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Device Review: HTC One

IMG_4640Before Samsung and Apple were on top of the mobile smart phone world; HTC, Palm, and Blackberry were the Big 3. We all know that Palm quickly disappeared, and that Blackberry is losing market share daily and will be a forgotten memory soon. HTC is still around, but no longer as seen as a leader in mobile devices.

HTC ran into a few problems with their devices, and some may argue that they became greedy by releasing too many devices in one year, rather than perfecting one device like Apple or Samsung. HTC saw this as a flaw and started to make improvements with the HTC One family last year.

Last year’s HTC One family featured great design, specs, and was seen as a very underrated line. HTC wanted to build upon that foundation this year with the latest edition to the HTC One family. Can this phone bring HTC back to the top?


Design

One knock on Android to many people may is that the build quality is not up to par with the competitors from Cupertino. So often, we see high end premium phones with the latest specs covered in shiny plastic. Well, HTC was listening when they created the HTC One. The One has a sleek unibody design. The material of choice is lightweight aluminum and Gorilla Glass 2. The device weighs in at 144 grams, which is roughly 5 ounces, and measures in at 5.4 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches. The screen is 4.7 inches with 480 ppi. It is much more narrow than other new Android devices, in hopes of making it operable with just one hand.

One of the strong points of this phone is that being made from aluminum, the device still is relatively light. On the face of the device, at the top and bottom, there are matching speaker grilles. Within the top speaker grille, there is a multi-colored notification LED.  The back of the device is slightly curved to make it more natural to hold in your hand. The model being used for this review is the silver edition. Depending on the carrier, there is an array of different color offerings to find that perfect “One.”

IMG_4641

Hardware

The HTC One not only is a good looker, but it is packed with a decent set of specs. It is endowed with the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T System-On-a-Chip clocked at 1.7 Ghz. The SoC packs an Adreno 320 GPU, which is adept at gaming and other graphically intense functions. The HTC One also packs a generous 2 gigs of RAM and 32 gigs of storage.

The camera is a modest 4 megapixels, but the aperture is set at f/2.0. The large aperture and larger pixels allow for great low light performance. The camera also records video at 1080p resolution at a smooth 30 fps. The front facing camera is 2.1 megapixels. The bezels house the following:  volume control, micro USB port, micro SIM slot, and 3.5mm headset jack with Beats Audio support.

IMG_4635 IMG_4636

Software

The HTC One ships with Android 4.2.2 JellyBean with the Sense 5 skin overlaid. Some diehard Android fans feel it is stock Android or nothing, but I feel if you give Sense a chance, it may grow on you. As expected, the UI is lite, fast, and well put together. On the surface, the lockscreen looks to be a normal home screen. There is a dock with 5 icons, and there is a lock icon in the middle instead of an app drawer. From there, you are able to drag anything from the bottom bar to the middle of the screen to unlock your device and quickly open that application. You are not able to change the icons at the bottom independently since they mirror your launcher dock.

Your default home screen is Blinkfeed. Blinkfeed is a news aggregator that brings in news that they feel is relevant to you: Facebook updates, news from around the web from recent searches, or articles from websites you are “subscribed to.” If you have used pinterest or pocket, you should feel right at home.  The one quirky thing about it is that once you are on Blinkfeed, it has a weather widget on top of your screen. Once you scroll down, the weather disappears. Although on the surface it seems awkward, after using it for a week or so, it became part of my routine when unlocking my phone. At a glance, I can see all my important updates.

Other than Blinkfeed, the general UI is very similar to vanilla Android, with a few exceptions. The menu icons look a bit different, and some options are housed under different categories. Once again, it’s one additional thing you would need to learn, but it begs the question “Why change something that people are familiar with?” I’m not sure about you, but I want to be able to pick up any device and know how to navigate the settings. I really don’t want to have to relearn anything if I’ve been using Android for over five years.

In addition to the new UI, the One is packaged with several applications that you may or may not find useful. There is a folder for Amazon products in the application drawer. That folder contains their Appstore, Audible, IMDb, Amazon Kindle, Amazon, and Amazon MP3—all of which cannot be uninstalled easily. However, the most useful application that it comes with is simply called TV. This makes great use of the device’s IR blaster. It allows you to pick the type of TV and control it. I was able to successfully turn off all the TVs in the bar during a busy Saturday night, and I’m proud of it .

IMG_4640

Performance

As expressed earlier, the device runs very fast. But this is 2013 and this is a high end phone, so that is to be expected. I felt the results were very strong when running anTuTu Benchmark and also Quadrant. Although these are great numbers today, there are already phones with faster SoCs that net higher benchmark scores. Just food for thought.

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Now that you’ve see the official numbers, let’s talk about my real world performance. During my time with the HTC One, there has not been a moment of slow down with general navigation. Each swipe, pinch, and press feels quick and responsive. Gaming on the device felt smooth and fluid as well. The Adreno 320 really comes into play, and kicks the gaming into high gear. Playing Asphalt 8 on my device ran just as smooth as my newer Nexus 7 2013 tablet (which features the similar Snapdragon S4 Pro). There is not much left to be desired in this department.

Battery

The battery is nothing to write home about. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s not great. Heavy users should expect 8-10 hours of usage. Moderate users (should be the majority of us) can expect 10-12 hours. If you are a light user, just a few text messages and little to no talk time, then 12-16 hours is easily attainable. This day and age, phones should have at least 3000MaH. Anything less will cause the user to think about battery during the day rather than using the device they way they want.

Conclusion

So often, we purchase a device with compromises. We’d purchase a device for its build quality, specs, or even its included software. In my Android experience, I always felt there was a trade off with every device for some reason. With the HTC One, I do not feel that it is a trade off any in any department. I would say the HTC One is not the best at everything, but I feel that the sum of its parts is what makes this device stand out in my book as a true winner. The HTC One is a solid phone for any type of Android user. This is the device that should bring HTC back to prominence in the mobile landscape.

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