Typically Android smartphones used to be plastic devices that needed something a bit more special, and that’s primarily how Apple grabbed a large section of the smartphone market to begin with. However they are starting to get better, mainly thanks to HTC, whose HTC One is currently one of the best looking Android smartphones out to-date.
Featuring a great looking design that has been combined with a great looking 4.7 inch display that features 468ppi (which is well above what the eye can actually see), The HTC One is packed with a ton of features that will certainly keep you interested.
The HTC One is available from Vodafone in the UK available from free with plans priced from £37 a month, which includes 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data, for more information on all of Vodafone’s plans for the HTC One, hit up their site here.
Disclosure: Vodafone sent us the HTC One for review purposes.
The first time I picked up the HTC One I had to check that it was actually running on Android, HTC have been making great looking smartphones for a long time now (who can forget that gorgeous HTC Sensation), but nothing quite like the One, its something you definitely have to take a look at in person, but once you do you suddenly wonder what all of these other smartphone manufacturers have been doing all these years.
Designed with an Aluminum body and wrapped in a plastic bezel, HTC have decided to extend the screen to both edges, adding dual front-facing speakers above and below it as well as placing the back and home capacitive buttons alongside the HTC logo just above the bottom speaker.
On the top you will find the sensors, top speaker and the front-facing camera.
HTC have made the One dramatically thinner the HTC One X, but it is quite a bit heavier some of its competition, but I think this is a decent trade-off for the looks and overall feel of the device, and to be honest it’s not so much weight that you will find the phone hard to hold, because it isn’t.
It also fits well in the hand, with rounded edges and a bezel that’s slightly angled, the HTC One has been constructed perfectly.
Look at the right-hand side of the phone and you will find the volume control rocker which has been constructed with a metal that features a design much like the Apple iCloud logo, resembling HTC’s push to be the Apple of Android design.
On the top of the device is the power button, which also sneakily hides the infrared blaster, allowing the HTC One to double as a remote for your living-room devices (something we will talk about later).
The placement of this button can sometimes be a little inconvenient and sometimes you find yourself having to spin the phone around in your hand just to find it, and it might have been a little better if it was situated on the side of the device.
All-in-all though, the HTC One is defiantly one of the best looking smartphones I have ever used, in fact it might just be the best looking smartphone I have used to date, on par with the iPhone 3G, which was defiantly the best looking smartphone to come out of Apple.
In terms of software the HTC One runs on Android 4.2.2 and is the first smartphone to feature the HTC Sense 5 overlay, which brings HTCs design ideas to the Android layout and icons, adding HTC’s simplistic design methods.
Alongside which, Sense 5 also adds something new called BlinkFeed, which adds a new home screen just for your feeds, more on that in a bit.
You get the usual homescreens by swiping to the right, although there’s only a maximum of five home screens to add icons and widgets to, which are added by long pressing the home screen and then selecting one of the many apps, widgets and shortcuts available.
This menu is simple and easy to use, it’s a version of Android that finally has a good designer behind it.
And all of these additions don’t seem to effect the speed of the phone as you use them, in fact opening and closing multiple apps is just as fast as some of the more speedier phones on the market today, despite the smaller processor.
There’s also a number of lockscreen types you can choose to show up, displaying anything from emails, calendar or even your messages, which once chosen will show alongside your app selection bar,
Swiping up from one of the apps on your navigation bar will unlock the phone and launch that app, or just simply swiping up from anywhere will unlock the phone.
The lockscreen can also show a gallery of your pictures as well as providing details of the current music being played, alongside the usual music controls.
The notification bar is a similar simplistic story too, featuring one button to quickly access some of the settings on the phone, it doesn’t shove a bunch of stuff at you the moment you slide it down, but will still show all of your notifications as well as the time and weather.
<h3″>Messaging and Calling
HTC always do their contact applications well, and that is still the same with the HTC One, allowing users to add contacts from social networks, but in a simplistic and easy to use interface, that brings that same black and great looking design scheme that is featured in the rest of the phones software.
