In the growing no-contract phone world, the HTC One SV for Cricket is considered a mid-range device. That's because for $329 you get an Android phone that has many of the latest and greatest features and a monthly plan that won't break the bank. The colorful One SV packs a 1.2-GHz quad-core processor, a 5-MP camera that can shoot continuously and unlimited music downloads via Cricket's Muve service. You get all of that--and LTE, depending on where you live--starting at $50 per month. Find out if the long-term savings is worth the up-front investment.
With its bright red back, plus matching buttons on the front, the HTC One SV is a smartphone with personality. We love the soft-touch finish on this device, which makes the handset easy to grip while resisting fingerprints. The curved corners and tapered edges make the phone look quite sleek.
Measuring 5 x 2.6 x 0.36 inches and weighing 4.3 ounces, the One SV is fairly light and compact for a device with a 4.3-inch display. It's comparable in size and weight to the One VX for AT&T (5.2 x 2.6 x 0.36 inches, 4.4 ounces), which has a slightly larger 4.5-inch screen.
The power button up top is easy to reach, where you'll also find the headphone jack. The volume rocker lines the right side of the One SV, while the bottom houses the microUSB port. Around back you'll find the 5-MP camera and flash inside a dark chrome cutout, and the HTC logo gets a similar treatment.
Our only complaint about the design of the One SV is that the earpiece is so large (also complete with red accents) that it easily got pocket fuzz caught in its grille.
Display and Audio
With its 800 x 480 resolution, the 4.3-inch Super LCD 2 screen on the One SV isn't very sharp compared to HD handsets, but it's fairly bright and offers generous viewing angles. When viewing the high-quality trailer for "World War Z" on YouTube we could make out every furrow in Brad Pritt's concerned brow. Fiery orange explosions also popped.
The One SV registered 446 lux on our light meter, well above the smartphone average (298 lux) and not far away from the One VX (471 lux).
During the above trailer the haunting soundtrack got very loud through the back-mounted speaker. The Neon Trees' "Everybody Talks" got loud enough for us to hear across a hotel room, but it sounded distorted near the max volume. You're better off plugging in headphones, which is when Beats Audio kicks in. The enhancement really brought out the low end in tracks, but you can always toggle Beats off.
Software and Interface
The bad news is that the HTC One SV is saddled with Android Ice Cream Sandwich instead of the newer Jelly Bean software. That's kind of sad to say in 2013. So, at least for now, you won't be able to take advantage of such features as Google Now and offline voice typing.
The good news is that HTC's Sense 4.0 overlay is as intuitive as ever, even if the icons look a little dated. From the lock screen you can open any of four apps, including the camera, using HTC's ring interface. Just as you'd expect from a Sense phone, there's a large weather clock widget on the main home screen, and you can scroll through open apps by long-pressing the recent apps button beneath the display. Tapping the button quickly displays the menu options for any given app, which took some getting used to.
Swiping down from the top of the screen shows the notification drawer, where you can also access a settings button and the Beats Audio button (if you have headphones plugged in).
Equipped with a 1.2-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB of RAM, the One SV has the chops to go toe-to-toe with some of the faster phones on the market. In the Quadrant benchmark, which measures CPU, graphics and I/O performance, the One SV scored 5,147, well above the 3,379 category average and better than the One VX (5,333), Galaxy S III (4,731) and Droid RAZR M (4,495).
The One SV has plenty of graphics muscle, too. In An3DBench, the device scored 7,200, slightly better than the category average (7,189) and greater than the One VX (7,042) and Galaxy S II (6,994). The RAZR M notched a slightly higher 7,335
In terms of everyday use, the One VS proved responsive, launching the camera in just a second and opening and closing apps quickly. Some apps took longer than we'd like to load, such as HTC's Mail and Calendar apps, but overall we were pleased. We also had fun blasting blood-spewing zombies in the "Dead Trigger" game. Even with several bad guys on the screen at once the animations never became choppy.
4G and Web Browsing
Cricket's 4G LTE network is fairly small right now, limited to 17 cities in six states. So if you live in Arizona, Delaware, Nevada, Philadelphia, Pa., or Texas, you may be able to enjoy fast speeds. Otherwise, you'll be stuck on 3G EV-DO as we were in both Chicago and New York. On the Speedtest.net app we saw decent speeds ranging from 304 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps on downloads and uploads in the 448 Kbps to 688 Kbps range.
