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HTC One expert review

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HTC One - in hand - 4_3

Announced in London on the 19th Feb 2013, the One is HTC’s latest flagship device, replacing the One X as their top phone. Agent Dale Collins, one of our resident Android experts, was the Agent tasked with putting the handset through it's paces in our expert review.

There’s been a lot of talk and anticipation about this device. Featuring new camera technology, a complete user interface overhaul and even a new antenna system to boot, read on to see if it lives up to the hype.

Pros

  • New 4 Ultrapixel camera technology
  • High quality stereo speakers combined with Beats Audio
  • HTC Sense 5
  • Stylish with very solid build quality

Cons

  • Battery life
  • Easily scratched aluminium casing
HTC One - in hand
The HTC One side-by-side with its predecessor the One X. The difference in design is striking.

Design

My first impression on picking up the HTC One was that it feels sleek and sturdy. The aluminium casing that covers the back and wraps around to the front gives the One a high quality unibody feel, which is expected for a top end device. However this unfortunately means the battery isn’t removable. When I first heard HTC were using an aluminium casing I instantly thought ‘signal problems’, but I was wrong, not only does the aluminium casing provide strength for the phone, it also amplifies the mobile network and Wi-Fi signal. Also incorporated in the One, similar to its predecessor the One X, is polycarbonate edging and two stripes on the back of the device, dividing up the handset quite nicely and giving it a premium look. The One comes in at 9.3mm thick and weighs around 143 grams, it is slightly thicker than the One X was but for all the extra power that has been put into this device that’s expected.

HTC One - back strip
The HTC One has a brushed aluminium finish - lovely in the hand but will it look as good in 18 months?

The design of the One is quite similar to some already released handsets, but a combination of some key features set it apart from the rest:

  • Curved Back
  • Smoothed out edges
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 2 Screen
  • Stereo 'BoomSound' speakers placed on the front of the aluminium casing
  • A Power button on top of the device which doubles as an infrared transmitter
All this combines into one pretty sleek looking package if you ask us. The clever addition of the app-controlled infrared transmitter that doubles as the handset's power button is a smart decision, which allows you to use the HTC one as a remote control for your television or Hi-Fi system if it's supported. This may even begin to make universal remote controls like the Logitech Harmony a thing of past as this technology becomes more common in smartphones.

Hardware

Processor

HTC One - front full in hand

I found the hardware inside the One to be extremely impressive. HTC have managed to implement a lot of incredible equipment inside such a tiny shell. This consists of:

  • 1.7GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon processor
  • 2GB RAM

I must admit that when starting the One up for the first time the load time was incredible, it took very little time at all to get to my home screen, already I was seeing the power of the quad-core Snapdragon. Needless to say once I was playing with the phone everything was completely smooth and fluid - switching between apps was super-fast, taking snapshots was instant and the One managed to do all this without slowing down in the slightest. I am impressed.

Multi-tasking

One of the tests I put the One through was multi-tasking, at first with the removal of HTC’s ‘Recent apps’ button I was a bit lost, but it didn’t take me long to realise double tapping the home page brought up multi-tasking on the One. Once I discovered this I opened up 9 different applications to see how it would hold up to quickly switching between different apps and how it would run. Switching between apps was a seamless experience, done so instantly without any hesitation or lagging.

Battery Life

The 2300mah battery on the One seems to be able to endure quite a bit of punishment, under heavy use it will give out around 9 hours of battery life, with moderate use I see it being charged every night and with lighter use every two days. Pretty standard for modern smartphones really. If you would like any tips, check out how to extend your battery life with your device.

Following the same trend as the One X, you cannot remove the battery from The One. Some people see this as a flaw, but I think adding a removable battery can ruin the aesthetics of such a beautiful device. Wireless charging isn’t featured on the One; we have seen this come to life with the likes of the Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 but HTC have felt the need to leave this out. I don’t think it’s a major loss as adding the wireless charging capability would increase the handset’s size and due to the battery size it would take an age to charge. Sticking to the conventional ways of charging through the mains you will receive full charge in around two hours; through USB you will get a full charge around four to five hours.

Connectivity

The One has all your usual suspects when it comes down to connectivity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC, but HTC have made the One their first LTE 4G handset to be released in the UK. HTC have also added in an older piece of technology we haven’t seen around for quite some time, infrared. The infrared is used in the TV app which allows you to take control of your TV, set top box and home theatre system with basic functionality such as volume up and down, channel changing and power.

Audio

HTC have been partnered with Beats Audio for over a year now and the technology has improved with every device that’s been released, and the One is no exception. Previously the Beats Audio has only worked with headphones, and while this has improved, HTC have gone one step further and added the feature to their loudspeakers by creating what they are calling Boom Sound.

BoomSound is the combination of Beats Audio and stereo speakers located above and below the screen, these speakers provide clear, crisp yet loud audio with the content of your choosing. The addition of Gracenote in the music app adds a visual equaliser alongside real time lyrics, perfect for a spot of karaoke.

HTC One - BoomSound speaker
The BoomSound system performed very well in our tests. Soon to be heard on public transport near you...

