Review: HTC One
Apple iPhone 5 Samsung Galaxy S4 killer
A year ago, I finished off my review of HTC’s One X by predicting great things for it and its maker. And then Samsung’s Galaxy S3 merrily outsold it ten to one. Thing is, that wasn’t a case of me being a colossal twit. The One X is the better phone - it’s better made, better looking and better to use.
Luckily for HTC, the new One is loaded with some cool headline-grabbing features to lure S3 owners and potential S4 buyers its way, including front-facing stereo speakers, a screen with a spectacularly high pixel density, a camera with a massively pixel-packing sensor, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chip that goes like stink and an all-new version of HTC’s Android overlay, Sense, to name but a few.
HTC's One: a truly lovely bit of kit?
Right away it’s clear that physically the One is a truly lovely bit of kit. I’m not going to dignify the accusations that it looks like an iPhone 5. It only does to the blind or terminally dim. The aluminium unibody feels cool and solid, and despite housing a 4.7-inch screen and a 2300mAh (fixed) battery weighs only 143g. It’s just a gnat’s pizzle over 9mm thick.
As a compromise between usability and premium heft it’s bang on the money. So is the brushed aluminium and white colour scheme. The absence of a camera shutter key is its only design failing.
As is becoming the norm, the 4.7-inch screen is a 1920 x 1080, Full HD affair with a whopping 469dpi pixel density. It uses HTC’s favoured “Super” LCD tech rather than Samsung’s “Super” AMOLED. This means that while the colour palette is more natural when it comes to still images and video, hues are less eye-poppingly vivid the rest of the time.
The HTC logo is entirely decorative
Which you prefer is a matter of personal choice. I often use my phone to watch video so I prefer the more natural look of LCD. Either way, the panel wants for nothing in terms of brightness or expansive viewing angles and is almost supernaturally sharp.
While some Android phone makers still insist on physical buttons, HTC is busy ditching even the virtual ones. The One only has two below the screen - Back and Home - flanking the purely decorative HTC logo. If you want to launch Google Now, you long-press on Home or double-tap to see your recent apps.
I’m not entirely sure using the HTC logo as the Home button wouldn't have been a better solution, but I imagine I’d get used to the new layout in short order.
The upper speaker and the rather good 2.1Mp webcam
Modern smartphones are getting so ludicrously powerful that spending time banging on about benchmarks scores is pointless. Thanks to its Qualcomm APQ8064T Snapdragon 600 chipset, which incorporates a quad-core 1.7GHz Krait-class CPU with 2GB of RAM, the One is faster and more powerful than a smartphone has arguably any real need to be.
Next page: Fast runner, cool runner
No microSD AGAIN
I was well up for getting a One S or One X last time round, but the lack of microSD killed that. Realise it doesn't matter to everyone, but I need that feature. So my money went on a Galaxy S3.
Re: No microSD AGAIN
On my current phone (Droid RAZR MAXX HD, imported to the UK at some cost); I have the camera to save snaps to the external microSD card. Maybe this doesn't matter to everyone, but if you drop your phone in the toilet, or somehow it gets corrupted and you can't boot it, at least with the external card, you can pop it out and get the photos off. It's just simple, cheap, replacable NAND. If you, say, wanted to watch many different videos each day, if you had a long commute, would you want to risk wearing out the internal NAND by writing several GB/day to it? with the card it's a cheap swap out.
No SD card slot, no removable battery
It's like they rifled through the iPhone spec sheet and picked the worst features to copy.
No SD no sale
"A year ago, I finished off my review of HTC’s One X by predicting great things for it and its maker. And then Samsung’s Galaxy S3 merrily outsold it ten to one ... The One X is the better phone - it’s better made, better looking and better to use."
Not sure about everyone, but for me the following paragraph explains why;
"Before I wrap up I should make it clear that the One lacks anything in the way of storage expansion, but with only 32GB and 64GB versions available that’s not too much of an issue"
...unless you play a lot of games, or watch a lot of videos, or want to have full offline maps on your GPS on your phone, or have lots of MP3s (or cloudy music service cache files).
The reason I bought an S3 over a One X was the expandable memory. That and a removable battery are very important features for me. Judging by comments and reviews I've read I'm not the only one.
True, Samsung managed to bork their implementation of the S3's expandable storage up by inexplicably mounting the internal storage space as "sdcard" (the external SD card is "extSdCard"), which means that helpful apps like Spotify, Garmin and most games that try to put large data files on your SD card end up putting those data files on your internal memory instead. But at least with the S3 I can still shove video and MP3 files on a large cheap external card.
No swappable battery, no sale
It would probably be the battery rather than memory issue that would kill it for me.
I've just ordered a 5000mAh battery for my Galaxy Note to enable it to carry on displaying maps, tracking my location, monitoring my heart rate, playing music over Bluetooth and so on for far longer than the stock 2500mAh battery gives me when the phone's clamped to my bike's handlebars for 3-4 hour cycle rides in bright sunlight with the display brightness at 100%. When I get home with a depleted battery I can drop in a fully-recharged spare and carry on using it, rather than having to plug the phone in and wait hours for a decent charge before its usable again.
For the kind of uses I've put my phone to, I can't imagine ever wanting one where the battery couldn't be swapped out quickly and easily. It's a simple option that really ought to be standard when these devices have so many possible uses.