HTC has launched a pre-emptive strike on the Galaxy S IV with the HTC One. And this flagship Android phone, coming to AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, attacks one of Samsung’s few weaknesses (design) while being the first handset to remote control your TV right out of the box. Add in a first-of-its-kind “UltraPixel”camera and a complete revamp of HTC’s Sense software and you have a serious contender for Android phone of the year.
In terms of specs, we’re looking at 1.7-GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor, 2GB of RAM a 4.7-jnch full HD display. The starting configuration will come with 32GB of storage, and the top-end model will sport 64GB. We spent a bit of hands-on time with the HTC One prior to its official unveiling. Here’s our initial impressions.
The HTC One simply makes other Android phones look cheap with its zero-gap aluminum unibody chassis, which HTC says takes a painstaking 200 minutes to create. This is premium iPhone 5 territory, folks, complete with precision cutouts for the HTC BoomSound speakers on either side of the display and antennas integrated into the outside of the back cover. Measuring .15 to .36 inches thick and weighing 5 ounces, the One has some heft to it, weighing a bit more than the 4.7-ounce plastic Galaxy S III. The One will come in black and silver.
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Turn the One on and you’ll notice that HTC has taken some cues from Windows Phone with BlinkFeed, a home screen with tiles that live stream everything from news headlines to social updates. The more than 1,400 media source launch partners include AOL, ESPN, MTV, CoolHunting and Reuters. HTC decided not to display your email and text messages on BlinkFeed, opting to keep those types of communications more private. While certainly dynamic, some may prefer a more straightforward Android experience with easier app access. You can always turn BlinkFeed off or swipe to the right for a more traditional desktop with shortcuts and widgets.
Otherwise, HTC has toned down its Sense software, opting for a cleaner and more modern look. We definitely appreciated the sharper looking icons on the app screen, and HTC says it has stopped using as many buttons in its apps, freeing up more space for content.
There’s no question that opting for a 4-megapixel camera at a time other smartphone makers are pushing 12-megapixels is a gamble. But HTC wants you to think in Ultrapixels with the One. The camera inside this phone is designed to capture 300 percent more light than other smartphone camera sensors and sports an f/2.0 aperture lens, compared to f/2.6 for the S III and f/2.4 for the iPhone 5. We had only a few moments to play with the Ultrapixel camera, but it seemed to take brighter images than our iPhone 5 while sill delivering plenty of speed.
We love that you can switch from the back camera to the front just by swiping down from the top of the screen. The UltraPixel camera also captures up to 8 frames per second. Plus, HDR support extends to video as well as still photos for more evenly lit footage.
The other big highlight of the HTC One’s camera is HTC Zoe, which is a Vine-like video snippet you can capture along with stills. Each Zoe is 3 seconds (unlike Vine’s 6 seconds) and HTC says you can easily share these items via social networks and email. However, in order to view a Zoe the user will either have to own an HTC One phone or visit HTCSense.com, where these proprietary files will be posted. That makes an otherwise fun feature limited in its appeal. We do like that the HTC One will mix your Zoes into a longer clip with music.
Perhaps our favorite feature of the HTC One is HTC Sense TV. Using an IR blaster on the top of the device paired with Peel’s software, you can see what’s on (cable or satellite) and change the channel with just a tap of the screen. Android tablets from Samsung and Sony have this capability, but it’s the first time we’ve seen it in a smartphone.
If you want to enjoy video or music on the One itself, you’ll be blown away by the BoomSound speakers. When playing some tracks in a conference room, the HTC One’s front-facing stereo speakers filled the space with sound while producing crystal clear audio. A dedicated amplifier certainly doesn’t hurt. HTC claims that recorded audio will sound pristine, too, as well as phone calls.
Although it will be available beginning in March, the HTC One has all the makings of a summer blockbuster phone. The customizable BlinkFeed interface really helps this device stand out. However, we’d really like to put the Ultrapixel camera to the test to see if it makes up for its fewer megapixels with a better overall image. Overall, the One’s elegant design, powerful sound and clever features like Sense TV should give this Android flagship more than a fighting chance against the likes of the Galaxy S IV and LG Optimus G Pro.