HTC One Android smartphone review

htc-one-1

It’s that time of year again when gadgeteers like us start checking our wallets and bank accounts to see how much extra money we have available for a potential new phone purchase. There are quite a few new phones coming to Verizon and they have been kind enough to send me some demo units of their latest Android smartphones to try out. Up first is one that I’ve been looking forward to trying for quite awhile. It’s the HTC One, which is a welcome departure (at least style-wise) from most of the other glossy plastic Android smartphones on the market. Does it give me upgrade fever? Let’s find out.

Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.

htc-one-17

Package contents

HTC One
Pre–Installed SIM Card
Wall/USB charger
3.5mm Headset w/ microphone
SIM Removal Tool
Quick Reference Guide

Hardware specifications

Processor: 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core & 2 GB of RAM
Operating System: Android 4.2, Jelly Bean with HTC Sense 5.0
Memory: 32GB on board memory + 2GB RAM
Network: LTE, CDMA/1xEVDO Rev. A (800/1900 MHz)
Global Network: EDGE/GSM (850/900/1800/1900), HSPA/UMTS(1900/2100) aGPS
Display: 4.7” Super LCD 3 display (1920 x 1080) Full HD
Camera (rear): UltraPixel with HTC Zoe™ Camera, f/2.0, 28mm wide angle lens, 1x LED Smart Flash
Camera (front): 2.1MP Full HD Recording Front Facing Camera
Wi-FI: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz Capable
GPS: Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS
Bluetooth 4.0 class 2
NFC – Tap and Share with other NFC-enabled devices
Headset: 3.5mm Audio Jack / Beats Audio™ – headset, speakerphone, and Bluetooth integration
Battery: 2300mAh Standard Li–Ion; non–removable, usage time up to 11.4hrs, standby time up to 10.8 days
Dimensions: 5.41”(H) x 2.69”(W) x 0.37”(D) inches
Weight: 5.04 oz

Hardware tour

htc-one-4htc-one-5

The HTC One has a lot going for it in the style department. Instead of having a glossy plastic shell, it has a matte aluminum body with what HTC calls their zero gap construction. I really like the industrial look and find the fit and finish to be excellent. However, due to aluminum body there is no wireless charging option available for this phone and since the body is sealed, the battery is not replaceable.

The front of the phone has an edge to edge display that will prompt obvious comparisons to the iPhone. But where the iPhone has 90 degree edges, the One has beveled edges and a curved back that makes it feel more comfortable in hand.

You’ll find front facing speakers above and below the display, along with a front facing camera and status LEDS. On the back side of the phone, you’ll see an LED flash, rear camera lens and a 2nd microphone.

htc-one-6

On the top edge of the One, you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack and the power / wake button. The power button is small and almost flush with the casing, making it semi-difficult to press quickly. I’m so used to being able to press the home button on my Samsung Galaxy S3, that I often cussed the HTC One’s tiny wake button. One interesting fact is that there’s an IR transmitter built into the power button. The built in Sense TV app will turn the phone into a TV remote.

htc-one-7

A micro USB connector is located on the opposite end of the phone along with a microphone.

htc-one-8 htc-one-9

The side view of the HTC One shows the sandwich construction of the aluminum, glass and some sort of white plastic center. If you take a look at the left side of the phone, you’ll see the SIM slot and then on the other side, you’ll find the volume rocker. As a lefty, I am not a fan of having the volume buttons located on the right side… but that’s just me.

htc-one-3 htc-one-2

Size wise, the HTC One is about the same physical size as the SGS3 and Motorola Ultra. In hand it feels heavier than both, but not in a bad way. I like the heft, which makes it feel more like a tool than a toy. It’s solid and doesn’t complain at all when I perform the gadgeteer squeeze test. No flexing or rattles to be felt or heard. My only criticism is that this phone is slippery. I thought my SGS3 was bad, but the HTC One is even worse. The matte aluminum feels smooth in hand, but just make sure you have a firm grip or the phone may go flying…

Display

The 4.7” display might be considered small when compared to the Samsung Galaxy S4’s 5.0″ display and the soon to be available Samsung Galaxy Note 3’s 5.7″ display. But, the HTC One makes up for the slightly smaller physical screen size with a very crisp and vibrant display that offers 1920 x 1080 resolution – the same resolution offered by the other 2 phones I’ve mentioned.

htc-one-18

I’ve noticed that the screen doesn’t show smudges or fingerprints, which is a plus. It also seems to work with thin gloves on… or I’m guessing it might, as it works if I wrap my finger in a t-shirt and try to interact with the display.

