Review: HTC One Is the Current King of the Android Hill

Let's get something out of the way right off the bat: the HTC One is a damn fine Android phone. It's the finest I've ever used. Being an Android phone is tough, though

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Doug Aamoth / TIME

Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: the HTC One is a damn fine Android phone. It’s the finest I’ve ever used, and I’ve used a fair number of Android phones in this line of work.

Being an Android phone is tough, though, due in large part to the sheer number of Android phones that are on the market and the speed at which they become available. Case in point: HTC’s own Droid DNA is and was a damn fine Android phone that came out less than six months ago; aside from the DNA having a slightly larger screen and being available on Verizon, the HTC One has basically taken the wind out of the Droid DNA’s sails.

That’s what HTC’s biggest challenge might be with the One: there’s always another Android phone looming right around the corner that may be able to knock the current champ off its pedestal. In the One’s case, that phone might be the Samsung Galaxy S4, which is due out in a couple of weeks. For now, however, the HTC One is absolutely the Android phone to beat, and arguably the smartphone to beat regardless of platform.

Of all the One’s features, five stick out as notable: its design, screen, speed, camera and battery. These are five major things that aren’t superfluous or gimmicky. These are important, useful features, and HTC nailed them.

The One is an exercise in thoughtful, beautiful design. It’s wrapped in aluminum, not plastic; it’s big but not too big; substantial but not heavy. A lot of care went into crafting this phone. The 4.7-in. (12 cm) screen packs a full HD (1920 by 1080) resolution and pushes out rich colors. It’s truly gorgeous, whether you’re reading text, looking at photos or watching video. And the 1.7-GHz quad-core processor coupled with 2 gigabytes of RAM ensures every swipe, tap and scroll is as smooth as the next.

When it comes to the camera, HTC opted out of the megapixel race, instead referring to the One’s camera as an “UltraPixel” camera, which is basically a fancy way of saying that it’s got a large-ish sensor that HTC claims can capture 300% more light than other smartphone cameras. Whatever the case, photos taken with the One look great. There’s nothing mind-blowing here, though. The camera takes great photos by smartphone standards, but we’re not talking about some grand leap in imaging technology.

Here are some sample photos — click for higher-resolution versions:

And perhaps most important of all, the HTC One’s battery doesn’t disappoint, especially given the fact that this isn’t a gargantuan phone. This is the first Android handset I’ve used that hasn’t felt like I could actually watch the battery indicator dwindle in real time (I have not extensively used Motorola’s Droid Razr Maxx or Samsung’s Galaxy Note II, however — both feature far-better-than-average battery life). With light to moderate use, I’ve found that a full charge on Monday morning wouldn’t need to be dealt with until late Tuesday or later. Even with heavier use, you’ll almost certainly be able to make it through an entire day.

HTC has infused the One with some unique software features, none of which are make-or-break additions, but they’re nice nonetheless. The main screen of the phone consists of what HTC calls BlinkFeed. In the company’s own words, “simply pick the social networks, news and feeds you want to stay updated on and they’ll all stream live to your home screen. The pulse of your world is in the palm of your hand.” You basically get a tiled view — similar to Windows Phone’s Live Tiles — of tweets, Facebook updates and news items that update every so often. It’s a quick way to glance at things you’re interested in, but I wouldn’t call it a huge selling point, despite HTC’s best efforts to market it.

Far more useful is the built-in TV-remote feature, which turns the phone into a tricked-out universal remote. You tell the HTC One’s TV app which shows you like, and it’ll lay out your favorites as they’re on the air or let you set reminders for when they’ll be on. Tap the icon of the show you want to watch, and your TV, cable or satellite box will tune to the correct station. It’s much easier and way, way, way more fun than any onscreen guide I’ve used.

And then there’s the camera app’s Zoe feature, which manages to edge up against the gimmicky line while actually remaining useful. In Zoe mode, the camera captures a sequence of 20 images and three seconds of video, after which you can independently adjust individual sections of the overall photo to, for instance, make sure everyone in the photo is smiling or remove a wayward tourist in the background. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but it generally does a good enough job to improve photos.

