The next gen HTC One model is called just that, no ‘X’, no ‘+’ or 'S', just a simple number denomination. So far, the Taiwanese company hasn’t been faring all too well with devices like the HTC Butterfly proving to be way too pricey and the Windows Phone 8X and 8S models still remaining under the radar. This could be HTC’s big break back into the majorly relevant league, but the price of Rs. 42,900 (MOP) might still be a deterrent for some. So we’re here to tell you if the HTC One is indeed a handset worthy of consideration, price tag be damned, or if it’s just another fly by night, high spec'd smartphone that’ll be here today and gone tomorrow.
HTC’s sticking to its unibody design form even with the HTC One. The One is encased inside a zero-gap aluminium shell that, while definitely giving it a tres chic and elegant look and feel, also has a downside. For one, the metal body tends to make the handset a little slippery when it’s cold. Secondly, it also becomes rather hard to hold on to when the processor starts to heat up after excessive use. The curved rear of the handset also rests a little unstable on a flat surface and naturally feels wobbly if you’re trying to type with it resting on your desk. In your hand, however, it does feel quite comfortable.
Quite a looker this one
The perfectly-sized 4.7-inch Super LCD3 display with a full HD (1080 x 1920, 469 ppi) resolution makes for excellent viewing and was quite legible even in broad daylight. Thanks to Corning Gorilla Glass 2, you can be assured the screen will remain scar free to quite an extent, though fingerprints and smudges were still very much evident.
The power button also serves as an IR sensor
The speaker grilles located at the top and bottom of the display also adds a better tone to the overall design form. The light and proximity sensors are located on the left of the earpiece, with a little notification LED placed subtly under the grille. A 2.1MP HD ready camera (1080p @30 fps) with HDR is located on the right side. The volume rocker located on the right hand side of the handset and the power button on the top near the 3.5mm handsfree are quite flushed into the design, which can make them a little hard to use at times. A slightly more prominent protrusion might have been better here. On the left is the micro SIM card slot that can be extracted by using the HTC pin. A microUSB/MHL port is placed at the bottom. While the volume keys might be well-placed, the Power/Sleep key will work great for lefties but will require a bit of a stretch for others to access. Incidentally, the power button also doubles up as an Infrared transmitter so the handset can be used as a remote control.
Available in black, silver and red, the HTC One is truly an inspired design and sexy as hell!
Features and Performance
Setup can work directly on the handset or via HTC’s set up website that lets you customise how you have the phone ready for use. It allows users to select apps to be downloaded, choose or create wallpapers etc. and transfer the whole setup to the handset OTA. Of course, you could just do it all via the handset like any Android device as well.
An all-new setup process via the web
HTC’s Sense UI has undergone a drastic change in version 5. It’s no longer as we remember it, but a few functions have managed to slip through so you won’t feel too much in the dark. We have to admit that it took a little while to grow on us, but once we familiarised ourselves with the layout, it was a pleasure to use. The new home screen called BlinkFeed works a little like FlipBoard and acts as a feed reader for all of the sites or topics you choose (for which there is a wide array). It’s neatly laid out for you as soon as you switch the handset on from sleep mode and will keep you constantly updated on all your favourite stuff including your Facebook and Twitter feeds. A little tab at the top allows you to customise this section and also select a specific feed to view if you wish. Our only suggestion to HTC would be to have this option constantly available while scrolling. But to keep it, simply double tap the Home option and you’ll instantly be transported back to the top. Each story is also easily shared via all available mediums.
Sense UI v5 definitely brings some great functionality to the HTC One
Version 5 of Sense UI also lets you create folders in the app drawer, making it much easier to access and sort apps. The weird thing was the Weather and Time widget that’s glued to the top of the BlinkFeed and App Drawer sections. We couldn’t seem to get rid of it and having two clocks displayed, at all times, on the same side of the display seemed fruitless. The dropdown notification menu could have also used a few docked toggle switches to make it easier to switch radios on or off instead of leading us back to the main settings menu.
As usual, Sense UI tries to seamlessly integrate your accounts in the Contacts menu and offers you the options of linking contacts on its own. This can save quite a bit of time.
There’s plenty to like here and with the rich colours of the full HD LCD3 display, the UI really comes alive.