Below the display are 2 soft touch buttons, one on either side of the HTC logo. The left button is the back button and the right button is the home button. It took me awhile to get used to not having a dedicated menu button and that I could double tap the home button to see recent apps. For the longest time I didn’t think these buttons were backlit. They are, but they only light up when you’re basically in total darkness.

Camera

When I was adding the hardware specs to this review, I had problems finding the number of megapixels for the rear facing camera. HTC calls the pixels ultrapixels instead of megapixels and doesn’t really tell you how many there are because they wants users to stop thinking in terms of megapixels and focus more on the size of the pixels. Size does matter, here’s how they explain things:

For years, a misconception among most consumers is that the higher the megapixel count, the better quality of images. Actually, the number of megapixels is only one of many factors that determine picture quality, with sensors and image processors each playing a critical role.

However, year after year manufacturers try to outdo each other with higher megapixels. How? By reducing the size of the pixels to cram more in, which often decreases image quality. That’s because the smaller the pixel, the less light each one collects. This results in more visible noise and other defects in both still images and video.

The more light a digital camera can capture, the more information it can record, resulting in better pictures in more varied conditions and lighting environments.

HTC’s approach is to offer larger pixels in the new sensor that can capture 300% more light than many of the 13 megapixel cameras on the market. Because larger pixels record more light and data, our photos display more shades and greater color accuracy.

In translation, it means 20 megapixels may sound impressive, but size matters, and the HTC One has Ultrapixels. Here are some sample images:

htc-one-14

Macro shots are very good. Check.

htc-one-15

Mandatory cat picture also clear and crisp. Check.

htc-one-16

Low light pictures impressed me the most. The image you see above is my basement at night. Taking a picture of that wall of bookcases typically results in a grainy dark mess of a picture. The HTC One pulls it off like a champ without using the flash. Yes, it’s still a little nosy when you zoom in, but I still think it does a great job.

htc-one-19

This the same shot with the SGS3 and no flash. Ick…

The HTC One also has a new featured called HTC Zoe, which is a dumb name for a camera feature, but they didn’t ask my opinion. What it does is automatically capture up to 20 photos and a 3–second video, which you can easily share with friends and family.

The camera is my favorite feature of this phone. I think it beats my SGS3, especially with low light pictures and its wide angle lens. I’d have to agree that pixel count isn’t as important as image quality. BTW, I finally found out that the equivalent megapixel count for the rear camera is 4MP. Don’t let that scare you away though, the HTC One’s camera is a nice little shooter. It’s not a DSLR though, so keep your expectations in line with what it is and you’ll be fine.

Audio

HTC has featured Beats Audio in prior phones, but the HTC One has a pair of front–facing stereo speakers powered by built–in amplifiers and Beats Audio. They call it HTC BoomSound and it does sound really good. I’m not sure how many people listen to their music through the speakers that often instead of earphones, but if they do, they will enjoy it with this phone as long as they don’t expect a lot of bass. I was surprised at how good it sounded compared to my SGS3. Max volume won’t fill be a large room full of people, but it is more than loud enough for a small to medium sized room and the front speakers do make watching videos and movies more enjoyable.

An additional audio feature senses when the phone is in your pocket and increases the volume of the ringer so you’ll hear it. Nice touch.

Telephony

No problems here. Calls were perfectly clear and loud enough on both sides of the conversation, with no signal problems or dropped calls in the few days I’ve been testing the phone.

