Look and feel
The HTC One’s slim metal body looks nicer than a dozen Anne Hathaways and feels great in the hand.
Ease of Use
HTC’s Sense 5.0 interface is simple and streamlined, and the 4.7-inch touchscreen is perfectly responsive to gestures and prods.
The HTC One’s BlinkFeed timeline could use a little tweaking, but we’ve fallen in love with the Ultrapixel camera and the unique Zoe video mode, as well as the excellent BoomSound/Beats audio combo.
A quad-core processor guarantees super-slick performance, for games, media and more.
With some features such as DropBox uploads disabled, we easily got a full day of moderate use from the HTC One. You also get a handy ‘power saver’ mode for prolonging life. Expect around five to six hours of video playback on a single charge.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,2/20/2013 11:02:21 AM
Ease of use
HD and BoomSound great for movies and music
Sleek, desirable metal design
Smart, feature-packed camera
Packs plenty of power
BlinkFeed isn’t quite there
From the moment we clutched the HTC One in our quivering mitts, we knew it was something special. The name may confuse HTC aficionados, as last year we had a slew of One phones (One X, One XL, One X+ etc.) – will every new generation of HTC smartphone now simply be ‘One’, as Apple’s iPads lost their numbers? But the brand new Sense 5.0 interface and innovative feature-packed camera, which takes mini-videos at the same time as photos, make this one of the most enticing mobiles of 2013 and stiff competition for Sony’s Xperia Z.
Although the HTC One is another mighty 4.7-incher, just a shade behind rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 (5-inch) and the Sony Xperia Z (also 5-inch), it feels a good deal more compact and is perfectly manageable when used one-handed. That’s thanks to the gorgeous slimline design that doesn’t waste any space. The screen stretches from the narrow silver bar at the top (which houses an elongated speaker and front-facing camera) to a little under an inch from the bottom, where you get a second speaker and touch-sensitive back and home buttons. That second speaker is unusual for a mobile, but it’s all part of HTC’s amusingly-titled ‘BoomSound’ which we’ll touch on later.
Massive plaudits have to go to HTC’s designers, as the One is a masterpiece. It’s clearly an HTC phone, not just from the thankfully-subtle branding, but the smooth rounded corners and tiny details. Yet the One is also its most gorgeous mobile to date. The all-metal body screams ‘premium’, with white edging to break up the brushed silver. In comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy S III and S4 feel a little plasticky. Around the back, there are hints of Apple’s iPhone 5 but it’s in keeping with the rest of the design, and the camera lens doesn’t jut out as it did on the HTC One X. Compared with the One X, it’s a little narrower (although also slightly elongated) and a bit thinner too at just 9mm.
With its narrow construction and curved rear, the HTC One fits perfectly in the hand. We’re glad that HTC stuck with a 4.7-inch display and wasn’t tempted to bump it up, as it’s a great size for browsing the web and enjoying apps and media while still proving manageable for one-handed operation. It’s also one tough mother, and feels like it could survive a tumble or two – plus that Gorilla Glass screen won’t scratch up too easy.
You can’t prise the One open to access its battery, which means the SIM card slot is also found on the edge of the device. Thankfully the sides of the phone aren’t crowded: the SIM card slot sits alone on the left, with a single volume rocker on the right, a black power button and 3.5mm audio jack up top, and a USB port on bottom as normal. There’s no memory card slot but the HTC One packs either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, depending on which model you buy.
Android 4.1.2 is the OS of choice, but HTC has tweaked it beyond all recognition with its HTC Sense 5.0 interface. We love HTC Sense, its look and feel as well as excellent personalisation putting it ahead of Samsung’s (also brilliant) TouchWiz design, and HTC Sense 5.0 is the best version yet.
Gone is your bog-standard homepage filled with boring icons. Instead, say ‘hi’ to BlinkFeed, which acts as a chronological collection of everything you’re interested in, from the latest news and sports results to your mates’ social media scribbling on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’ve used Flipboard before, the overall idea is the same: your chosen items pop up on screen as photos, with a bit of text overlaid to explain them (say, a news headline) and you simply tap to get more info.
HTC hopes to have over 1,500 news feeds to choose from soon. At the time of reviewing, there were only 11 dedicated publications to individually select, plus a host of categories including gaming, music, celebrity, politics and individual sports, which pull in news from a variety of sources.
We found our BlinkFeed stream was immediately overrun by Twitter updates, as we follow a fair few people, and the way they’re handled isn’t ideal – photos that people tweet show up as the BG which is great, but we’d have preferred a small profile pic of each Tweeter in the corner to quickly and easily see who was saying what. We also found that some longer tweets would have their ends cut off, so you need to tap on them to read the full thing. We eventually decided to remove Twitter from the BlinkFeed menu and use it for news and sport headlines alone.
BlinkFeed obviously needs an internet connection to update, and it doesn’t cache the full information you get when you tap on a tile, so it’s of limited use when your signal is dead. Still, we have to give credit to HTC for this refreshing and unique take on the trusty Android homepage, which while not quite perfect is still a sleek and cool way to stay in touch with the world.
A quad-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 series processor is ably backed up by 2GB of RAM, which as you’d expect proves powerful enough to run the latest system-pounding action titles such as ShadowGun: DeadZone. Which is a shame, because we can’t blame our rubbish performances and constant deaths on laggy frame rates. The HTC One shouldn’t be out of date any time soon, even if you’re a massive gaming and media fan.