Saddled with a 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 chipset, 2GB of RAM and available with 32GB or 64GB of on board memory (no expansion option), the HTC One proved to be one blazing fast smartphone. It’ll ship with Jelly Bean (v4.1.2) with an update to v4.2 to make it out later on. We’re hoping this will change and HTC will ship the handset with 4.2 when it launches at the end of the month. From accessing apps to quickly loading high quality games and overall super slick functionality, the One easily stands out from the rest.
We ran our usual benchmarks and the scores were through the roof. Linpak scores gave us a whopping 272.5 MFLOPs on a single thread run and hit the 600s with multi thread (averages). Antutu showcased the Galaxy S4 as the only handset to best the One, so we’re eager to see if that’s true. But we compared them to some of the devices we have tested recently, so do take a look at the Nenmark2 and Quadrant scores as well in comparison to the competition:
Beats Audio sound enhancement technology seems to have upped its game in the One and provides for a truly spectacular experience. A feast for your ears. There is no way you can listen to the audio at more than just half volume. Tone quality is excellent with clear and precise bass resounding and a well-balanced serving of higher and mid-level frequencies. Aside from the Google Music Player, it has HTC’s stock player with quite a few very cool features, which include Folder Viewing, Lyrics display and visualisations for landscape mode, but no presets. Beats Audio can also be switched on or off only via the settings menu and not via the player. Switching it off would diminish the quality, though.
Superb audio quality via Beats and plenty of cool features
We were not supplied with a bundled handsfree kit so we have no idea how those work out. We tested these on our own in-house options. Via the built-in speakers, audio quality was definitely better than some and quite clear, but lacked a little punch. It was nevertheless comfortable enough to have a conversation over speakerphone with the handset placed at a distance of over one foot away from you. The noise cancellation microphone helps to quite an extent to improve overall voice clarity.
The native video player comes pre-loaded with a few codecs to support some AVI files as well as MP4 and other formats. Full HD video content looked great on the One’s supported display with crisp colours and sharp overall picture quality. Third party options are easily available for FLV, MKV and other formats that the native player doesn’t support.
Full HD videos look great
An app called HTC TV comes pre-loaded with the handset but didn’t seem to have India as an option to select cable services from. Do not despair, simply choose any country that is available and go through the process of selecting random channels etc. till you reach the TV setup option. From here, you can choose your TV’s make and the remote does the rest. Although the app's design has a few minor niggles, it’s fully functional and worked without a hitch.
The FM Radio auto logs all the available channels the first time it’s activated and also ties in to Sound Hound for audio recognition.
As one would expect from a high-priced, high-spec'd handset, HTC has incorporated all the possible connectivity goodies out there into the One. Everything from LTE support to high speed 3G and, of course, EDGE data is covered. Naturally, Wi-Fi with all the trimmings – Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Hot Spot etc. – is part of the deal. Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS with A-GPS support and infrared also add to the handset's connectivity make-up. Aside from the regular list of Google apps, HTC has also provided quite a long list of options you could choose from to install OTA.
Micro SIM slot flushed into the handset's design
HTC has also thrown in quite a few handy features, including a Kid Mode with a parents Dashboard for control. With this activated, your child will have limited access to apps and features on the handset. The App used for this is Zoodles. You can customise what apps and functions to have available in this mode and can keep your kid occupied for quite a while without it affecting the rest of your handset. Smart Connect is an option to preset certain functions and activities according to events or whenever external devices are connected to the handset. A stock market app is also provided and tools like Flashlight, voice recorder and a LogMeIn Rescue app for HTC specialist remote service are also on board. Office Suite, Polaris Office, a PDF viewer, 50GB of Dropbox space and a notes app that connects with Evernote are also available.
A substitute for your TV remote
HTC’s Car Setting provides you with a secondary interface that’s recommended for use while driving. It gives access to certain features of the handset all available in a larger form for easy access. The Speak function lets you control aspects like the music player and contacts by talking to the device. It’s not as accurate as Siri, but it works well enough. You just have to be very specific.
The camera and photo editor combo in the HTC One is one of the best you can have in a smartphone. It’s actually like carrying a very capable point-and-shoot camera in your pocket, but there’s a catch. You have a raft of shooting parameters and post-processing functions on-board, which you wouldn’t otherwise find in a digital camera. However, a digital camera would still stand a notch higher than this phone when it comes to image quality, not to mention the resolution. The HTC One employs UltraPixel technology, which in theory is meant to produce better results owing to larger pixels. Or simply put, the 1/3-inch, 4 megapixel sensor has a lower pixel density.