Software

The HTC One is running Google’s latest and greatest version of the Android operating system – v4.2.2 (aka Jelly Bean). On top of that is v5.0 of HTC’s Sense interface.

htc-one-11 htc-one-20 htc-one-21

Sense can be an acquired taste if you’re used to stock Android or Samsung’s Touch Wiz interface. Sense allows you to do nifty things like choosing different style lock screens that can include widgets, a collage of your photos, your notifications, music player and more. The widget option is nice except there are only 3 widgets to choose from, which pretty much makes it pretty useless.

htc-one-10

After you unlock the screen, you’re greeted with HTC BlinkFeed. This is a tiled view of your social networks, news and any feeds you want to stay updated on as they stream live to your phone. By default this is your home screen and if you don’t like it (like me), you really can’t get rid of it. You can turn off all the services but it will still show some tips and tricks type tiles. You can move it off to another page to get it out of the way, but it will still use one of your home screens (but you have a total of 5).

htc-one-12 htc-one-13

Performance and battery life

I was impressed with the overall zippy performance of this phone. I didn’t notice any lags or slowdowns of any kind. Apps launched quickly and switching between them was fast and smooth.

Battery life was a surprise for me. I was easily able to use it for a day and a half without having to charge it. I wish my SGS3 was that good!

Final thoughts

The HTC One is a very nice phone and would be at the top of my list if I were ready to upgrade from my current phone. I’m saying this without comparing the new Droids or the Moto X though. I think it’s safe to say that it’s the best looking of the latest batch of phones. Looks aside, I found this phone enjoyable to use and am not looking forward to sending it back to Verizon. The only things I don’t care much for are the flush power button, lack of wireless charging capability, no microSD card slot and slippery body. Those few things are easily countered by the gorgeous display, great audio, wide angle / low light camera features, zippy performance and above average battery life. It’s definitely a worthy option for anyone ready to upgrade from an older phone. As for myself, I may not have a raging case of upgrade fever yet, but I’m starting to feel some symptoms.

 

Product Information

Price:$199.99 with 2yr contract, $599.99 without contract
Manufacturer:HTC
Retailer:Verizon Wireless
Cons:
  • Power button is too flush with case
  • No wireless charging option
Posted in: Android related, Reviews

{ 27 comments… add one }

  • Richard September 11, 2013, 7:12 am

    Great review.
    I’ve had one of these pretty well since they appeared on the market here in the UK. I had a Sony Experia T that I just didn’t get along with, had a long look at the SGS3 and 4 but was put off by what I perceive to be bloatware and the plastic casing, and when comparing the HTC to an iPhone5 just didn’t see the point of going with Apple.
    I keep the HTC in an Otterbox case which doubles the bulk, but is something of a remedy to my nasty habit of dropping phones, though when I use the thing at work it comes out of the case and slips into a suit-jacket pocket.
    Usage-wise, I am very happy with the battery, but find that when using the Google maps nav app, it drains far too quickly. That said on standard usage I can get nearly 3 days out of it if I use wifi to surf and cellular network for speech.
    I like the camera, especially for panorama shots in decent light, it really does a great job; the much vaunted night shots, I think I still need to get the hang of them, I do find them far too grainy. However my point of reference is an SLR that I tend to lug around with me, so perhaps a bit unfair.

    Overall, I am thrilled with it. And no, I don’t work for them!

    1
  • Steve Gagne September 11, 2013, 7:34 am

    Looks like an excellent device. However, for me, it immediately falls out of contention due to the lack of a microsd slot. I will never purchase a phone or tablet without one. I’ve heard others comment in the past that limited on board storage is all that’s needed these days due to streaming services and cloud storage. There are many times when internet connection is poor or lacking. And streaming can eat up my monthly data plan allotment with the amount of media I digest. Plus I have a very large and eccentric media collection that is harder to find in streaming services. Nope, the only way to go for me is a microsd card, and I have a 64gb one in my phone.

