“Inspirational, conceptual, beautiful. The #HTCOne is THE phone of 2013”
HTC really have done a superb job with this phone, I have been running the silver variant for 2 months now and have to say this is one of the finest phones I have used to date. Not only in design, but the Sense UI has been trimmed to give a more fluid feel and less power hungry which shows in the battery usage.
So let’s start with the design; Overall from the front it looks like a sandwich of clear black in between the two silver speaker grills. And while the actual digital screen isn’t edge to edge I quite like having that 5mm black edge framing the visible screen. The top speaker grill also houses the 2.1MP front facing camera and the ambient light sensor, proximity sensor and within the left side of the actual speaker grill is where you’ll find the LED (although you won’t know this until you get a notification or put it on charge). Round the side you’ll find the volume rocker which is an almost flush ridged flat metal bar which works to keep the sleekness of the phone whilst still having that tactile feel so you can find it without looking. On the bottom is the USB port and pinhole for the mic while the top just has the headphones jack and power button. Again, the power button is made flush to the phone, so it can be slightly tricky to find/press, and I can imagine might be tricky if you have larger fingers. The other thing with the power button is it’s clear black, why is this? Well it’s also an IR blaster, this is used to transmit Infra-Red signals to a TV, Sky Box, Hi-Fi etc as the phone can also act as your remote control. On the back is where you’ll find the much talked about Ultra-Pixel camera and accompanying flash, as well as another pinhole for the rear facing mic for use when capturing video’s (in full 1080p HD).
The phone in it’s entirety is surprisingly slim, and another surprise is the weight. 143g, which is just the right weight in my opinion. Not too heavy, but not light enough that you don’t know you have it. It’s a sleek design and the back is set on a slight convex so that it sits nicely in the palm and just feels natural to hold. The only downside to this is when you are lying the phone on a flat surface such as a table and typing a text or using the phone as it makes a slight wobble. The finish overall is of a high quality which would be expected of a flagship device from HTC, as with all HTC devices I’ve used I’ve found their build quality to be unsurpassable.
So on to the bread and butter, usage and UI; The first thing you’ll notice once you’ve booted the phone up and gone through the standard setup process is the responsiveness of the phone. Sometimes I’m wondering if I even pressed the screen at times as I’ve gone to press an icon or shortcut and it’s opened before I’ve felt anything. It’s just so quick to respond to every gesture and press which is a far cry from anything I’ve used before… even AOSP/AOKP. You’ll also start to grasp how much the Sense UI has been trimmed down. This time you have a maximum of 5 panes to add widgets/shortcuts to and these are aligned in a row with Blinkfeed (HTC’s update to Friend Stream) taking the first pane, so really just 4 left to play about with. This time HTC have decided not to add loads of random widgets that you may or may not want to various panels, you just get Blinkfeed and the standard clock…. It’s now up to you to customise which in my opinion is better as I hated having to remove loads of widgets I didn’t want or use.
This time the app drawer is made to feel like an access panel rather than an additional window to be opened and closed. So rather than the button to open, and back button taking you out and back to the home screen. You just use the menu to open, and then menu again to reduce. This can be a little confusing to start with, but you get used to not being able to use the back button to close it and it does start to feel like a better way of operating.
All in all, Sense has had quite a revamp. So if you’ve used previous iterations of this skin it will certainly feel different, but in a good way! It’s cleaner, more polished and HTC have taken out a lot of the unneeded widgets, stock apps etc that just added to the drain on processor and battery. To me it’s starting to get to be more like pure android with some additional enhancements, whereas before it was a complete overlay which didn’t allow you to truly appreciate the Android OS for what it is.
So what else is new? Well, HTC have added an IR Blaster into the power button. So by using the TV app pre-installed on the phone you can run a setup process to determine your, country, channels and hardware setup. Once done you can easily open the TV app, see recommended programs or all programs, press the image of the program you want to watch and it will select the channel for you. No more fighting over the remote! With the Sense TV app you can add remotes by room, so for example you could have a setup for your living room, and another for the bedroom etc. The only thing missing is I would have liked another app to be on the phone to allow you to just use the remote feature by itself. For example I have a wireless speaker which I take on holiday or outside if we’re in the garden etc and I would like to have an app which could download or learn the remote codes for this without having to worry about the TV channels etc.
Have I mentioned the dual facing front speakers? This really is an impressive move. Stereo sound with a dedicated amplifier and Beats by Dre… all in a phone! It really does make a difference, and trust me you’ll know when you get a message or your alarm goes off for the first time in the morning, you may want to turn the volumes down a little. And I never thought I’d hear myself saying that about a phone speaker. Playing music through it is just a joy, no tinny poor quality sound. And if you put the volume on max, the bass doesn’t distort or feel un-natural. You really do need to hear it to believe it!
Blinkfeed – In a slightly controversial move HTC have made Blinkfeed a static non-removable home screen panel taking up the first of the 5 available to you. So what is it? Blinkfeed is like a mesh of tweets, Facebook status updates/wall posts, information such as news, reviews etc from various online sources as well as upcoming calendar appointments or TV shows (if you have the TV app configured). The aim is to provide a hub for the activity which it feels would be of interest to you all on one screen. I’m not a huge fan of seeing everything my Facebook friends are doing, so I’ve set mine to just show my calendar entries and TV recommendations. But I can see this would be good for people who do like to keep on top of it all.
Why no megapixels? If you haven’t already understood ultrapixels then there are some great guides as to the benefits of ultrapixels over megapixels on the HTC blog. But in essence, megapixels are great if supersizing your pictures to put on a billboard or a very large screen. But for daily usage ultrapixels offer a better clarity and image processing. This leads to far clearer images and pictures I’ve taken on my phone are in such high quality I’ve actually converted from using my Canon compact to just using the phone now as the images are actually better. The colours and clarity offered is amazing to see, especially on the HD screen you get with the One. Just another feature I urge anyone to see for themselves as you won’t get the full experience until you actually try it. One great feature, and one I use a lot is the movie highlight feature which using some clever algorithms creates a short film of an event in your gallery and combines stills & moving images to create a kind of trailer for your event. Everyone I have shown this to is massively impressed, and it’s yet another feature I’d suggest looking at for yourself to really see how good this is.
Overall there are many other features and technical detail I haven’t gone into, but I’ve tried to cover off the parts which I think most people will relate to or use regularly. I can’t emphasise enough how good this phone really is. If you are due an upgrade a would urge that you seriously consider the HTC One as your next phone as it is a fantastic all-round device which offers something for everyone.