The HTC One made a big internet bang once it was released. HTCs in the past were pretty decent but were never up to the game, so when HTC announced the One with a 1.7Ghz Quad-Core Processor with 2GB of RAM a full 4.7 inch full HD screen running HTC sense version 5.0 on Android 4.2.2, I had to see what was happening at HTC to fight off their competitors, so, welcome the HTC One.
The HTC One isn’t a small device, it has the dimensions of 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3mm. It features a 4.7 Inch Full HD 1080P screen with 468PPI. The rear of the device carries an unusual camera, HTC’s Utrapixel camera (more on that later in the review) which features full 1080P HD video recording, HDR and HTC Zoe, which has a whole list of shooting modes and features. The front facing camera is a 2.1 mega pixel camera also capable of HD video and HDR. The device features HTC boomsound which are two front facing speakers supported by Beats Audio. On the inside, the device features a 1.7 Ghz Quad-Core Snapdragon 600 processor with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage all in a beautiful 143g metal cased body. As for communication, it serves well with 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, 802.11 a/ac/b/g/n Wi-Fi, DLNA (for wireless data streaming to compaitable TV/Computer), Infrared, and HTC connect, while it has all the necessary sensors such a device needs such as Gyro sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity Sensor and a light sensor.
I had wished to be the first to open the device but this was a review unit that was used before, fortunately though, the box was in decent condition. Lifting up the top of the box reveals the device on the side of the box.
Removing the phone and its little tray, the accessories are spread around in two sections.
What the box had was the Micro-USB Cable, USB wall charger and a pair of earphones. What was also in the box a little paper that was torn which seemed to carry the pin or ejector tool for the Micro-SIM Card slot. I didn’t expect anything more in the box, but perhaps a new unit would have them in plastic and would have had manuals.
Something I was wondering is, I expected it to atleast have Beats Audio headsets in the box. Perhaps for the review unit they threw in any headset they had.
Design, Body and Display
This is the part of the review that I was really looking forward to because in my opinion this is one of the nicest looking devices in the market today.
The front and back of the device is aluminium, while the sides and lines between the metal are a hard matte white plastic. It really looks good when set on a table or in the hand.
On the front of the device there are, as clear as ever, two large speaker areas one on the top and bottom of the screen. The top one has a little neat feature, instead of another black dot on the device, they incorporated the LED Notification light inside the speaker grill. I liked that a lot! Beside the top speaker there are two sensors and the front facing camera. Below the screen there are only two buttons compared to common Android devices, back and home.
On the back, oh the beautiful back, there is the Ultrapixel camera, LED flash and a tiny microphone hole on the top left. For beautification, the HTC logo is engraved into the body, which gives it a lovely look. On the bottom there is a beats audio logo.
On the top of the device sits the 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and power/lock button. another interesting design aspect found on the HTC One is that they had included the Infrared feature into the power button. Which means, if the service is active in your country (Unfortunately for me, I was so looking forward to it, but isn’t supported in the UAE yet) you could use the device to control your support television to watch shows using the device as the TV Guide and remote.
On the bottom of the device sits the Micro-USB port and the second Microphone. The unusual thing was, unlike most devices that use Micro-USB, the HTC One’s port is upside down! The wider end is upwards. I didn’t have the device long enough to get used to it so most of the times I would forget and try to insert it the wrong way.
The rest of the device has not much else actually, on the left side there is the Micro-SIM slot, which is ejected using a pin or an ejector tool. On the right side of the device they had placed a one piece volume controls. I personally prefer volume controls to be in two well defined buttons for ease of use but this is quite alright, they have a little spinned-like design to them.
Compared to the Nokia Lumia 925 beside it (review coming soon) the device is rather large, especially considering that devices with up to 5 inches of screen real estate are around the same size or in the case of the Samsung S4, actually smaller. I personally think that the issue with the HTC One isn’t its size, it is the edges. They aren’t what you would call sharp edges but they are metal edges, and holding the device in the hand for a while will be tiring. The edges of the device is polished so there is that little shine when moving it, beautiful in theory but as it was on the iPhone 5, it scratches. Another observation I had was, between the metal back and the plastic center around the corners, the plastic is a little receded compared to the metal, and that edge does collect a bit of dirt.
As for the screen, it certainly is one of the nicest, if not the nicest screen I have ever seen on a mobile device. The resolution is one aspect, being at such a high PPI of 468, everything just looks so damn good, and with the quality of the screen being this incredible, it becomes a pleasure watching videos, browsing through phones and surfing around. I have access to a Samsung S4 (unfortunately can’t entirely take it for a review), Lumia 925, Samsung S3, iPhone 5 and at full brightness, the HTC One just dominates.
