After months of anticipation, the flagship $199.99 HTC One has finally landed on Verizon's network. From its sexy, aluminum design to its attractive Sense 5.0 interface and alluring 1080p display, the HTC One has received well-deserved accolades since it debuted in March. But is the HTC One worth the wait for Verizon users? Read on to see how it stacks up against the competition.
The HTC One is the sexiest Android smartphone yet. With its slim frame and aluminum-plated body, HTC's flagship is the first Android phone that rivals the iPhone 5 in terms of build quality and finish.
HTC says it takes 200 minutes to machine-cut each One device, and that effort is clearly evident throughout the handset's form factor. The company uses a process called zero-gap injection molding to combine an aluminum front and back with polycarbonate on the sides, top and bottom. This gives the handset a sleek and premium feel that we prefer to the plastic casing on other smartphones, such as the Galaxy S4.
Not only do we love the HTC One's aluminum shell, but the accents scattered throughout the smartphone also add to its polished and refined design. From the spun-metal volume rocker to the chamfered edges, the One's design truly impresses. The only drawback is that HTC didn't give its One a removable battery or microSD-card slot for expanded storage.
The power button at the top of the HTC One also doubles as an IR blaster for controlling your cable box or TV. You'll find the headphone jack on the top of the handset as well.
Weighing 5 ounces and measuring 5.4 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches, the HTC One feels light for a handset that isn't made of plastic, although it's still larger and heavier than its competitors. The Galaxy S4 (5.31 x 2.69 x 0.25 inches, 4.6 ounces), iPhone 5 (4.87 x 2.31 x .3 inches, 3.95 ounces) and Motorola Droid Ultra (5.4 x 2.8 x 0.28 inches, 4.8 ounces) are all slimmer and lighter than the HTC One, although the Ultra is wider.
The HTC One's 4.7-inch, 1920 x 1080 Super LCD3 display boasts rich and stunning visuals. The trailer for "Thor: The Dark World" was sharp and colorful on the HTC One's screen, especially during scenes with explosions and outdoor shots. When we watched Thor standing in a field holding his mallet, the velvet red color of his cape popped against the brownish-amber background. Even with the camera zoomed out, Chris Hemsworth's face looked sharp. We could even make out the tiny strands of straw on the ground.
The Galaxy S4's 5-inch, 1080p Super AMOLED screen is gorgeous, too, but colors looked more accurate on the HTC One. This was most evident when examining the skin tone in Natalie Portman's face, which was much more lively and truer to her real complexion on the HTC One.
Although we loved the detail and color accuracy on the Verizon HTC One, it wasn't the brightest in our light meter reading. The handset's display registered 385 lux, which is below the 390-lux smartphone category average and dimmer than the Verizon Galaxy S4 (480 lux), Motorola Droid Ultra (483 lux) and Verizon iPhone 5 (525 lux).
Strangely, the HTC One for T-Mobile (439 lux) and AT&T (433 lux) registered higher brightness readings. We have reached out to HTC for comment and will update this review once we receive feedback.
HTC calls it BoomSound for a reason. The One's dual, front-facing speakers provide this phone's standout feature. When blasting "Smile Like You Mean It" by The Killers with Beats Audio turned on, the One pumped out crystal clear tones that were perfectly balanced. We heard the crash of the drum symbol blend nicely with the synthesizer and guitar melodies during the opening riff. Brandon Flowers' vocals sounded defined and colorful during the verse and chorus.
We noticed a stark difference when playing the same song on the Galaxy S4. The Samsung flagship's speakers sounded a little hollow, and the various instruments failed to blend as well as they did through the One's speakers.
The Verizon HTC One is just as loud as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple iPhone 5 with Beats Audio turned on. All three handsets reached 81 decibels during the LAPTOP Audio Test, which measures the loudness of a smartphone's speakers over the distance from the screen to the user's nose (13 inches). With Beats Audio turned off, the HTC One was one decibel lower (80).
Running Android 4.2.2 with HTC's Sense 5.0 interface on top, the most intriguing and prominent interface feature on the One is BlinkFeed. This software serves as one of your home screens and provides a steady stream of updates from various sources, including social media and news sources. HTC arranges all these updates in a tiled format reminiscent of the interface on Microsoft's Windows Phone.