On the contact card, you can add your contacts details as well as a high-resolution photo from their linked social networks, if the One cannot find a high-res image it will show a dotted picture of something like a cat for instance.
From the contacts app you can also view the persons gallery of pictures posted to their social network accounts.
This use of images is extremely important, as when you actually receive a call from that person a large version of their profile picture shows up, and in order to keep the experience as good as the rest of the phone, the small things really do matter.
Calling people is a great experience, featuring noise reduction, the HTC One will boost the volume of the earpiece when it thinks you are calling from a noisy area, something that works extremely well, and in our tests we found that the person on the other end was always easy to hear, with clear sound.
We didn’t find any call dropping during our tests, which is always a good thing.
Coupled with the messaging application, the One is a great device for a communication, with an easy to use keyboard that even the oldest of people wouldn’t find too hard to use.
The keyboard can also be calibrated to your particular hand size, and it also features Swype like tracing of words, which will show suggestions above the keyboard that can be tapped on if you find the word you actually typed has been spelt wrong.
With the composing menu you can also add video or pictures to send an MMS, and the whole app is set out in a great looking white on black design.
You won’t find much difference in the internet browser to that of other phones on the market, with what looks to essentially be a Chrome like design in the inbuilt browser, alongside a copy of the actual Google Chrome application if you prefer to use that.
Using both of which is actually pretty quick, with fast loading of many websites when on WiFi or on 3G (we didn’t test a 4G version of this phone, but it is available.)
The in-built browser does have one addition that might trump Chrome however, with a flash player that can be turned on or off in the settings, something that is great for an internet nation still stuck in the past.
Gestures have also been built-in allowing you to swipe from the side of the screen to open bookmarks, URLs and get a quick look at your tabs.
Of course the size and resolution of the screen only add to the greatness of the internet browsing on the HTC One, text is clear and easy to see, and images are crisp and sharp.
One of the biggest features on the HTC One is the camera, which might not be apparent to begin with as the specs state it as a 4MP sensor, however it’s a bit smarter than that, using something called Ultrapixel technology, it uses much larger pixels than a normal camera, which allows the camera to take in more light, making better quality pictures.
This means that the sensor is much faster, allowing it to fire in literal milliseconds, in fact it’s so quick that its barely noticeable.
The camera also allows the user to change ISO levels, change exposure, contrast, sharpness and select modes like HDR.
The front-facing camera is pretty good too, with a 2.1 megapixel sensor, which can be switched between by sliding your finger up or down the screen, this will also allow you to activate the countdown timer.
The buttons on the interface can sometimes be hard to use, and are slightly too small to hit.
However the images taken from the camera are too good to care about those issues, and the sensor works well in a range of light levels, although noise levels can sometimes be a bit too heavy.
Images tend to look great on the screen, however sometimes on the computer screen images can sometimes look oddly different, however as it is a smartphone camera, this shouldn’t bother you too much.
There’s also one extra feature with the One called Zoe, which is a new mode on the camera that will take 0.6 seconds of HD footage before you press the shutter button and three seconds after, capturing a moving photo.
I’m not really sure of the use for this, although because it does add images to the gallery alongside the video, which will play alongside the recorded audio.
The only thing I could see this useful for is capturing things like animals or even the kids, as a lot of the time their pose has already gone before you manage to whack that capture button.
Also if you want to, you can then save these videos to the HTC Zoe Share server for free, the only problem is that they expire after a month.
You can also choose from six effects to chose from when taking a Zoe, allowing you to also add different music and effects.
You can also create highlight reels from a set of photos taken at an event in your life, such as at a certain place or on a certain day.
There are a ton of features on the HTC One that make it great for media consumption, the first being something called BoomSound, which is basically HTC’s word for the combination of the two front-facing speakers and the in-built amp, which will boost audio for your headphones and through the speakers to create simply the best sound on a smartphone today.
This also means for great sound quality, and watching a movie on the One is not unlike watching on your tablet or laptop.
