Pros : BoomSound boost for films and music; desirable design; feature-packed snapper; lots of power.
Cons : BlinkFeed needs some tweaking.
Verdict : The HTC One proves a great all-rounder, with its desirable looks, user-friendly interface and some nifty features, such as the BoomSound speakers and Zoe camera mode.
It’s obvious the HTC One is special as soon as you hold it in your hands. Don’t be confused if you’re thinking there’s already been an HTC One – there were indeed a whole host of One handsets, such as the One X, One X+ and so on, but from now on each new incarnation of HTC’s smartphones will just be called ‘One’ – rather like the Apple iPads ditched their numbers.
And while its name may be simple, there’s plenty crammed on board, including a feature-filled snapper (which is able to grab mini-videos while it takes still images) and the new user-friendly Sense 5.0 interface.
The design of the new One is highly desirable. It’s still obviously an HTC handset, with its rounded corners and subtle branding, but it has an all-metal chassis that just shouts quality. White edging breaks up the brushed silver – all in all it makes the likes of the Galaxy S III and S4 from Samsung seem a tad plasticky.
The back of the handset is kept simple (it has a touch of the iPhone 5 about it) – and the lens doesn’t stick out. It’s slightly slimmer than the One X, but a bit longer and its depth is only 9mm.
The screen is a massive 4.7 inches (just a little smaller than the five inches of both the Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy S4), but HTC has managed to make the phone feel quite compact and easy to hold in the hand, thanks to the fact that the slimline shape wastes no space. The display runs right from the top, where a slim silver bar is home to the front-facing snapper and speaker, to about an inch from the bottom. That’s where the touch-sensitive Home and Back buttons sit, along with another speaker. More about that later…
The display is a great size for surfing the net and using media and apps, while still using only one hand. The phone also feels like it can withstand a bit of rough treatment, should it get knocked or dropped. The screen has Gorilla glass, which is scratch resistant. You can’t open the back to get to the battery – so the SIM card slot sits on the edge of the handset. On the right edge is the volume rocker, while the 3.5mm audio jack and power button are housed on the top. The USB port can be found on the base. There’s no chance to upgrade memory as there’s no memory card slot – so you need to choose either the 32 GB or 64 GB model.
On the system
HTC has chosen to run the One on Android 4.1.2, but has given it the Sense 5.0 interface treatment. This is such a great interface – user friendly, with loads of personalisation options – making it better than the already brilliant TouchWiz from Samsung.
No more ordinary homepage filled with boring icons for you – no, instead you have BlinkFeed, which brings together a collection of all the things you’re interested in, such as your friends’ Facebook postings, and the latest sports and news. It’s rather like Flipboard, if you’re familiar with that – your chosen items appear on the screen as photos, with some text over the top to tell you briefly what they are (a news headline, for instance). Just tap if you want to know more.
HTC has plans to have more than 1,500 news feeds for the user to choose from – during our review period we only had 11 publications, along with categories such as music, gaming, celebrities, sports and politics.
The stream was rather overrun by Twitter feeds, as we follow a lot of people – and we’re not that impressed by the way tweets are handled. Longer tweets were cut short, so we still had to tap on them to see the whole thing, and photos that were tweeted showed up as the BG – we’d have rather seen a small profile image of each tweeter. In the end we decided it was easier to take Twitter off BlinkFeed.
For BlinkFeed to work you need a connection to the internet, and as it doesn’t cache all the information that appears when you hit a tile, it’s of little use if you have no signal. Still, it is an interesting and unusual spin on the usual Android homepage, even though it’s not quite sleek enough for us as it stands.
What is more impressive is the wonderfully crisp 4.7-inch LCD display, with its fabulous ppi of 468 pixels per inch. That’s way better than the iPhone 5 – and slightly sharper than the Samsung Galaxy S4 too – although if you put them side by side it may be hard to tell the difference. Having such a sharp screen is really useful when zooming in on a busy website.
Video and photos look amazing onscreen – especially HD images. Viewing angles are totally impressive – tilt the screen and you’ll see no loss in clarity or colour. Maximum brightness means you won’t be troubled by glare in strong sunlight (if we ever see any again).
Music lovers have a treat in store too, There’s the usual built-in Beats Audio that we’ve come to expect from HTC’s smartphones, along with the impressive BoomSound, a new dual-speaker arrangement that offers really great quality audio. Smartphone speakers aren’t known for their sound quality, but those on the One will easily fill a small room with great sound.