You can handpick these sources via the BlinkFeed Setup Wizard, which lets you choose from sources such as the Associated Press, the Huffington Post and ESPN. HTC allows you to browse across various categories, such as Business, Technology, Politics and others. Social media options include Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Just above these news updates, HTC displays a large clock, the date, your next appointment and the weather. While this is useful, we wish HTC had included an email widget at the top of the feed along with this other information.
If BlinkFeed is too busy for you, HTC offers the option of using it as a secondary home screen and adding a more traditional layout instead. Across the bottom of the traditional home screen, you'll find the standard Phone, Message, Apps Menu, Browser and Camera buttons. Above these options are shortcuts to the Play Store and Verizon's folder of apps.
The HTC One's app menu has a generally cleaner look than most Android phones have and offers the option to change the layout's grid size. This means you can view apps in either a 3 x 4 or a 4 x 5 grid. You can also choose to sort apps by alphabetical order or by most recent. The top of the app screen includes shortcuts for the Google Play store shortcut, search and settings.
The device's notification drawer is fairly basic when compared to that of the Samsung Galaxy S4 -- too basic. You can toggle the One's Power Saver function and Settings shortcut, while the S4's notification drawer lets you adjust an array of features, such as display brightness, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, screen rotate and Multi Window Mode.
Most smartphone users have their phone handy when watching TV, so why use the channel changer and keep track of two devices when you only need one? The HTC One comes with an IR blaster built in to its power button so that your smartphone can double as a remote control.
That's not to say you'll be restricted to controlling just your TV with this phone. After setting up Sense TV, you can use the One to browse upcoming shows, search On Demand content and access content you've recorded on your DVR. The Options menu also provides additional information about the shows you're currently watching.
Although you can't feel physical buttons like you can on a standard remote, the remote feature is just as easy to use as any other controller. It includes a number pad, Channel and Volume buttons, and Play, Pause, Fast Forward and Rewind buttons for DVR content.
The HTC One's keyboard proved to be smooth and accurate during everyday use. By default, the keyboard provides light haptic feedback for a more tactile experience, but this didn't slow us down. Using the Swift Typing Test Lite, we notched 22 words per minute, with one mistake, which is slightly higher than our personal 20 words per minute typing rate on touch screens. The keyboard predicts your next word as you type, and you can enable trace typing by holding down the Settings button and checking the box in the menu.
Packed inside the One's aluminum body is a 1.7-GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor with 2 GB of RAM, making it one of the faster Android handsets on the market. We zipped through the One's Blinkfeed and launched apps quickly with no trace of lag.
The One quickly transcoded a 204 MB, 1080p video file to 480p using Vidtrim. HTC's flagship took 7 minutes and 33 seconds to complete this task. That showing beats the smartphone category average (7:51) but isn't quite as fast as the Verizon Samsung Galaxy S4 (7:27) or the Motorola Droid Ultra (6:30).
Not only did the HTC One prove speedy in everyday use, it also performed well on synthetic benchmarks. On Quadrant, which tests the CPU, I/O and 3D graphics of Android devices, the Verizon HTC One scored a sky-high 12,150, which more than doubles the 5,607 category average. It also beats the Verizon Galaxy S4's 1.9-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 (11,962) and Motorola Droid Ultra's 1.7-GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro (8,608).
During Geekbench, which tests the overall performance and speed of the device's processor and memory, the HTC One scored 1,855. This score is still higher than the 1,842 smartphone-category average, but it doesn't come close to that of the Verizon Galaxy S4 (3,190) or Motorola Droid Ultra (2,051). Still, this showing beats Apple's iPhone 5 (1,590) by a decent margin.
HTC's flagship had no problem breezing through the 3DMark Ice Storm graphics test. With a score of 12,009, the HTC One beats the smartphone category average (8,502) as well as the Motorola Droid Ultra (11,500) and Samsung Galaxy S4 (10,371).
Camera and Camcorder
HTC has seemingly exited the megapixel race in favor of its own Ultrapixel camera sensor for the One. Translation: the One features a large image sensor and an f/2.0 aperture lens to capture 300 percent more light, which can come in handy when shooting in dim environments.
During our Smartphone Camera Shootout, the HTC One came in second in producing the best low-light image without using a flash. By comparison, the Galaxy S4 captured the worst low-light shot during the same circumstances; we could barely see our subject. Nokia's Lumia line is tops in this category.