Camera

The camera has been a huge talking point with the One as HTC announced that it will be boasting 4 'Ultrapixels'. I was a little lost myself when I heard the term Ultrapixel but after reading and hearing about it, then testing it for myself I am definitely impressed.

First off I will break down what HTC means by 4 Ultrapixel. The camera itself is only 4 megapixel, which compared to other devices seems low, but rest assured the quality of the images is remarkable. The difference between an Ultrapixel and a megapixel is that an Ultrapixel uses a larger sensor with bigger pixels, providing higher quality images even in low light conditions. HTC have also added a new feature called Zoe. What Zoe does is record a 3-second video at 1080p (Full HD) alongside a full quality photo every time the shutter is pressed, this allows you to go back through and select the perfect moment from that 3-second clip and save it as a snap. This feature is accessible by pressing the little camera icon located at the top of the screen whilst in the camera app.

HTC One - camera - 4_3
The One's camera performance is extremely impressive

I was particularly impressed with the HDR on the One. HDR is beginning to play a huge part in photography in mobile devices, although it’s been present for a long time in professional equipment. The only downside to HDR is that it takes a little while to process as it takes 3 separate images and combines them to give you the perfect photo in the perfect lighting So if your subject moves in the slightest during this time, your image blurs. The One on the other hand takes HDR photos instantly, leaving no time for blurring but providing you with breath-taking photos.

The front facing camera on the One is a whopping 2.1 megapixel, it also films in Full HD and takes HDR photos, much like the rear camera but at a slower rate. This is extremely impressive when it comes to making video calls with applications such as Skype or Viber, but also a handy mirror to check your if you’ve saved any of your lunch for later!

Screen

HTC have upped their game, much like Sony with their Xperia Z, and jumped onto the Full-HD bandwagon with their mobile device, coming in with a remarkable set of specs:

  • 4.7-inch display
  • Super LCD3 screen
  • 1080 x 1920 resolution
  • 469ppi (pixels per inch)

The One X is also 4.7-inch and has a resolution of 720 x 1280 with 312ppi. This is a remarkable screen with beautiful colours giving you a realistic image regardless of what content you are viewing.

The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2 which provides exceptional damage resistance to drops, bumps and scrapes which happen with everyday use, it also provides a smooth easy to clean coating whilst not losing any touch screen functionality.

Software

Operating system

The HTC One comes preloaded with Android version 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) but is upgradable to Android version 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean). This is the latest version of the Android operating system and is one of the first phones to launch with it.

HTC are releasing the One with the latest version of their Sense UI, Sense 5. Sense 5 has had a makeover since the release of the One X with Sense 4+ and has undergone a few slight, but nice, changes, here’s a few of my favourite:

  • Clock Widget
  • BlinkFeed
  • Sense TV
  • Sync Manager
  • HTC Car
HTC One - Sense 5

The clock widget has been redesigned and given some cleaner edges and a sharper finish, it also blends in with the lock screen, so when you swipe up to unlock the device, the clock moves with your finger and places itself at the top of the screen in one smooth animation.

HTC have added a feature called BlinkFeed, my first thought when I saw this was that it is similar to the Windows Mobile Live Tiles, in which it allows you to have your favourite content in a set few boxes that continuously refresh on your home screen. This has proved to be a really popular feature on the Windows Phone platform and it's no surprise to see other manufacturers taking a leaf out of that book. The system includes a variety of apps some of these are popular favourites;

  • Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Calendar
  • News
  • Sense TV
  • Kid Mode
HTC One - in hand tightened
The new Sense user interface from HTC is a complete overhaul for the system bringing some great new features

Quite an interesting feature that has been added is Sense TV, this allows you to set reminders for your favourite TV shows, catch up with Ondemand and, quite possibly my favourite part, use it as a TV remote as previously mentioned.

HTC have revamped the way Sync Manager works, it now allows you to transfer content from your iTunes library to your phone wirelessly, including videos, music and calendar info previously stored on your iPhone. This feature intrigues me quite a lot as I know getting your favourite tracks from iTunes to your new device can be a bit of a pain, HTC have made this a seamless experience.

The HTC Car app has had a facelift too; it looks and feels a lot smoother than when the One X was first released. It still allows you access to the same features such as navigation, music, dialler, contacts and internet radio.

Kid mode is very nice for all the parents out there. It allows you to limit your children to only have access to their favourite games and apps. It disables anything else you do not want your children to access with a passcode set by yourself.

Who is this phone for?

The HTC One is a top end phone aimed at the very high end of the market; it’s aimed at photographers, music enthusiasts and technology enthusiasts. The power and creativity behind the One is beyond words and would be the ideal phone for many users.

Verdict

The HTC One is a sleek, tough and beautiful handset crammed with a huge variety of fantastic features. It will be an incredible addition to the ever growing family of HTC phones and is by far the best they have produced. The camera is amazing, the audio is beautiful through headphones and in built speakers and Sense 5 has given birth to some phenomenal features with a screen that’s second to none. I give this phone a 9/10. This may sound like a cheesy sales pitch but it combines everything you want on the go - in “One” device - Sorry, but it's true!

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