HTC One: Initial Impression & Hands On

There’s something about the HTC One that attracts me. In a few short sentences, it flaunts a stunning aluminium design, powerful quad-core processor, and a beautiful 4.7-inch 1080p screen. There’s alot of emphasis on media, with an impressive camera and gallery application, and a focus on sharing them, through social media.

Pricing and Availability

The HTC One will be sold by all three telco cellular providers in Singapore. Early birds get a HTC Premium Package (screen protector, case, ext battery pack) For Singtel, the phone is $528 with the basic data plan, and besides the premium pack, they would throw in the HTC Mini, a bluetooth phone accessory. Starhub sells it at $428 and M1 at $548.

Design

HTC has taken a bold step here with the design and it has been lauded by many other online reviews. Keeping the screen size at 4.7″, HTC had instead focus on the sleek aluminium finish, which gives it a sleek and professional aesthetic finish. The white polycarbonate banding around the sides and across the back provides a striking accent, and keeps the phone from looking too cold or sterile. With the Samsung Galaxy S4 not straying too far from the S3 roots, I would say that the HTC One have outshone its competitors in the looks department.

htc one aluminium back

HTC-One-vs-Nexus-4-002

Display

HTC has always made good quality displays and the HTC One’s display continues the trend. While the One’s S-LCD3 IPS panel is extremely subdued in comparison to Samsung’s AMOLED’s technology, I feel that it has the best colour re-production and accuracy. Samsung’s display while vibrant has a tendency to be over-saturated and a slight blue tinge. On the other hand, AMOLED trumps the true-black blacks and the vibrant colour tones and hues. I just personall but I prefer AMOLED diehards will still lament LCD’s not-quite-black blacks, but I’d argue the other benefits (brightness, color accuracy, true 1080p) are absolutely worth it.

Another point to note is the size of the screen. HTC has detracted from the rest of the competition to launch a slightly smaller display at 4.7″ instead of the usual 5″. 0.3″ really doesn’t make much of a difference, just provides that additional 0.5cm width for videos. Previously, I tried out the Sony Xperia Z previously and it was still pretty comfortable. My opinion is this: For one hand operation, the comfortable size is anything under 4.3″. The next range from 4.3″ to 5″ are still OK for one hand operations, but are generally slightly too big to use comfortably and if that’s the case, HTC perhaps should have just went to the far end of the range with 5″.

HTC BlinkFeed and Sense 5

HTC have gone to great lengths to improve the user interface, but the overall experience is always subjective. I have tried out a number of ROMs and launchers, and on my Galaxy S3, I have a tendency to return to the basic Google launcher. But after a few days, of using the HTC One, it grew on me. I like how they integrated the whole news and social media into your home screen with BlinkFeed.

htc one-blinkfeed

Content is always key and they have onboard Straits Times, which is good but I want more. Or the ability to add my own. For example, tech news, there’s only CNET, Stuff and the Verge. I miss other content such as Engadget, Gizmodo for example. And they segregate content by location, if I specify Singapore, I can get Straits Times but no Engadget. If I specify location as United States, then its vice versa. If it had more content options, I would use BlinkFeed more, plain and simple, because it’s actually pretty good at what it does.

The social integration into BlinkFeed (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Flickr are supported) is what’s going to make it for most average consumers. You can even post from the BlinkFeed splash to Twitter or Facebook. People go to social networks to read a feed of things that are potentially relevant to them, and to get a glimpse into the lives of people they care about (or don’t). Facebook Home actually is doing the same thing.

The home button’s behavior has been changed from stock Android in a way. If you launch an app from the app drawer, then hit the home button, you don’t go ‘home’ – you go back to the app drawer. It still weirds me out occasionally, and I’m really not sure this was a good idea. I’m fairly used to it now, but it still makes my brain double-take sometimes when I end up back at the app drawer after pressing home. Wait, am I home? Nope, I’m in the app drawer – I need to press home again to actually get home. It’s a different UI concept as the whole app drawer and homescreen are integrated together, and would take some getting used too if you come from another Android phone.

htc one notification

I didn’t like the over simplification of the notification drawer: there’s a clock, the date, a persistent toggle to activate power saver mode, and a settings shortcut. I missed the ability to toggle key settings such as WiFi, Bluetooth etc from the notification bar. I ended up having to use a widget for quick settings.

For multitasking (shown above), also they have changed the implementation somewhat as compared to stock Android – instead of long pressing home, you have to double-tap the home button to bring up the recent apps menu, which HTC has totally redesigned. You get a 3×3 grid of your recent apps – meaning a maximum of 9 recent apps to choose from. The whole 3×3 grid is actually a whole lot more intuitive and practical than the scrolling list implemented on default Android. Swipe up to kill apps.

Conclusion

That’s it for the initial impressions. I would cover the other key features such as the TV IR remote, the very impressive speakers (BoomSound), and the new camera features in an another post.

HTC has gone All-In and banked all hopes on the One as the flagship model for 2013. Delaying the initial launch from March to April had put it very close to the Galaxy S4 launch, probably the most significant competitor expected to launch by end April, and more people would be sitting on the fence now, to wait for the S4 release to compare the two models.

Thus far, I have to admit, the HTC One is an almost near-perfect smartphone in my books. Too bad its a tad too expensive though, considering that for the price, I could get two Google LG Nexus 4. But price aside, its an impressive package both in terms of hardware and software.

Sean

Sean is a tech geek and star wars fan. He loves playing with new gadgets, writing little code snippets in Python, JS, and dabbling with Android programming from time to time, while keeping a lookout for the next biggest happening in the world of tech!

2 thoughts on “HTC One: Initial Impression & Hands On

  1. Hi this is a good start on HTC One review. Can you review on the ultra pixel camera for the next one? Im still quite skeptical on the picture/video quality as compared to megapixel. The sales person manage to compare the superior quality under low light etc. Indeed HTC has put alot of thought on the usability of the photo app as well. However Im still not sure if the camera is really better in terms of hardware and software. What do you think?

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