Stunning design; Excellent 1080p display; Loud and rich dual speakers; Remote control functionality for TV; Camera shines in low light; Very fast performance
Odd button arrangement; No wireless charging; Zoe feels a bit gimmicky; Can be a stretch to operate with one hand
The HTC One's jaw-dropping design, good low-light camera, fresh approach to the home screen and awesome speakers make it a stellar Android phone.
In 2012, the HTC One X was the flagship Android phone that didn't get enough respect. Despite offering a much brighter screen and a more premium design than the Galaxy S III, Samsung ran away with the smartphone race. With the HTC One, the company hopes to shake its bridesmaid status with a bold new home screen with streaming content and an Ultrapixel camera that isn't afraid of the dark. You can even use the One as a TV remote. The aluminum design is pretty sexy, too, complete with a full HD display and powerful dual speakers. Does the One make enough noise this time around to be heard above the Galaxy din?
Editors' Note: Because we tested the international version of the HTC One for this review, we did not evaluate 3G/4G performance. When it becomes available in the U.S., the phone will be offered through AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.
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DesigniPhone 5 in terms of build quality and fit and finish. Just put this phone in your hand and you'll understand why HTC says it takes 200 minutes to machine-cut each unit.
Using a process called zero-gap injection molding, the One combines an aluminum front and back with polycarbonate on the sides, top and bottom, resulting in a handset that feels super solid. Premium accents abound, including the polished chamfered edges, the spun-metal volume rocker and the etched antennas on the back of the phone. Just don't expect a removable back for swapping out the battery or a microSD Card slot.
Weighing 5.04 ounces and measuring 5.4 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches, the HTC One feels fairly light for a handset that's not plastic, but it's not anywhere near as compact as the iPhone 5 or Droid RAZR M. You'll definitely have to shift the phone in your hand to reach the power button up top and menu buttons down below. Nevertheless, we found the design pleasant to hold because of the way the back curves upward toward the edges.Droid DNA (5.5 x 2.7 x 0.38), which has a larger 5-inch screen. The Galaxy S III (4.7 ounces, 0.34 inches) is thinner and lighter than the One but it's also all plastic.
We're not fans of the button placement beneath the display. HTC opted to place an HTC logo right in the middle, which doesn't do anything, flanked by a Back button on the left and a Home button on the right. The previous HTC One X had a dedicated recent app button, which made it easier to multitask. Those with smaller hands will find they'll need to stretch their thumbs to activate these buttons.
When viewing the HD trailer for "Star Trek Into Darkness," we could make out every wrinkle and pockmark on Chris Pine's face. Though blacks could be darker, explosions were a fiery orange and red, popping off the screen. Overall, viewing angles are very wide from every direction, although reflections were slightly distracting.
The HTC One's display registered an impressive 463 lux on our light meter, which is lower than the iPhone 5 (525 lux) but on a par with the HTC One X + (462 lux) and well above the category average (299 lux). The DNA registered 311 lux.
HTC calls the HTC One's dual front stereo speakers BoomSound, and it's very fitting indeed. When streaming The Killers' "Mr. Brightside" on Slacker, the phone delivered very powerful audio, filling our office with sound, even at half volume. With the Beats audio setting enabled, both Brandon Flowers' vocals and the bass had more presence.
During the "Star Trek" trailer, the soundtrack and voiceover had a haunting impact. This phone is one of the few that sounds even better when you crank up the volume. With the supplied Beats headphones, the Goo Goo Dolls' "Slide" sounded better with the Beats audio setting off; John Rzenik's vocals became overwhelmed by the drums.
New Sense Interface
The main home screen consists of a series of panels of varying sizes. If you tap on a story, you'll see a snippet of an article, and you can then choose to view the original story. Social updates (which tend to be smaller tiles) take you to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for HTC Sense apps.
The top of the main home screen includes toned-down versions of the clock and weather widget, along with options for posting to Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, searching BlinkFeed, and Settings. The lock screen of the HTC One has a more modern look and feel, too, with the time and weather on the bottom along with four customizable shortcuts.
The notification menu on the HTC One looks more Nexus-like -- in a good way, with a quick toggle for the Power saver option and a Settings icon. Too bad you can't tweak the brightness, engage airplane mode and change other settings right from within the notification drawer, as you can on the Galaxy line.
If you didn't like HTC's 3D carousel for multitasking, you'll appreciate Sense's new approach. Double tapping the home button displays apps you have open in a 3 x 3 grid, and all you have to do to close an app is swipe up on the thumbnail. Long pressing the Home button launches Google Now.
If you want to learn more about a show, you can just tap the three dots underneath the photo. From there, you can favorite a program or share what you're watching via social networks, but you can't tell the HTC One to tell your cable box to start recording from this menu. You have to jump over to the separate remote-control menu. Overall, though, Sense TV makes it easy to find good stuff to watch.