If you play around on the smartphone while watching the gogglebox (and who doesn’t?), you’ll appreciate the infra red remote control app that has been integrated into Android. It means you get full control of the TV, along with a TV guide that lets you know what’s on at any time. Tap on a programme and it will appear on the TV – it sits in the notification bar so that you can easily find it again if you switch over. Reminders for your favourite shows can even be put in your BlinkFeed.
Under that good-looking chassis sits a quad-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 series chip, which is teamed up with 2 GB of RAM, so you can run all the latest action games, such as ShadowGun: DeadZone. The power under the hood means the HTC One is futureproofed for media and games fans.
But does all that power drain the battery’s juice? At first we found the battery died far faster than we expected, until we realised that DropBox is automatically set to upload your photos to the cloud when the handset is connected via Wi-Fi. It was the data streaming that was killing our battery.
Once we’d turned off the auto data loading, we found the handset managed about 24 hours of moderate use, with Wi-Fi switched on. The power saver mode toggles some other features and dims the display and gives you more than a day of use. You should get about five hours of video streaming, and four to five hours of solid gaming – both pretty good. The only thing we did notice is that the handset gets rather warm when you’re gaming – although it gets no hotter than the Sony Xperia Z.
Four – a lucky number?
If you’re thinking that the 4-megapixel snapper must be a typo and it’s actually 14MP, think again. As we’ve said before, there is more to a camera than its megapixel rating – and the camera here has much more to offer. The four megapixels still provide images that look sharp enough on the TV or for printing – but the real joy here is the Ultrapixel technology, which means the f2.0 aperture lens grabs as much light as it can. Our outdoor images were as good as anything produced by the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III. Colours are realistic and the detail is good – we also love how the object in the background seems to bleed out of focus, while the subject of the picture stays sharp.
Snaps taken indoors were also okay – as long as the lighting wasn’t too dim. In dark bars or restaurants, they proved rather yellow and soft unless we used flash. Night shots were also too dark without any extra lighting – but they were still good when compared with other smartphone snappers – and the flash works well in dark situations. The front-facing 2.1-megapixel snapper is great for self-portraits, as it has a wide-angle lens – and the images were really sharp too.
HTC is bringing something new to the smartphone camera with its Zoe mode. The idea behind it is that you never miss a moment, so the camera starts to cache images even before you hit the shutter. So even if you’re not quick enough off the mark, the snapper will have captured the moment for you.
The Zoe mode also lets the user shoot a short 3-second video clip while taking 20 snaps. Then you can watch a compilation of the clips, which is produced automatically – complete with special effects and music, It’s really neat – at the end of the day you get a short video slideshow of your day, which can be shared on social media sites.
It is also possible to edit photos, with options such as skin smoothing and face slimming. If you want, you can even make your eyes huge in homage to Manga characters. The face tweaker facility, which is like the Time Shift mode on the BlackBerry Z10, lets you rewind people’s faces so you get that moment when they weren’t blinking or pulling a silly face!
The HTC One impresses all round, from its all-metal design and elegant chassis, to the new streamlined user-friendly Sense 5.0 interface. There’s plenty for gaming and media fans, while the new Zoe camera offers some neat ways to capture and share memories.
Screen size (inches): 4.65
SIM type: MicroSIM
Weight (g): 143
3G talk time (hours): 18
2G talk time (hours): 27
Processor: Quad-core 1.7 GHz Snapdragon
Keypad: Virtual QWERTY
Dimensions (mm): 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3
3G standby time (hours): 500
2G standby time (hours): 479
Operating system: Android Jellybean 4.1.2
Screen type: Super LCD (1080 x 1920 @ 469 ppi)
2G network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900
Network region: Quad-band
SatNav : Google Maps Navigation
Wi-Fi connection: 802.11 a/ac/b/g/n
3G network: HSDPA 900/2100
4G network: LTE 800/1800/2600
Camera zoom: 4x
Video recording: 1080p HD @ 30 frames/second
Image resolution (megapixels): 4
Camera flash: LED
Front-facing camera: 2.1 MP
Games: via Google Play
App store: Google Play
USB mass storage
Built-in email: POP3/IMAP; Push/Pull; Exchange
Web browser: Google proprietary
Supports Adobe Flash
Vodafone Content Control: yes
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