Memory and Data
One of HTC One’s concerns is the lack of Memory card slot. Often devices without removable back covers tend to do this, but it isn’t much of an excuse I believe. Either way, it isn’t a huge concern, the device comes with 32GB and the website does state there is a 64GB model. The 32GB model I was given had about 24-25 GB free space out of the box. On the plus side, if you purchase a new HTC One device and link it to a Dropbox account you would be entitled to 25GB free storage for two years. I think that is pretty fair.
Of course, being an Android device one wouldn’t have to be limited to just Dropbox since Skydrive, Google Drive and others are available from the Play Store.
The device comes with 2GB of RAM, which is sufficient for everyday use, even heavy use. With most applications open, I often have about 500-1000 MB free memory. The reason behind this is how the HTC One handles multitasking (more on that under Operating System)
The concept of HTC’s Ultra-Pixel Camera is quite complicated and if there is interest in understanding it in detail, more information can be found at HTC’s Ultra-Pixel information page here. As for keeping things simple for this review, what the Ultra-Pixel concept does is, instead of increasing Megapixels to 8 or 13, they maintain a 2688 x 1520 resolution (which is essentially a 4 Megapixel resolution) but have increased the sized of the pixels itself to be able to take in more light, which in return takes better pictures.
In my own opinion, they have made a 4 Megapixel resolution camera take photos as good as an 8 Megapixel resolution smartphone camera. Possibly slightly better than most 8 Megapixel resolution smartphone cameras. The following are some sample shots taken from the HTC One without any editing:
A wide view of an ice rink in Dubai Mall, decent mall lighting indoors.
The camera quality is pretty decent especially for this Ultra-Pixel concept. HTC does claim that their camera functions as well as 8 and 13 Megapixel cameras. For the sake of that claim here are two pictures in comparison between the HTC One and the Samsung S4.
(HTC One on the left, Samsung S4 on the right)
Indoor at a supermarket.
fruit juice section, mediocre lighting.
The device isn’t short of camera features either. Tapping the setting icons in camera, opens access to a toggle to swtich between front and back cameras, 4 modes (Scene, Night, HDR, panorama), Video Capture mode settings, Self timer, Crop ratio, quality, review settings, adjustments, ISO, White balance, Continuous Shooting, Shutter options, Focus in video settings, grid options, Auto upload, and buttons to reset settings and help.
It certainly is a good camera to have on a device, but I am not sure if this Ultra-Pixel fanciness is at where they want it, but it does work getting such quality from what is technically 4 Megapixel resolution. I’d back it up with my heart when it beats 13 Megapixel cameras while still at the same resolution.
The HTC One comes with HTC Sense 5 on Android 4.2.2. Simply put, it is superb. It does not have technical features as other iterations of Android like on the Samsung S4 for instance, but does not lack on any essentials. One of the key features is HTC Blinkfeed (more on that in a bit).
The HTC One’s HTC Sense 5 is actually very good. On the left image above, is the traditional lock screen (with an active live wallpaper) Bottom keys are customizable and all notifications show up above the clock. Sliding up unlocks the device.
By default, HTC’s Blinkfeed is the home page but can be changed to an ordinary, blank page customized as per user needs. So what is HTC’s Blinkfeed? Well, in the center image above, that is the essential concept of Blinkfeed. The user selects his general interests like science and technology, signs up to Facebook, Twitter, etc and there is a constantly updating feed of the latest posts, tweets, and news in the fields of interest. If anyone has used flipboard before, this is a more OS optimized version of it. I used it quite alot as they do get really up to date news and it does get really interesting.
Another piece news that wont be said much is the experience of clicking the blocks. I would not always like it, if it would take me to a website somewhere loaded with adverts, popups and all, but here, it opens a page with just the article, every time. I like that.
On the right of the image above is the usual home page I had set up, where everything is customizable and HTC One does have a large range of built in widgets.
The app list is vertical, has typical folders and sorting options. As for the notification center, a slide down from the top brings you a list of all your notifications but no quick toggle shortcuts, but there is a little icon on the top corner that opens another drop down that shows all toggles (pictured in the center above).
Multitasking on the HTC One is done in a unique way, instead of just having unlimited apps eating away the RAM it only allows up to 9. I think 9 is a fair enough number of active apps to switch between, and thus I always had enough RAM to go around without any lags or serious stutters. One thing I missed was a button to end all running tasks.
This was something I did not expect. I have had a personal issue with Android keyboards in the past, never liked keyboards on the Samsung S4, Default Android Keyboard, Sony Xperia keyboards, etc. The best up till the HTC One was the iPhone 5’s keyboard (which is the same as all earlier ones) but the HTC One’s keyboard rocked! It was the easiest and smoothest to type on. Text prediction is really good as well. To date, best keyboard.