    2
  • Julie Strietelmeier September 11, 2013, 7:37 am

    @Steve I think that Samsung is the only phone maker that still includes a microSD slot. That feature is tops on my must-have list for any phone. But, I’m afraid that the day will come sooner than later when Samsung will go the way of the other makers and not include one. When that times comes, there’s always an OTG cable. :)

    3
  • Jake September 11, 2013, 12:59 pm

    This is the one Andriod phone I would consider and it is close between that and the iPhone 5s! Still no clue what to get at all!

    4
  • DStaal September 11, 2013, 1:09 pm

    The latest version of Android is actually 4.3, with 4.4 coming soon. However, the HTC One is actually available with 4.3, direct from Google. (Though that version comes without the HTC Sense software – it’s pure Android. And it’s not available with a contract, so you are paying full price.)

    I was considering one, but decided to save $400 and get a Nexus 4.

    5
  • Brad September 11, 2013, 2:09 pm

    I bought an HTS One under contract and then rooted it so that I could install the Google image. It works great and I saved hundreds of dollars.

    6
  • Julie Strietelmeier September 11, 2013, 3:30 pm

    @DStaal I didn’t know that there were devices with 4.3 other than the Nexus 7 2013 right now. Thanks for the info. I’ll go update the review to reflect that. BTW: I just got my Nexus 7 a few minutes ago. :)

    7
  • Dino L September 11, 2013, 7:37 pm

    Richard, I’d like to know how you get 3 days out of your HTC One, I can barely squeeze a day out of it using WiFi and cellular network.

    8
  • DStaal September 11, 2013, 10:07 pm

    I don’t think anyone but the ‘Google Play’ devices have 4.3 yet, but that includes the entire Nexus line, and the two outside devices that have agreed to work their way in: The HTC One and the Galaxy S 4.

    The ‘Google Play Editions’ are a relatively new thing: The devices come with base Android, direct from Google, without any carrier ties. (So you have to get a SIM card and service, and you pay for the phone up front.) The advantage is that they get their updates direct from Google as well, without any carrier/manufacturer slowdowns. So they stay up to date. (But they don’t get any manufacturer addons – good or bad. It wasn’t until 4.3 that the Google Play edition of the HTC One had full Beats audio, IRC.)

    9
  • Richard September 12, 2013, 5:14 am

    Dino – just looking through stats and it seems that I make about 16 calls for a total of 1.5h each day – on average. 95% of my surfing is done on a strong wifi connection. Battery energy saving options are on. And I only check it when the message waiting LED is on (as opposed to checking it regularly to see if something has come in). So, not using it much, and not turning it on and off every few minutes is probably the answer to the charge lasting a few days.

    10
  • David September 12, 2013, 12:18 pm

    My comment on the lack of microSD slots on the newer phones:

    Currently the number one Android phone maker is Samsung, by a HUGE margin (It’s so large, they are neck in neck with apple in overall smart phone shipments!), and they are the only one making NEW phones with microSD slots?????????????? Maybe they know something the others don’t??????

    IMHO, the tables are even worse, I’ll buy neither without the microSD slot! (except maybe a junk one to use as a single use device.

    11
  • Ronin September 14, 2013, 5:57 am

    My only worry about getting this phone is its camera. I know its 4 mp tweeked and promoted as UP but the question is pic quality. I have had xperia x10 for 3yrs withe great pics and videos. But still confused about One. Any suggestions?

    12
  • Julie Strietelmeier September 14, 2013, 9:26 am

    @Ronin Go to an Verizon store or other carrier that offers this phone and ask to try it so you can take a few test shots.

    13
  • 1000 Acres September 14, 2013, 11:05 pm

    I’ve had two HTC Ones. I usually buy unlocked phones but this time I decided to try an AT&T locked version at supposedly a $400 savings. Not worth it, I’ll never buy locked phones again. The AT&T bloatware is very annoying and cannot be deleted. The first phone burned the batteries. By noon each day it would need a recharge. Then it decided to keep turning off and on all by itself. Then, when it turned on, it started dialing 911 all by itself. I became first name friends with the 911 dispatchers :-( I turned it in for a replacement (also a big hassle with AT&T). The replacement is good, battery lasts all day with heavy use. The stereo Beats sound is the best. And the camera is really great. It would be my all time favorite phone if it was an unlocked version without AT&T branding.