Outdoor photos looked quite good, as well. Our photo of a New York City street corner with the Empire State Building in the background on a cloudy day showed accurate colors. The windows and grooves in the buildings along the side of the street were defined, but the Empire State Building looked a little washed out against the sky. The same photo taken with the Galaxy S4 showed much more detail in the skyscraper, but colors were significantly darker. Another image of colorful hats at a street vendor's stand looked bold and vibrant as well, especially a pink and white sunhat.
A video shot with the HTC One's camcorder looked clear and colorful as well, especially the shiny, yellow body of a cab that drove by. The royal blue shades in a woman's dress also popped against the grayish backdrop of a New York City street.
The HTC One's Zoe feature lets you capture 20 still photo frames along with three seconds of video. The camera starts shooting a second before you press the Zoe button and stops two seconds after you press stop, so you're less likely to miss any special moments. HTC wants users to share their Zoes online as part of an HTC-only social network via an online portal at zoeshare.htc.cm.
However, the Zoe feature doesn't always work as well as advertised. HTC says that the feature should let you create a Sequence shot, which combines all of the images in the Zoe to give you an action shot of an object or person moving across the frame. During our testing, the software rarely compiled our images correctly, or it greeted us with an error message saying there weren't enough frames to complete a Sequence shot.
Although HTC touts the Zoe as a social feature, it comes with many limitations. For example, you can't share Zoes on Facebook or Twitter directly, as they're hosted on the Zoe website.
In addition to the slew of Google apps that come with all Android phones, the Verizon HTC One comes preloaded with a bunch of the carrier's own selections. In fact, there's an entire folder of Verizon apps in the HTC One's app drawer, such as My Verizon Mobile, NFL Mobile, Games, VZ Navigator and Caller Name ID. Unfortunately, these apps can't be uninstalled.
A separate Tools folder comes with a Kids Mode that allows parents to choose which apps they want their kids to be able to access; parents can also place restrictions on other apps. There's also an Amazon folder that comes with IMDB, the Kindle app and a shortcut to Amazon's app store. This means that as long as you have an Amazon account, you'll get access to Amazon's apps as well as those in the Google Play store.
4G LTE and Web Browsing
Verizon offers 4G LTE in nearly 500 markets, making it the largest LTE network in the United States. Unfortunately, the quality of its network is inconsistent throughout New York City.
For example, our office in Manhattan's Flatiron District seems to be a black hole for Verizon's 4G LTE network. Using the Speedtest.net app, our Verizon HTC One didn't even reach 1 Mbps from inside our office. Download speeds averaged 343 Kbps, while upload speeds averaged 353 Kbps. During two trials, Speedtest.net couldn't even reach the network. Despite these troubles, websites loaded fairly quickly in our newsroom. CNN.com loaded in just 2.5 seconds; the image-heavy Laptopmag.com loaded in 4.1 seconds, and ESPN.com took 2.8 seconds.
Other sections of New York City, however, showed blazing speeds. Using Speedtest.net, our Verizon HTC One averaged an impressive 21.3 Mbps down and 5.5 Mbps up near the corner of Christopher St. and 7th Ave. In one instance, our download speed reached nearly 30Mbps.
The Verizon HTC One's stock browser is clean and basic, with a menu at the top for sharing Web pages, browsing your history and accessing your bookmarks, among other options. You can view the tabs that are currently open in the browser by pressing the button right next to the Settings menu. This browser requires that you swipe from left to right to move through open tabs, but we prefer the vertical sliding cards in Google's Chrome browser.
Running on Verizon's network, the HTC One lasted for 5 hours and 44 minutes during the LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuously surfing the Web with the brightness set to 40 percent. The HTC One lasted longer than the Verizon Galaxy S4 (5:25) and the Motorola Droid Ultra (5:36), but failed to meet the battery-life category average for smartphones (6:07).
The HTC One blends an unmatched premium design for Android phones with impressive performance, a beautiful 1080p display and rich, front-mounted speakers. HTC Sense 5.0, with its Blinkfeed feature, adds flavor to the stock Android OS. And while Samsung's TouchWiz software offers more features, Sense has a cleaner look and feel and suffers from less lag. Combine this with an IR blaster for controlling your TV and a quality camera, and you have a great choice for Verizon customers.
The HTC One that we tested for Verizon has a slightly dimmer screen than other carrier versions, and some may lament the lack of memory expansion. Overall, though, you would be hard-pressed to find a better Android smartphone than the HTC One.