Another thing unique in this HTC One is the way taps sound. Picture a layer of sticky plastic and you put your finger on it, when you pull your finger away, there will be that little plastic pop. That is the sound it makes when touching the screen. I don’t know how they came to that, but I love it.
Transferring data to the HTC One from your previous device was the easiest I had found on a device. They really do have many options, through wireless connection, or through an app to be downloaded online and if that said device has no internet connection, the One itself will get it from the internet and send it to that device.
There are many interesting features in the HTC One, such as drive mode where they set up an interface to be used while in a car, with enlarged icons and limited features. Another interesting mode is Kid Mode, where parents can set up their children’s ages and have several profiles and can adjust what tools and games they kids can use (screen shot above) on their device, exiting the kid mode though was as simple as writing Z on the phone which I think kids can actually do. It is an interesting feature, but needs better security so kids wont access the phone’s system anyways.
The video player does offer good features as well, including sleep modes, adding of subtitles, speeding up the video, etc. TV Control is a much anticipated feature on the HTC One but sadly, it is not supported in the region yet.
There are a lot of features on this device that really does make it quite a packed device! Including face recognition to unlock the screen.
Performance and Beats Audio
The device is really one of the top performing Android devices around at the moment. The system boots up quickly, the system does not lag or stutter much, only under really quick switching demand. With multitasking being somewhat limited, there is constantly enough free space on the device’s memory to handle highly demanding tasks. With use though, the device does get fairly warm, rarely would it get uncomfortably hot.
I have used the device extensively for the past week or so, and it had never lagged or stuttered noticeably even while switching to and from heaving games, apps and doing a lot of switching apps. It did not let me down once. Really smooth experience.
In regards to the 3D Microsoft Fish Tank test it scored the following scores:
(running at 980×440 resolution)
With 100 fish, it held 17-18 FPS
With 250 fish, it held 12-15 FPS
With 500 fish, it held 8-11 FPS
To try it out for yourself, you can visit this link, and I think I shall be using this with future device reviews too.
I have to admit, this cannot be directly compared between devices since there would be different resolutions, but similar devices with similar Fish Tank test resolutions can be directly compared. The score is lower than I expected to be honest.
As for the Beats Audio system, I am not a professional in audio systems, but the sound does come out nice and clear. The loud speaker isn’t loud as I would expect looking at the Beats logo. Using the headset (Ordinary HTC Headset not a Beats one) the Audio quality is really good watching videos and listening to music.
One thing I seriously disliked about the Audio on the HTC One isn’t related to Beats, it is that when the volume of the system is reduced to mute, apps still are on! I absolutely hate it when I don’t have a universal volume control for the entire device.
Battery life on the HTC One is quite good! In the example above, I had watched an hour’s worth of Top Gear, on medium volume and high brightness, standby for about 6 hours, few phone calls, a lot of tweeting, whatsapping and browsing. Wi-Fi was on throughout the time as well. I believe 14 hour battery life, would state around 7 hours of hard continuous use with the screen on.
Overall, I have never had to worry when I would leave home with the battery around 40% because I knew it could last the few hours I would be out. Reliable battery life, fairly decent and accurate battery indicator. When it is 40% it really feels like 40% of the battery is remaining.
When I first received the device, I opened the box, started up the phone and thought I will be disappointed. I didn’t get the Blinkfeed, thought it was unnecessary and thought its competitors offered more features and tools.
With use though, everything changed! Yes, it doesn’t have a lot of toys with sensors like on the Samsung S4, but in reality, I wouldn’t use most of them (not making a case for HTC because they should be up to the mark). It runs really smooth and although I haven’t had the Samsung S4 long enough to really test things out, the HTC might not be faster, but certainly smoother. It has a really good feel to using it, looks really good, system is pin point, accurate, smooth and relatively interactive. HTC does not load it with too many apps that slow it down, but there is a handful. The camera is quite good, the battery life is good and certainly a device I could recommend. Good job HTC, you’ve made a very good phone.
Device Pros and Cons
– Amazing build quality and materials used
– Beautiful design and engineering
– Gorgeous screen (resolution & brightness)
– Really smooth Android experience
– HTC Blinkfeed is a fun place to get news and updates
– Brilliant touch screen keyboard
– Good battery life
– Weaker than expected camera
– Edges of the aluminium build can get uncomfortable with extended use
– Device warms up with heavy use
– Limited Multitasking
– Volume not universal
– Micro-USB port is upside down
– Not as many sensory features as competitors