Apply cool looking effects without having to post-process on the PC
First up, the camera; you launch the app and you have a digital camera with a 4.7-inch, full HD viewfinder. To the right of the camera’s interface, you have the digital zoom control, shortcut to the gallery and icons to shoot photos and videos. Effect filters (15 of them) are also available at the touch of a button, each adjustable via a slider that appears on the left side. The left side has a shortcut for flash settings, Zoe mode and camera settings. The UI is clutter-free and doesn’t look daunting at all. At the same time, you have a bunch of adjustable parameters accessible via the settings.
Colour Effects available via Photo Editor
All the tools you need to give your subjects a facelift
It would have been nice if HTC had used the area to the left and bottom of the interface to provide instant access to some of the commonly used functions such as ISO, White balance, EV and front/rear camera toggle. You’re forced to access the settings and then scroll/expand the parameters that you want to adjust, which can get frustrating when you’re on a shooting spree. Also, it would have been nice if the shooting parameters were in precedence of usage. The Settings section has scene modes, video settings and review duration followed by image adjustments and exposure parameters towards the bottom of the list. The provision of exposure parameters first, followed by image adjustments, scene modes and video settings would have been more suitable.
Bright overall exposure because the lower part of the frame was metered
As for shooting, you have to keep in mind that the light is metered in the spot that you touch to focus. So, pulling out the phone and releasing the shutter, just like a point-and-shoot camera, could lead to undesirable results such as underexposed subjects. The Zoe mode shoots a burst of 20 frames to help you select the best looking shot.
Dark overall exposure because the sky was metered (note the focussing issue in the lower right corner)
In the photo editor, you have four groups of controls – Effects, Frames, Retouch and Transform. What’s most interesting here is the Retouch group that has functions such as skin smoothening, face contour adjustment, eye enhancer, eye brightening and anti-shine (somewhat like a polarising filter) – all to make your subject look better, a lot better than just skin softening that’s commonly available in many image editing apps. Use the parameters subtly and you’ll actually get great looking results. Keep in mind here that there’s no way to undo the retouching you’ve already done. You can repeat and layer the functions, but there's no option to reduce the intensity.
A 100 percent crop of the above frame. Note the colour noise and compression artefacts in the dark areas.
The imaging quality of the camera isn’t extraordinary, but it is almost at par with competition. The photos look crisp and the colours appear quite neutral, but that’s only on the phone’s display. When viewed at 100 percent on a PC, you can see compression artefacts and heavy presence of colour noise in dark areas in the form of purple and green blobs of pixels. That said, we would have appreciated if the native photo editor had noise removal function. We also noticed that the bottom right portion in many photos was slightly out of focus. This could be an issue with the optics or, possibly, just a problem with this review unit. Do post a comment if you too are facing such an issue with your handset.
The 2.1 megapixel front camera also performs quite well – the quality of self portraits won’t disappoint you. Both the primary and front camera can record 1080p videos at 30fps. The quality of video recording is very good and you have HDR video recording at your disposal for high-contrast scenes.
The grille adds a certain suave feel to the design
The photo gallery also grabs your Facebook contacts and pulls in their photos into this space as well. A Slideshow function gives your photos a very cool presentation with background music that you can select.
Although the 2300 mAh battery might seem a little low-powered for a device of this calibre, the HTC One manages to deliver quite well on this front. In our video loop test, the handset ran for a total of just 7 hours (Airplane mode active), which was just a little above average. It managed to last us a good 10 hours of solid use that included a little over 1 hour of video, music, over 25 minutes of talktime, emails and messages – all with 3G and Wi-Fi switched on.
Beats audio makes a considerable difference
The Bottom Line
The HTC One is priced at Rs 42,900 and will be available sometime at the end of the month. If you’re interested, it’s currently available in the grey market for about Rs 65,000. Although there’s quite a lot to offer, the One is a little expensive for that price. It may have a premium build, plethora of very handy features and a truly exemplary audio profile all fitted neatly into a great UI, but the few minor issues as well as battery life and heating problems are things you need to seriously consider before choosing this over the competition.
Nevertheless, HTC has tried to offer all it can with the One and has done a fine job. If only HTC could have priced it better. At under Rs 40,000, the handset would have been a hard "One" to beat, pun intended.