HTC One – Review (Updated)

Another phone that was highly anticipated this year is the HTC One. With this release, HTC is bringing its A-game in a big way. This year HTC, in a very gutsy move decided to focus on only one main phone release, and their bet seems to be working as the new HTC One is dubbed to be the hottest phone of 2013!

The first time you see the One, there’s an immediate feeling of amazement at the beauty of the device, and after you hold it, that astonishment is confirmed even further. From a hardware design perspective, this phone is unparalleled. It’s machined from a solid block of aluminum, each piece taking 200 minutes to carve out. It’s really light (5.04 ounces) and thin (0.36 inches) but it feels rock solid. The curved back sinks into your palm, while the slightly angled edges help you grip it.

On the front side of the device you find the Super LCD 3 screen under Gorilla Glass 2. The screen reaches up to 1080p (1920×1080 pixels) over 4.7-inches, which gives it a 468 pixels per inch (PPI) which makes the pixels invisible to the naked eye. As you can imagine the screen is absolutely glorious and the vividness and brightness is also a sight to behold.

The bezels on the sides of the screen are very thin. Above and below the screen are speaker grates to give you real stereo sound. At the bottom of the screen one can find two capacitative touch buttons—Home and Back—though I would have certainly preferred none. The micro USB port on the bottom doubles as an HDMI port (special cable required) for connecting your phone directly to a TV, though you’ll also be able to do this wirelessly via Miracast. Speaking of TV, the power button on top the device doubles as a IR blaster for using your phone as a remote control.

There are a lot of goodies under the hood, too.

  • OS: Android 4.1 with Sense
  • CPU: 1.7 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600
  • Screen: 4.7-inch 1920×1080 Super LCD 3 (468PPI)
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 32GB or 64GB
  • Camera: 4MP rear (“UltraPixel”)/ 2.1MP front
  • Battery: 2300 mAh Li-Ion

At the top/front of the phone sits a wide angle front-facing camera and a special back camera that HTC boldly dropped to a 4MP resolution using a totally new technology called UItrapixels – basically, bigger mega pixels which let in more light. The camera has an f2.0 aperture and optical image stabilization, both of which are impressive for a phone. HTC’s reasoning behind this change kind of makes sense as most people nowadays use photos mostly on Facebook and social media networks like Instagram etc… so an 8/13MP camera is certainly not used to its maximum potential.

HTC’s camera app is really nice and gives you a lot of granular control over the images you take, and the shutter is instantaneous. Viewing the things you shoot is much more enjoyable on the One, as the Gallery app has been revamped. On the video side, not only can it shoot HDR (high-dynamic range) 1080p video, but it records HDR audio. HTC claims that by using two mics tuned to different ranges (one higher, one lower), the One can cancel out distortion. Indeed, recorded audio sounded terrific for a phone camera. I wasn’t personally too pleased with the video recording capabilities in HDR mode in particular, and I would steer off from using it. Something that could eventually be fixed via a software update.

At launch the One is running Android 4.1 (yes really!) awith HTC Sense 5.0 and we will have to wait a couple of months more for a new version. Sense 5.0 is a pretty major redesign from its predecessor, and it has a lot of new features. The most prominent of those, BlinkFeed, aggregates stories from your favorite news sources and social media into a more visually appealing array of tiles, much like you’d find on Windows Phone.

There are other changes in Sense 5.0, too, like a more customizable lock screen, an overhaul of the classic HTC clock/weather widget, and a new layout in the app drawer. Visually speaking, it’s cleaner, more minimalist, and more attractive than the old Sense.

The first time the phone makes a noise, it’s startling. HTC has claimed that its BoomSound (i.e. the dual frontal stereo speakers with built-in amps) gives you “bigger sound with less distortion and more detail.” When I was reading the press release, I was sure this was just marketing fluff, however after trying it first-hand I can safely say it’s hands-down the best-sounding phone I’ve ever heard. You can turn the volume way up and it still sounds excellent. It’s great for gaming, too.

Having a high pixel count generally slows phones down, so my speed expectations were low. I was glad however to be proven so wrong! The device manages to power up from off to fully booted and ready to go in 8 seconds!  Apps open faster than I’ve seen on any other phone and everything happens instantaneously.

Should you buy this phone? YES! It’s simply one of the most exciting pieces of hardware I’ve seen in a long time, including the Galaxy S IV. As of this moment, the HTC One is looking like the best Android phone you’ll be able to buy for the foreseeable future.

UPDATE: Initially I thought the dropping of camera resolution was just a marketing bluff, but after using the device for about a month now, I do agree with HTC that the drop from my previous 8MP phone camera to the 4MP didn’t make any difference at all. The quality of the photos more than make up for the drop in resolution.

A big thanks goes to Vodafone Malta for providing us with the review phone.

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