    14
  • Julie Strietelmeier September 15, 2013, 9:24 am

    @1000 Acres Yikes on the auto 911 dials. I’ve never heard that before. That phone was possessed!

    15
  • Forrester September 17, 2013, 4:07 pm

    After three years of the iPhone 4, I ordered an HTC One today. I had pre-ordered the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, but Best Buy made an offering today for the Verizon HTC One for $49. I was really looking forward to the Note, but not at six times the cost of the One.

    I haven’t used Android since a brief foray with the Samsung Moment, which was a tank of a phone, but quite good for pure work.

    Also, because it was Best Buy, I was able to order the exclusive blue color, but now I am not so sure about that.

    Great review, as always, Julie. Also, I love your bookshelves!

    16
  • Julie Strietelmeier September 17, 2013, 4:51 pm

    @Doug be sure and let us know your thoughts on the phone after you’ve had a chance to use it for a little while :)
    Thanks regarding the bookshelves. I love them too!

    17
  • Forrester September 23, 2013, 6:01 pm

    After a few days, I can say I love the phone. I don’t miss iOS at all, and Android has really “grown-up” since my days with the Samsung Moment. In fact, I even sold my iPad and bought a 2013 Nexus 7 tablet.

    I did, however, swap the blue HTC One for the silver one. I know. I am so shallow. :-)

    18
  • Julie Strietelmeier September 23, 2013, 6:41 pm

    @Doug glad to hear that! I bought a new Nexus 7 too :)

    19
  • Xfader September 27, 2013, 5:28 pm

    @Jake Me to.Both phones (iPhone 5S and One) are great choices.
    Can’t decide? Just go here http://www.gizmag.com/htc-one-vs-iphone-5s-specs-comparison/29086/

    20
  • Scott October 7, 2013, 12:30 pm

    I cant make my mind up! Between the HTC one and he Samsung Galaxy s4. I have a HTC evo now. I had a samsung transform prior to that. Not a good phone. The only thing i dont like about the HTC one is the camera. Samsung just scares me. What do you think?

    21
  • Julie Strietelmeier October 7, 2013, 1:37 pm

    @Scott I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy S3 for over a year now with no problem. If I were choosing between the HTC One and S$, I would go with the S4.

    22
  • mihir October 16, 2013, 8:34 pm

    For anyone curious about the battery life, and how to maximize it, there are several tips and tricks you can use. For starters, enabling power saver helps a lot. Next, using an app that automatically kills processes that haven’t been used in a while can easily save 10-15% of your battery life. Finally, if you are up to it, installing a Rom like ViperOne with the BulletProof Kernel on top will give you an ENORMOUS boost.

    23
  • Josh Trenser October 19, 2013, 10:48 am

    Wow, to me, this phone looks like a a best phone ever. PERIOD!!!

    24
  • Xfader October 20, 2013, 6:59 pm

    @mihir Thanks for the tips!

    25
  • Justin Lee November 16, 2013, 12:34 pm

    I have the Htc one silver and my gf has the Htc one black & they are the best phones we have owned. Just want to ask if You Can Use The New Cuckoo Smartwatch with this Htc model. It Says IOS and Android but not sure if it will be compatible. Any1 know???? Please respond if you do.!!!! Many Thanks

    26
  • ian April 8, 2014, 6:35 am

    Went from an iPHone 4 to a HTC One, worst mistake I ever made. I have to reguarly restart the piece of junk because either my music library simply won’t work, bugs out and repeatedly tells me ‘unable to play audio file’. web browsers routinely won’t load the last 1% of pages although I’m on 4G, it also does this on multiple wi-fi connections i.e. work and home. 50% of the apps on this phone agresively try to update or want permissions to everything on my phone and literally will not take no for an answer, but it’s OK because you have to search every crevice of this terrible OS to find an obscure setting that turns off a basic function. Hated the phone since the 1st week of getting it. Cannot understand all the hype. DO NOT BUY THIS PHONE!

    27

Leave a Comment