If you're wondering whether the new Sense software slows down the HTC One, you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that this smartphone flies. Powered by a 1.7-GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor paired with 2GB of RAM, the One lets us zoom through stories on the BlinkFeed, open apps quickly and switch apps with little to no lag.
For those scoring at home, that's off-the-charts fast, but we expect other flagship phones such as the Galaxy S IV and the Optimus G Pro to be in the same ballpark.
The One also blazed through the An3DBench graphics test, notching 7,724. That's better than the HTC One X Plus (7,488) but only a little higher than the Galaxy Note II (7,707).
The HTC One X doesn't come with expandable memory, but it does offer 32GB to start with a 64GB option. Also, consumers will get 25GB of Dropbox storage free for two years.
Camera and Camcorder
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HTC is out to bust the megapixel myth once and for all with the Ultrapixel camera inside the One. Yes, it's just a marketing term, but this smartphone leverages a larger sensor than other handsets and an f/2.0 aperture lens to capture 300 percent more light. In other words, you don't have to engage the flash to get a good-looking photo in low-light settings.
To test the Ultrapixel camera we attempted to capture an image of a Lexus pulling out of a gas station just after dusk. Surprisingly, the image looked fairly bright. While the photo appeared fuzzy when we zoomed in, it was certainly good enough to share. Another shot we took of a painting with minimal ambient light looked much sharper than what the iPhone 5 could muster.
As with previous HTC phones, the One can capture photos continuously in a rapid-fire fashion, as well as take stills while you're recording video. The 1080p footage we captured of New York City traffic looked crystal clear and smooth. There's also an HDR option for video, but we didn't see much of a difference.
Activating the front-facing 1080p camera, which offers a wide-angle 88-degree lens, is as easy as swiping down from the top of the screen with the camera app. The One accurately captured the rich red bricks behind us, as well as the dark circles under our eyes.
We know what you're thinking: What the heck is a Zoe? By pressing the Zoe button on the left side of the camera app, the HTC one will capture 20 still frames along with 3 seconds of video. Plus, the camera starts a second before you press the button and finishes 2 seconds after you press stop, which means you're less likely to miss an important moment. The idea is that you'll want to share your Zoes, and HTC enables just that with a dedicated online portal (zoeshare.htc.com).
We had some fun by capturing a high-five between two colleagues, then sharing to Facebook. Others can't view your Zoe on Facebook or Twitter; they'll have to click on it to visit the Zoe site. Moreover, you can't like a Zoe or comment on it on HTC's portal. There is a neat viral aspect to Zoes, but right now it sort of feels like Vine-lite.
You'll also find Watch for downloading movies and TV shows, Dropbox, TuneIn Radio and a Parent Dashboard app from Zoodles that gives the HTC One a Kid mode. The Rescue App provides remote technical support. HTC's Weather, FM Radio and News apps are also on board.
MORE: 25 Best Android Apps
Battery Life and Call Quality
Fortunately, HTC offers a Power Saver mode that can do things like conserve CPU usage, reduce brightness and put the data connection to sleep with the screen is off. We'll update this review once we've run our battery test with Power Saver engaged.
The One comes with HTC SenseVoice, which increases call volume and quality in noisy environments. When we made a call to a landline, the caller said we sounded a bit digitized, as did he. However, the One was very good at blocking ambient noise; even when a big rig rumbled past us, the caller never heard it.
HTC also deserves credit for integrating remote-control functionality for your TV watching pleasure and for delivering the best-sounding speakers we've ever heard on a smartphone. Most important, this is a device we'd proudly carry, thanks to its exquisitely beautiful industrial design. We just wish HTC had decided not to ditch the recent apps button and that it had included wireless- charging capability, especially since battery life over 4G LTE will likely be shorter than other phones. Although the Samsung Galaxy S IV looms large, the HTC One is a very satisfying smartphone.
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.1.2|
|Networks||LTE: 700/850/AWS/1900 MHz; GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz; HSPA/WCDMA: Europe/Asia: 850/900/1900/2100 MHz|
|CPU||1.7-GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600|
|Memory Expansion Type||none|
|Display (main)||4.7 inch Super LCD 3/1920 x 1080|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Front Camera Resolution||2.1MP|
|Camera Resolution||4 MP|
|Audio formats supported||MIDI|
|Audio formats supported||M4A|
|Audio formats supported||AMR|
|Audio formats supported||WMA|
|Audio formats supported||AAC|
|Audio formats supported||WAV|
|Audio formats supported||OGG|
|Audio formats supported||MP3|
|Video formats supported||MP4|
|Video formats supported||3GP|
|Video formats supported||3G2|
|Video formats supported||WMV|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|Size||5.4 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|