Oh, I almost forgot: the phone makes phone calls too — and they sound good. There’s a little mike on the backside of the handset that monitors the background noise around you, then filters it downward so the person on the other end can hear you better and raises the volume of their voice so you can hear them better.

The phone — like all phones — does have its shortcomings. There’s no way to expand the storage, which HTC attempts to address by shipping the base model with 32 gigabytes of memory instead of the more standard 16 gigabytes. There’s also no way to replace the battery. The power button on the top left of the phone is set at a bit of a downward angle that forces your finger to curl up and over the top edge of the phone in order to access it, which makes waking the phone up a tad cumbersome at times. And people with small hands may still find the 4.7-in.-screened handset too large to use comfortably.

If you’re even mildly curious about this phone, however, go to a store and play with it. If you’re already leaning toward getting it, go ahead. You won’t be disappointed. For everyone else, waiting a couple of weeks to see what the Galaxy S4 has to offer wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Whatever the case, the HTC One is a mighty impressive phone — the best Android phone out there right now, and an incredible smartphone to consider if you’ve been thinking of jumping ship from the Apple, Microsoft or BlackBerry platforms.

The HTC One is available today through AT&T and Sprint for $200 with a two-year contract, and through T-Mobile for $100 down plus $20 per month in equipment fees for two years. It’s also available at several major retailers.

HTC One Smartphone [HTC.com]

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35 comments
candly019
candly019

Thank you for sharing. Your post worth of reading. Waiting for new posts. buyincoins

regbs
regbs

"First, let me acknowledge that I might be biased."

No. A writer for Time, whose Washington propagandis... Bureau Chief is the White House spokesperson?

TzuXi
TzuXi

None of the reviewers ever highlight this - HTC has one feature which no other brands has and that has kept me waiting for their ​phones with larger than the current HTC One's 4.7 inch display. ​They are the only phones which auto aligns web browsers to fit the screen.

It is very convenient ​ to have​ auto fit to screen size feature when the font is enlarged. Even with the grand Samsung Galaxy S4 when one increases the font, it goes past the screen size. To read, you would have to scroll to the right, scroll back to the left, scroll down.... terribly annoying & inconvenient.

BagthaliyaRony
BagthaliyaRony

I sold my smartphone at www.smartphonecashin.com - was a bit reluctant at first because they offer more money than anyone else, but the process was easy and hassle free

partingtonpam
partingtonpam

You mentioned the battery life as a pro, but I've been reading several reviews from actual users that say otherwise, apparently it dies quite fast, and it heats like hell. Besides the Galaxy S4, it seems like the LG's Nexus 4 is very competitive in the specs http://www.bell.ca/Mobility/Products/LG-Nexus-4. I do agree that the best choice could be to go to the store and "play" with all of them to get a real feeling.

corleyman
corleyman

My wife just asked what I want for my birthday and the HTC One was my immediate response. This phone looks awesome! And I'll be using it on my unlimited-4G-everything plan that costs me next to nothing! Check it out: http://www.GetServiceFree.com

AbdillahMuhammadAl-Maawiy
AbdillahMuhammadAl-Maawiy

What about the Sony xperia Z on which Sony claims superioity over the HTC One? or is it just a marketing gimmick :)

TwinBookmarks
TwinBookmarks

I think when you purchase this smartphone should immediately add the case to protect from damage.)

drewin11
drewin11

I have had a lot of smart phone brands including: SAMSUNG, SONY, APPLE And now HTC. Great phone with all the features. Sterio Beats Audio speakers are amazing, camera is very nice and with a metal body. Has some Apple like features which make it nice. Very happy with my purchase.

albertwyang
albertwyang

I just got the phone two days ago and have been using it. It's no doubt the best phone I have ever owned.

I don't understand the complaints about the power button. It is nicely positioned, if you normally hold the phone with your right hand.

Zoe has many useful and interesting editing features that this review did not mention. The camera works so well indoors that you don't need the flash light.

Hungry_Chicky
Hungry_Chicky

A poorly designed power button.

Can NEVER increase the memory.

Can NEVER pop in a new (or even a fully charged) battery.


