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HTC One, reviewed: a standout, breathtaking Android phone for everyone


I’ve been really excited to get my hands on the HTC One.

The world is chock-full of low-end — and high-end —  Android phones that are plastic and hard to distinguish from one another. So, as an iPhone user primarily, I liked the One’s obvious iPhone 5-like accents—which is seemingly A-O.K. by Apple, at least as evidenced by the global settlement and 10-year licensing deal reached with HTC last year—and entirely aluminum construction.

HTC’s flagship phone in 2012, the One X, earned critical acclaim from reviewers across the blogosphere, but the Samsung Galaxy S III and iPhone 4S overshadowed its launch. Now, one year later, HTC is up to bat again with the HTC One, but this time around, it faces nearly the same challenges in the Galaxy S 4 and iPhone 5.

Check out the full review below to see how the HTC One measures up.

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Oh, that body!

The Galaxy S III has a polycarbonate chassis, which made it feel cheap (unlike Nokia’s Lumia lineup) — and its successor, the S 4, will release with the same plastic body. The HTC One X also flaunted plastic, but the company cranked up the heat and decided to go all-aluminum with the HTC One. And, boy, did it make the right decision.

The smartphone feels solid and smooth, and looks sleek and beautiful. The back is slightly curved and thicker in the middle, but the 9.3-millimeter-thick device plays tricks on the eyes—similar to how Apple’s latest iMac lineup gives an illusion of being razor thin—and therefore appears slimmer than the iPhone 5 and most leading Android handsets.

As for hardware design, the power button sits on the top left and always takes an extra, annoying second for me to locate and press. In a perfect world, if it’s going to be on top, I’d like it on the right instead. This is only a nitpick, of course. Once I actually find the power button, the One’s gorgeous 4.7-inch, 1080p display lights up and my grumbling is forgotten. This screen is crystal clear. Everything looks so vivid and sharp that I almost drool whenever the display is aglow.

Lastly: there are loads of third-party accessories that allow devices to function as a TV remote control, but the HTC One has infrared tech built into the power button on top. It enables the One to work as a remote. The remote app is only okay, but programming it is super easy. I thought of this hardware/software feature as gimmicky at first, but I’ve honestly used it every day since setup.


Just kill Sense.

The One comes with the latest versions of Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, including all the snappy tweaks of Project Butter, but HTC has layered its own Sense 5.0 on top. Why? Top-of-the-line hardware should only sport pure Android.

Sense 5.0 notably boasts a new home screen called Blinkfeed that’s all about content. It essentially allows users to add their Facebook and Twitter accounts and integrate news sources. The content appears in a vertical, scrolling layout that looks awfully Windows 8-like. HTC’s overlay also serves up a weather icon above Blinkfeed. It’s nice, but there’s not much else to say about it. I eventually set Blinkfeed’s home screen to the left, as I can’t disable it, and will likely just replace Blinkfeed with Facebook Home when it hits Google Play Store in four days.

HTC also veered from pure Android by moving the One’s Home button to the bottom right. It’s awkward for the first day, but I became familiar with the new layout quickly.

Sense 5.0 is tolerable because it hasn’t changed every aspect of Android, and it’s extremely fast thanks to a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 2GB of RAM. The interface, apps, and webpages all load instantly. I happen to have a Sprint version of the handset, and so LTE helps give web browsing an extra boost. I’m in New York City, though, and have full access to Sprint’s LTE capabilities. Anyone in a rural area is S.O.L.

More power, please.

The HTC One has a 2,300-mAh Li-Po non-removable battery. While you’d expect a decent battery life from the handset, I found myself having to charge it every day after moderate use. I even turned off many processes to try to save battery, but the display and processor need a lot of juice.

Only 4 megapixels?! 

The HTC One’s camera, unlike most eight-megapixel cameras found in smartphones, only offers four megapixels, but it includes an UltraPixel image sensor that uses larger pixels. HTC’s designers said high megapixel counts negatively affect signal-to-noise ratios, resulting in fuzzier images, whereas UltraPixel improves overall image quality in both bright and low-light environments. The handset’s camera also includes optical image stabilization and an ImageSense 2.0 image processor.

Enough with the marketing lingo; let’s get to the real-world results: The camera captures impressive low-light pictures, even with the flash turned off, but auto-mode shots are very saturated. A feature called Zoe shoots a clip of video before and after snapping a photo to eliminate shake and allow users to get the best photo possible, while front-facing BoomSound stereo speakers—along with Beats Audio and HDR audio recording—allows for videos with high-def, impeccably crisp sound.


To buy, or not to buy?

The HTC One is a premium Android smartphone, and it costs just $199 with a two-year contract for a 32GB configuration. The iPhone-like design and top hardware specs are certainly impressive—despite the lackluster software features.  Nevertheless, with LG’s popular Nexus 4 and Samsung’s Galaxy S4 coming soon, should you buy it?

Yes. This handset definitely stands out among all the Android devices on the market. The One is beautifully crafted, and it offers a stunning screen with snappy horsepower, although its camera and battery life might not be the best in the world. It’s a perfect device for iOS lovers looking to test the Android waters.

As for Android devotees, I’d say you have a tough decision to make: The S4 will launch with a bevy of features and a 13-megapixel camera, but it’s also very similar looking to its predecessor. If you want something different and breathtaking, the HTC One is where it’s at.

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