The bundled Cricket Browser app is pretty much the same stock HTC browser you'll find on most of the company's other phones. You can quickly access tabs up top next to the address bar and access a Read mode when you just want to scan content without having to zoom in.
Cricket bundles several of its own apps with the HTC One SV, some of which you should just skip. A case in point is Cricket Navigator, which costs $5 per month when you can just use Google Navigation for free. Speaking of needless duplication, you'll also find Cricket Storefront, which provides links to graphics and applications. Under Top Games we found a single title, "TextTwist 2," which displayed a very tiny thumbnail when we clicked for more info. Please just use the Google Play Store.
Less offensive are the demo games of "Uno" and "Block Breaker 3 Unlimited." You'll also find Cricket411 (digital Yellow Pages) and MyAccount. HTC's selection of apps includes Dropbox, FM Radio, Friend Stream and People for managing your contacts.
If you haven't heard of Muve Music, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that Cricket enables subscribers who sign up for a 4G LTE plan to enjoy unlimited music downloads from a huge library of millions of tracks. Partners include Universal, Warner, Sony and EMI, as well as a number of independent labels. Even over 3G, download times were pretty quick, and we liked that we could access tracks in progress from the notification drawer. However, we couldn't pause or skip tracks from that menu, as you can with some other music apps.
It took us a little while to get the hand of the Muve Music app's interface, which looks somewhat crude compared to others we've used. To move back up in the menu tree at any time (say, Artists, My Music, Home) just press and hold toward the top of the screen and select the option you want. Our biggest issue with the app is that it crashed on a couple of occasions, but it's hard to complain too much when you're getting free music.
Camera and Camcorder
As this is an HTC One series phone, the SV's 5-MP camera is full of nifty features. You can snap photos while you're recording video, shoot continuously just by pressing down the shutter and take your pick from lots of fun effects, from Vintage Warm to Posterize.
Overall, image quality was mixed. Some shots, such as one we took near the water in Chicago, looked bright and detailed. Another shot of a group of cabs had fairly rich color saturation. However, some indoor shots, such as one we took of our hotel's neatly made bed, came out fuzzy. Same thing goes for a group shot of various snacks; it looked dull until we engaged the flash.
The 1080p camcorder on the One SV captured detailed footage but had trouble tracking fast-moving objects. While we could easily make out the individual lights behind a postal truck's blinker, playback seemed to slow down when moving cars entered the frame. The SV also had a bit of trouble adjusting to the bright sky when we panned up from the street. It took a couple of seconds for clouds to register.
We were pleased with the One SV's 720p front-facing camera. It captured warm skin tones when we recorded some quick footage of our face. We just wish it were easier to switch modes; you have to press the settings button and then change the camera from Main to Front.
Call Quality and Battery Life
During our test calls on Cricket's network, the phone delivered clear call quality on both ends of the line. Even when a big truck was passing us in a moving vehicle the other caller said he didn't detect any background nose. On our end the volume was plenty loud, and because the ear piece is nice and wide we didn't have to futz with the phone to find a sweet spot.
The HTC One SV had an unfair advantage in our battery test because the 4G LTE radio wasn't doing any work. Still, 10 hours and 27 minutes of endurance over 3G when surfing the Web is nothing to sneeze at. We expect this 1800 mAh battery to last at least 7 hours on 4G, as we saw from the similarly equipped One VX. That would be an hour above the smartphone average.
Plans and Value
Cricket's regular/ongoing smartphone data plans contain unlimited voice and texts, plus 1GB of full-speed data on the $50 per month plan; 2.5GB for the $60 plan and 5.0GB for $70 plan.The 4G double-data plan (available for a limited time) offers 2 GB of full-speed 4G data on the $50 per month plan; 5.0GB for the $60 plan and 10 GB for the $70 plan. By comparison, AT&T charges $59.99 per month for 900 minutes and $30 for 3GB of data, or $90 per month. If you opted for the 4G double plan, you would save $960 over two years.
At $329, the One SV for Cricket is anything but an impulse buy. After all, you can pick up the nearly identical One VXfor AT&T for just $50. However, you'll save a bundle in the long run and still enjoy a premium design, speedy dual-core performance and a feature-rich camera. We can overlook the low-res display on the One VS. What prevents this handset from earning a higher rating is Cricket's limited 4G LTE footprint and that the phone is running older Android Ice Cream Sandwich software. Overall, though, the One VS is a stylish no-contract phone that delivers plenty of value.