Of course this also comes into play when listening to music, and with he pre-loaded music application you can listen to uploaded music from your computer, which is better than with most phones, thanks to the HTC Sync application that is used with the One on the PC.
Once on the smartphone, the One will automatically search and add the correct album art and lyrics to the stored songs via GraceNote.
The internal memory is decent enough to store a selection of tunes, with 32GB of inbuilt storage, the problem is that this cannot be expanded with no access to a microSD slot, a kinda annoying feature of many smartphones today.
The video player is also pretty great, and thanks to the Full HD display, you can watch videos with a clear and crisp quality, however sometimes the brightness can be a little lacking.
Another feature in the HTC One is the addition of a TV application, that allows you to control your TV, DVD/Blu-Ray player, set-top box or audio system via the infrared blaster, that allows you to control the power, volume and channel on the device.
THe only problem with this is that set-up takes way too long, even though the app begins to look quite easy, teasing you with just a few options, however we found that we had to programme the remote directly with almost everything we used it with.
The TV Guide is much better however, featuring large thumbnails of programmes you are playing and an EPG that displays a list of channels and programs.
However integration with the notification bar makes it quick to change programs and adjust the volume.
Reading articles and catching up socially is something that I so throughout most of the day, so despite being a feature that not many reviewers like, I actually quite enjoyed my time with HTC’s BlinkFeed.
Separated from the usual homescreens, BlinkFeed adds a screen filled with tiles of news stories and posts from social networks, all sized differently.
News feeds can be added from various topics and can show videos from Zoe, as well as displaying what TV programmes your friends are watching, however there are a few points that it could improve on, the first is that it doesn’t link with any applications you may want to show data from, and secondly you can’t add your own RSS feeds.
However this is understandable, but would defiantly be a good option.
Using BlinkFeed does make viewing content a lot easier, tapping an article is extremely quick, displaying a picture and text from the article in an easy to view, reader interface.
To refresh these feeds you can do one of two things, either tap the refresh icon at the top or simply slide down, you can also search through feeds as well as share articles on various social networks.
The battery life of a smartphone can be one of the main reasons for choosing it, so its important that the HTC One has one thats big enough to last the day.
With a 2300mAh battery it will most certainly do that, we had no problems when using the phone in our tests, and after constant checking of emails and updates from Facebook and Twitter, it still held up for the rest of day and some of the next too.
The battery then continued to impress after introducing some music playback and internet browsing, only using about 10% of its overall battery life after about an hour and a half of searching the web and listening to music at the same time.
And surprisingly this continued to go on when watching videos, even when we cranked the video up to HD quality and turned the brightness up, the HTC One lasted the entire length of the movie and still had some battery left for commenting about the movie on our social media accounts.
We also conducted a battery test, the results of which you will find in the image above.
However the more power user, who wants to do all of these things at the same time whilst on the go, might want to look into some type of backup charger.
In terms of connectivity the HTC One has been filled with the usual sensors and equipment. Featuring both GPS and GLONASS, mapping is simple, easy and quick, which are featured alongside a Wi-Fi chip as well as Bluetooth 4.0 and apt-X codecs for improved music clarity over Bluetooth.
There’s also an NFC chip on board, with access to HTC’s MediaLink service out the box.
MHL and DNLA are also available, as well as access to HTC Sync’s software that allows you to set up profiles, wallpapers and ringtones from the web on your PC and then sync them to the One, which is a similar process for things like music and videos.
We couldn’t have been more impressed with the HTC One, and to be honest I’ll defiantly be to see it go away tomorrow, I found my time with the HTC One extremely enjoyable, with little or nothing bad to say about handset, in my opinion, there’s not much that HTC could have done better with the handset, and that’s not something I normally say about anything I review.
packed with so many features like that beautiful design, amazing screen and BoomSound, the HTC One really is the all-rounder smartphone, and I could defiantly see this competing well with both Samsung and Apple, I just hope that some of the other Android manufactures are taking note of this device as its certainly the next step for the Android brand.