But does that meaty processor drain the battery faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100m? Well, for our first couple of days, we found the One’s battery life wilted faster than Tesco Value salad. We couldn’t understand why the battery drained so fast even whenit was simply sat in our pocket, until we realised that DropBox is automatically toggled to upload your photos to the cloud when connected via Wi-Fi. All that data streaming was killing the One stone dead.
With the DropBox auto upload disabled, we found that moderate use (occasional web browsing, emailing, texting and apps) with Wi-Fi turned on gave over 24 hours of use. Stick on the ‘power saver’ mode (which dims the screen and toggles other features) and you should manage well over a day, especially with infrequent use – the battery only drops 1-2% an hour if the screen stays off. Of course, if you’re frequently gaming or watching video, the battery will drain much faster. Movie lovers can enjoy over five hours of viewing pleasure before the battery gives up, which is good for a decent-sized quad-core device, and we managed to game for four to five hours.
Our only bugbear is that the One gets a little toasty when you’re gaming, although not to a worrying degree, and no more so than Sony’s Xperia Z.
Even more impressive is the beautifully crisp 4.7-inch LCD screen, which packs in an impressive 468 pixels-per-inch (PPI). That far exceeds what Apple’s iPhone 5 can manage, and even Samsung’s Galaxy S4 isn’t quite as sharp – although side-by-side you’d be hard pressed to notice the difference. That sharpness really helps out with complex websites, allowing you to zoom right out but still read text.
Photos and video certainly look amazing, especially HD images which are incredibly crisp. Viewing angles are simply stunning, with no loss in colour or clarity as you tilt the display. The strong maximum brightness counters even harsh sun glare, so you’ll have no trouble reading emails and other bits.
Music lovers aren’t missed out either. Beats Audio is built-in as usual, and it does a decent job of restoring some life to low-quality, ageing or tired tunes. Even more impressive is BoomSound, HTC’s new dual-speaker set-up which pumps out impressive quality audio. Most smartphone speakers are tinny wastes of time and space, but the One can fill a small room with music no problem.
Pretty much anyone with a smartphone will regularly mess around with it in front of the telly, keeping one eye on their emails and the other on Bargain Hunt. HTC knows this, so it’s included an infra red remote control app that’s well integrated into Android. You get full controls plus a built-in TV guide that shows you what shows are on right now. You can tap a show to bring it up on your telly, and the One sticks it into your notification bar so you can quickly access it again if you flick over. You even get reminders in your BlinkFeed about your favourite shows, so you don’t miss them accidentally.
A question of megapixels
You’ll probably think that 4MP camera bit was a typo (“hang on, surely that should be 14MP, right?), but it’s actually an incredibly bold (and perhaps foolhardy – only time will tell) move by HTC. We’ve mentioned before in camera features that the megapixel rating is actually only a small part of a camera’s competence. The underlying technology makes a big difference to photo quality, and even the glass used plays an important part.
HTC has scaled back from 8MP on the original One X to just 4MP here, but that still provides a sharp enough photo to view on your telly or print out without graininess or other negative effects. The real cleverness comes with HTC’s Ultrapixel technology, which ensures the f2.0 aperture lens captures as much light as possible.
Outdoor photos rival any of the other major smartphones (including the Samsung Galaxy S III and Apple’s iPhone 5), capturing plenty of detail and rendering colours realistically. We love the way objects in the distance tend to ‘bleed’ out of focus, while your subject remains perfectly sharp.
Indoors shots also came out well, providing the lighting didn't drop too much. Shots taken in darkened restaurants and bars often look a little soft or yellow without the flash, and night shots come out far too dark without ample illumination, but we still found the results were great compared to rivals and the flash does a great job in dark conditions.
The 2.1MP front-facing camera is fantastic for capturing self-portraits thanks to its wide angle lens, and our shots came out impressively sharp here too.
Say hello to Zoe
HTC is also hoping to change the way you use your phone’s camera and share your memories, with the all-new Zoe mode. The whole idea is ‘not missing the moment’ – so the camera will actually start to cache images before you press the shutter button, and store them from both before and after you push it. Therefore, even if you’re slow off the mark to capture a funny or exciting moment, the camera will still make sure you have it stored.
The HTC One X allowed you to take a snap at the same time as shooting video, but the HTC One’s Zoe mode actually combines them both, shooting a brief clip (just over 3 seconds) as well as taking 20 photos (that’s six a second). At the end of the day you can watch a compilation of these clips, which the One automatically produces, complete with music and special selectable effects. It works surprisingly well, providing a brief video slideshow of your day which you can quickly share via social media. We also love the way the Zoe clips animate in the photo gallery when you’re skimming through your shots.
You can edit your photos with an incredible number of options, including some beautifying features such as face slimming and skin smoothing (perfect for those flattering Facebook profile pics). You can even blow up your eyes into freaky enormous Manga efforts. There’s also a clever face tweaker similar to the BlackBerry Z10’s Time Shift mode, which rewinds people’s faces back in time to a moment where they weren’t blinking or gurning.
The HTC One is an all-round marvel, from its solid yet elegant metal body which looks and feels smashing, to its brand new Sense 5.0 interface which is streamlined and intuitive as ever. Media and gaming fans will be more than satisfied, while the new Zoe camera is a unique and cheesily brilliant way to capture and share your memories.