First, let me acknowledge that I might be biased. In May, I bought the HTC One on AT&T–derailing my plans to put off an upgrade until later in the year–and have not regretted it at all. The One is, in my view, the best smartphone on the market today.
But until now, I haven’t been able to recommend the HTC One to everyone. Quite often, the people who ask me for recommendations are Verizon customers, and for months Verizon has been hemming and hawing about when it would finally carry this excellent handset.
The wait is just about over. Verizon will start selling the HTC One on August 22. It will be available both online and in stores for $200 with a two-year contract. Although Verizon hasn’t given us all the details, it looks to be the same handsome, aluminum-clad phone that customers of AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have been able to purchase for months–no tacky Verizon-red trim or hamfisted Droid branding.
What’s so great about the HTC One? For one thing, it’s the rare Android phone that actually emphasizes smart design. It’s pretty to look at, but it’s also durable. After three months without using a case, my HTC One doesn’t have a single scratch or blemish. That’s more than I can say about my iPhone 5, whose aluminum edges began collecting scuffs almost immediately.
Oh, and those front-facing speakers that HTC has stupidly named “BoomSound” do make a difference. This phone is loud; you can listen to music through the speakers, and kind of enjoy it. The camera is another high point. It’s not as sharp as Samsung’s Galaxy S4 or Apple’s iPhone in perfect lighting (outside on a nice day, for instance), but it takes killer indoor photos without the need for flash.
As for software, HTC’s flavor of Android isn’t as bloated as Samsung’s. Hold down the home button, and you go straight to Google search, not some tacked on virtual assistant like Samsung’s S Voice. I’m not a fan of HTC’s home screen, which places a ticker of news headlines front-and-center, but you can move this ticker (called “BlinkFeed”) off to one of your side screens. Or you can do what I did: Install Nova Launcher, which replaces the home screen but preserves all of the phone’s other useful features, such as HTC’s custom lock screen and camera app.
Four months ago, my editor Doug declared the HTC One the “Current King of the Android Hill,” suggesting that it would inevitably get dethroned by some newer phone, such as the Galaxy S4. Hasn’t happened. Unless the non-removable battery and lack of expandable storage irk you, the One is still the phone to get. (When I need more battery, I throw on a Mophie case, and the One comes with 32 GB of built-in storage, which is plenty.)
While it’s true that Android phones used to become obsolete after just a few months, things have changed. The pace of hardware advancements have slowed down, and Google has been updating Android without updating Android, which means HTC’s software doesn’t feel out of date despite being a minor version or two behind. (The Verizon version will actually come with Android 4.2.2, which is practically indistinguishable from the latest Android 4.3 in terms of features.)
Granted, I haven’t tried Motorola’s Moto X, and we won’t know what Apple’s next iPhone is like for another month or so, if the rumors are true. But I feel reasonably confident that the HTC One can compete with whatever the rest of 2013 brings. It’s not too late to buy it and still feel like you got the best phone around.