only a sync via Dropbox will work.
Not on my "watch", though.

Pretending I had a Windows PC and liked Android I'd give the HTC One 10/10 based on a few hours with it.
If - like me - you're not an Android fan, the One won't convert you.

JanSt / MOD  May. 6, 2013 at 13:56

By the way: There are incorrect statements floating around the cloud regarding Blinkfeed.
It can NOT be disabled! Numerous how-to blog posts lure with headlines like "Disable Blinkfeed in x easy steps" etc... they are cheeky. They all say the same: do not set up Blinkfeed and assign another homescreen to default. That is not the same as 'disabling' if you ask me. Also: they flatout claim that by not setting it up Blinkfeed doesn't use extra resources. Well, blimey - how do you prove that nugget of factoidism if you cannot compare it to a One without Blinkfeed?

Also: if you buy the phone, check for software updates BEFORE you set up all your apps and music etc.... The One I set up on Saturday lost ALL its content when I installed the latest firmware update. Maybe my One is glitchy, but I'd play it safe ;)

Also: Android File Transfer for Mac doesn't play nicely with the One... larger files or folders full of photos do not transfer flawlessly. Had no such problems with the Galaxy Camera or SGS3, but with the One AFT crashed or just 'pretended' to transfer stuff...

Lastly: The HTC One was the first smartphone in a long time (for me anyway) that refused to charge with micro-USB chargers other than the one in the box... A Samsung charger, a Nokia charger and even my old HTC charger all resulted in rejection: "the charger is not authentic. Please unplug and use the charger that came with your HTC One"...

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