Sorry, any 1 of those is a deal-breaker.   This gadget has all 3 major issues.


Hungry_Chicky
Hungry_Chicky

> It’s wrapped in aluminum, not plastic

And millions of people will just put a cheap plastic case over it.

I'd much rather just *HAVE* a plastic back, already on the phone.

Duh.

 

deveal2014
deveal2014

Nice review! I can't wait to get it

d.brymer85
d.brymer85

its about time sum1 has said the battery is really good coz im sick of hearing its average, my one has had 8 hours screen time on and 39 hours total b4 it went dead, now thats so impressive , im using trickdroid rom and lots of themes and tweaks making the phone even better, hands down the best looking and feeling phone ive ever owned, and i always change my phones every few months, but ill eat this phone if sum1 makes a better looking 1 this year. pure class. i cant recommend this enough, if ur looking to buy a new phone any time soon, do urself a favour and at least pick this up in the shop and try b4 buying anything else. 

mccoy_guapo
mccoy_guapo

i got mine early and enjoying it every moment since i got a hold of the box from the post office (where i had to pick it up coz i can't wait)

lauriechen
lauriechen

i totally agree with you. It's a excellent phone and not want to wait for Galaxy 4 since it look like a plastic toy.


JayPTO
JayPTO

The Xperia Z has a cheaper TFT LCD display. My laptop had that back in 1999. I think that the Bravia engine only kicks in for videos and maybe photos. If you buy a phone with a big screen, you'd at least want the latest in screen tech. Plus, Samsung and HTC's flagships don't feel as blocky or chunky.

JayPTO
JayPTO

The Xperia Z has a cheaper TFT LCD display. My laptop had that back in 1999. If you buy a phone with a big screen, you'd at least want the latest in screen tech. Plus, the phone feels too big whereas Samsung and HTC's flagships don't feel as blocky or chunky.

JayPTO
JayPTO

The Xperia Z has a cheaper TFT LCD display. My laptop had that back in 1999. If you buy a phone with a big screen, you'd at least want the latest in screen tech. Plus, the phone feels too big whereas Samsung and HTC's flagships don't feel as blocky or chunky.

JacobKral
JacobKral

@drewin11 I also have owned several and can say truthfully, BEATS IS A GIMMICK. It doesn't sound more impressive in any way, in fact I think It sounds worse (all it is is some bad eq settings that clock bass too high). 

The one sounds nicer because it actually has 2 speakers on the front, beats has nothing to do with it.

lykastar
lykastar

@Hungry_Chicky Or they'll be smart and get a leather pouch instead, protection when not in use and shining in all its metal glory when you take it out to use it. :)

JacobKral
JacobKral

@Hungry_Chicky And Id rather have a stronger phone that also feels more like its price tag. (keep in mind all smartphones cost less than $100 to make, no lie). 

Plus if its metal AND you put it in a case, it is much much much sturdier than a plastic phone in a case, for drops, being stepped on, accidentally tossed, etc..

sscruiza
sscruiza

@Hungry_ChickyWHAT?!? Yes lets drive in a car made of "cheap" air bags!!! It really bugs me that people can be sooo stupid. 

Hungry_Chicky
Hungry_Chicky

@lauriechen Not sure why so many people hate plastic so much.
Everything is made from the stuff.
Welcome to the 20th century.  (Let alone the 21st)

It's IDEAL for a cell phone back.
Doesn't shatter like glass.
Doesn't block your signal like metal.
It's very inexpensive.
Can be molded to countless shapes.  (Far more than glass or metal ever could.)
It's very strong and very durable.
Wide spread availability.
Can be made in 1000s of colors without worry about the "paint" ever scraping off.
It's very lightweight.
It can easily be made glossy or matte finish.
Can easily be made smooth or rough.  (and a thousand levels in between)
Can easily maintain its shape when bent.  (unlikely glass or metal)
Can be made clear... just like glass.
Can be made shiny reflective... just like metal.
Can be made to feel horrible... or great in your hand.
Can be made to NOT slip out of your hand.
It can be drilled and mounted.
It can be soft or hard.
It can house an extended battery, that would be hard to do with glass.
Can have an etched surface (for a better grip) far easier than you can etch solid glass or metal.

