HTC One Review: A Perfect Blend of Beauty and Power

HTC One
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HTC may have struck gold with the bold and refreshing HTC One! This smartphone is power and speed wrapped in a sleek body with smooth curves and a head-turning aluminum finish. Here’s a look at why the HTC One is one of 2013′s hottest smartphones!

  • Android OS 4.1.2
  • Startup Time 19s
  • Most Used Feature Video Highlight
  • Least Used Feature BlinkFeed
  • Display 4.7 inches (1080×1920)
  • Size & Weight 5.41×2.69×0.37in, 5.04oz
  • Camera 4MP (Back), 2.1MP (Front)
  • Memory & Storage 2GB RAM, 32GB/64GB

Design & Performance

If there was an award for Best Looking Phone of 2013, it would go to the HTC One. Its sleek aluminum body and gorgeous 4.7-inch, 1080p HD display will take you by surprise. The back of the phone is slightly curved, but remains balanced when placed on a table or desk and feels great in your hands. Three subtle rows of dots on the top and bottom of the phone cleverly hide the One’s BoomSound equipped speakers. They also give the phone a distinct look.

As always with HTC,  the rear camera design is fresh and clean. There are only two buttons along the sides of the phone: a power button that doubles as an IR blaster and volume rocker. A slot for your simcard, a microphone and micro-usb port (that doubles as an HDMI port) are the only markings along the sides of HTC One. Overall, its minimal, clean and absolutely gorgeous!

Under the hood, the HTC One has as much brains as beauty thanks to a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 600, quad-core, 1.7GHz processor and 2GBs of RAM. Media heavy apps like the camera and YouTube open instantly. You’re not likely to experience any lag while using the HTC One. Gameplay is flawless as long as you don’t move your finger near the bottom of the screen where the navigation buttons sit. This caused me to constantly return to the home screen in the middle of playing Subway Surfers and GTA Vice City.

Display & Sound

The HTC One’s 4.7-inch, 1080p HD display is comes alive when you turn it on! Media looks bright, vibrant and crystal clear. Colors appear natural but warm in tone, which can give white colors a red tint or make the screen seem dim at times. Despite that minor flaw, you won’t have any complaints watching music videos on the HTC One.

HTC One (Dual Front Speaker)

To compliment the amazing display are not one but two equally amazing front speakers. Packing HTC BoomSound, the HTC One could easily be mistaken for a portable speaker when playing music. The bass is great and there’s a lot of treble present. Turn on your AC or a fan and the HTC One goes from BoomSound to low sound. It’s still pretty impressive audio quality for a phone and perfect for small gatherings or for showing off media to a group of friends.

For those who love throwing on a good pair of headphones and walking out the door, Beats Audio is also integrated into the HTC One. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of customization options for the EQ, but enabling Beats Audio will provide some much needed bass and thump to an otherwise flat sound. Overall, I found the Galaxy Note 2 to sound louder and smoother than the HTC One when using my Nokia Purity Headphones.

HTC One Camera

HTC One Camera

The camera on the HTC One is something special. Instead of the usual 6-13MP lens, HTC opted for an “UltraPixel” technology. There are four things that HTC has noted about UltraPixels and the HTC One’s camera technology:

  1. UltraPixel Sensor: Engineered with larger pixels, it enables each pixel to capture more than 300% more light than most leading 13 megapixel cameras.
  2. HTC ImageChip: Offers continuous autofocus, color shading, and noise reduction, as well as more realistic High Dynamic Range.
  3. F/2.0 Aperture: The largest available smartphone camera aperture, it lets in 44% more light than the iPhone 5.
  4. Optical Image Stabilization: Drastically reduces blur in still photos and shaky video footage.

If you’re curious about the difference in UltraPixels versus Megapixels check out Gizmodo’s comparison article here.

So, how does this translate in the real world? I was able to capture some pretty decent photos on a recent trip to the New York Aquarium. Pictures came out sharp, clear and vivid, but a little washed out sometimes. Low lighting photos were also decent, but also had a lot of noise in them. This camera also wasn’t the best camera for capturing the quick movements of fish. Despite taking over 100 shots, less than 50 were worth keeping because the subject was often blurred. Below are the best shots of the bunch.

Eventually I stopped trying to take pictures of the fish and switched to taking Zoes (pronounced Zo-E like Joey) and videos. HTC describes Zoes as HD Photos that move. I think of them as gifs gone wrong.

So, what is a Zoe? Two things happen when you enable Zoe:

  1. 20 sequential pictures are captured, including photos from a second before you press the shutter button.
  2. These pictures make up a 3-second video.

It isn’t immediately apparent why you should use this feature. Since there aren’t any tutorials that explain this, I had to Google exactly what Zoe is supposed to do. You can save individual frames from your Zoe or incorporate it into a Video Highlight, but that’s as far as it goes. You can’t share it and it can only be seen in your Gallery. Zoes could be much more useful if they could be saved and shared across the web. Instagram is the perfect app to share them too.

Other features include an ‘always smile’ setting that takes several pictures and lets you find the perfect face to create a perfect group photo. There’s also an object removal feature to erase photo-bombers and random things out of your picture.

The front camera has a 2.1MP wide-angle lens with HDR capability that lets you to fit more people in a group picture. You can expect your selfies to look almost as good as pictures from the back camera.

HTC One Gallery

Mobile phone gallery apps are usually nothing to talk about, but the HTC One’s gallery does things a little differently.There’s a really cool feature called video highlights that creates a video based on pictures, videos, and Zoes for an event in your gallery.

Half a dozen themes equipped with photo filters, sliding animations and background music can be used to customize any video highlight. This gem can be accessed from any event. It’s by far my favorite feature of the HTC One and the only way to really put your Zoes to use.

 

BlinkFeed & Sense TV

HTC One Blink Feed

Two other features exclusive to the HTC One are BlinkFeed and Sense TV. BlinkFeed is a pretty blatant ripoff of Flipboard. A permanent newsfeed on your home screen. There are numerous built-in news sources to choose from including Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, you can’t add your own news sources and you can’t remove BlinKFeed if you don’t like it. Rules of the Matrix, I guess.

Sense TV is pretty self-explanatory. A program guide and all the controls you need to manage your TV are available in this slick little app. You can even access Hulu Plus, Crackle and HTC Watch. Without Netflix on the list, I didn’t have much use for this feature.

It won’t replace a universal remote, but it’s still a neat option to have if when you can’t find your remote.

Storage & Bloatware

The HTC One comes in two storage capacities: 32GB and 64GB and it doesn’t have a micro-SD card slot – or removable battery. So the storage size you order is what you’ll be stuck with.

Out of 32GB, around 25GB is available for use right out the box. This is be more than enough storage space for most smartphone owners, but for those of us that hold media on micro-SD cards, it’s a frustrating trade-off of owning an HTC One.

Bloatware seems to be less of an issue on the HTC One compared to other smartphones. In fact, when you turn on the HTC One you might be tricked into thinking there isn’t any bloatware. That’s because HTC organized those apps into folders instead of leaving them to clutter your app drawer. This simple move saves new owners time and energy from hiding those apps and makes the HTC One look more pleasing right out of the box.

Calls & Battery Life

For all HTC’s talk about BoomSound, my callers aren’t always boomin’ in my ear. Some days, callers sound great. Other days, I have to press the phone into my ear just to hear them. I honestly expected better from the HTC One in this area. At least AT&T’s service is solid, with download speeds hitting 10-13Mbps and 5-7Mbps for uploads.

I was able to get a full day of light to moderate usage with AT&T’s 4G LTE enabled, no wifi, moderate camera use and plenty of socializing via Twitter, calls and SMS. The One can make it through a full workday, but be prepared to charge up as soon as you get home. Forewarning, this phone can get really hot when charging!

Conclusion

For a cool $200 with a new two-year contract on AT&T, or $600+ without one, the HTC One is hands down a great purchase for a new smartphone. It makes me itch for something new. Its sleek and curved design is beautiful to hold or show off. It handles apps with speed and powerful performance.

What was most surprising to me about the HTC One is the camera and features like Video Highlight. These features are comparable to some of the creative things Nokia’s doing with their latest Lumia devices. They make the phone more interesting and useful to use without the gimmicks. I wish every phone was made like this.

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  • http://www.hellandheartaches.com Patricec

    That really is a great camera I would never have assumed it was taken with a camera phone. I have the One S now and upgrading soon and this is a frontrunner…

  • Elijah Heiss

    Looks slick. I might have to check this out when I get a new phone.