Besides,
If you put the phone in a case... you won't see or feel the plastic back anyway... ever.
(You'll feel *YOUR* cheap plastic case choice, instead.)

What exactly are you seeking, that's impossible for "plastic" to do???

"They made it feel odd" isn't the fault of the plastic... it's a very poor CHOICE the design team used.  They can easily make plastic feel great.


Sakuramiya
Sakuramiya

@sscruiza I say your pretty stupid yourself. Please think before posting feedback on other comments. You can't compare a life saving device to a phones casing.

timester
timester

@Hungry_Chicky @lauriechen

Wow you're so obsessed with plastic, I suppose you think we should have plastic screens and plastic coins too Well I've got news for you, plastic is a severely limited substance and half your so called "benefits of plastic", either apply to metal as well, or are totally pointless. Either you're severly misinformed, you've never seen plastic before, or you just have hideous taste I'm afraid. Here is why most of the reasons you think plastic is so great are just plain wrong:

1. "Doesn't shatter like glass" - neither does metal. Plastic just cracks instead, which looks even worse.

2. "It's very inexpensive" Well then what place does it have in $500 phones, unless you call $500 inexpensive?

3. "Can be molded to countless shapes.  (Far more than glass or metal ever could.)" - Look idiot, there's a reason people make sculptures out of aluminium/other metals, and not out of plastic - firstly plastic looks hideous, and secondly, because metal is far more versatile and mouldable than plastic. Get your facts straight.

4. "Wide spread availability" - Wow ground breaking! Aluminium is like the scarcest metal I've ever seen, I just can't get my hands on any it's so hard to find!

5. "It's very lightweight" This isn't necessarily a good thing in a high end phone. When you pay $500 for a phone you expect it to feel solidly built and premium. Plastic is too light and just feels taccy, Samsung's phones are a prime example of this. Just pick one up and it feels a bit pathetic and toy like really.

6. "Can easily be made glossy or matte finish" - I can't believe you put this in. Metal can be made matte or gloss too. admittedly, it takes longer to make a good matte finish on metal, but the consumer doesn't have to worry about making the matte do they, it's done by a factory so not much extra effort involved at all.

7. "Can be made clear...just like glass" - I'll let you know when the day comes that phones with seethrough backs look good, but for now, I'd rather not have to see the inside of my phone every time I turn it over.

8. "Can be made to feel horrible.... or great in your hand" - Well metal can be made to feel great too, and on average feels better than plastic. The only way htc could make this phone feel bad in your hand would be if they moulded metal spikes onto the back, something which might appeal to your design sense I suppose?

9. "It can be made to not slip out of your hand" - on the other hand, you could just get a metal phone and hold it properly. Unless you have ultra smooth skin, the one will not slip out of your hand easily. It'll feel smoother and nicer than plastic, that will feel dirty and sticky. If you really do have ultra smooth skin, then go apply to be a model for L'Oreal and stop wasting your time here.


In conclusion hungry chicky, the reason the world still looks so ugly and there is a general lack of design innovation in phones is because of people like you who think that plastic's still fantastic. It isn't.

ShumyleHaider
ShumyleHaider

@Hungry_Chicky @lauriechen 

None of the things you stated above matter to a consumer.

As of 4th line in the list, it may be inexpensive to the maker, but its not to us!

sscruiza
sscruiza

@Hungry_Chicky @lauriechen 

If you want to argue platic v metal...go to a different site!  Don't put people down because they prefer the feel of a metal phone to a plastic one...its personal preference.  

Sakuramiya
Sakuramiya

@sscruiza @Sakuramiya wow you just proved to me that you are an idiot. No one except yourself would get all that from "Cheap air bags"

sscruiza
sscruiza

@Sakuramiya

You are reiterating my point. I was referring to the fact that a "cheap" material can be a great phone saver (or life safer) but i wouldn't want my whole phone (or car) made out of the material.  Please think about what is being said before posting feedback on other comments.  Thanks!