HTC One Review
I am going to start off this review by giving you all a little history about myself and as an Android Enthusiast. I was a Verizon Wireless customer for 10+ years before switching over to AT&T and have been a cell phone “junkie” ever since the OG Droid came out on Verizon. I am a firm believe that most people who purchase smart phones will always stay with what they started with… excluding BlackBerry users. Whether it be iPhone or Android, based on my experience whichever OS you had for your first “true” smartphone, is the one that you are going to stay with. With my opinion about smartphone users out of the way let’s get into my phone history…
Like I said before, I started off with an OG Droid as my first Android device. From there the list grows and now that I look back on it I can’t believe the amount of money I have spent on phones. Oh well, can’t take money to grave right? Here is the list…
OG Droid > Droid Incredible > Droid X > Samsung Fascinate > HTC Thunderbolt > iPhone 4/4S > Galaxy Nexus > Galaxy S3 > Droid RAZR MAXX HD > iPhone 5 > Galaxy Note 2 > Galaxy S3 (couldn’t deal with Note 2 Size) > HTC One
Yea… You can say that I spent WAY too much money on phones but if this is a hobby why the hell not? I know friends who spend their money on a lot worse things so don’t judge me . Anyway lets get to “meat” of this One .
This is one of the stand out features of the device. I LOVE the all metal casing of the device and the feel in the hand. It’s a shame that I cover up the device with a case because this is probably one of the best phones I have ever had the pleasure to hold in my hand. When waking up in the morning, the feel of the cold metal; something about it just seems right. That being said, this is a gorgeous device and many of you will want to preserve this phone.
The metal is probably going to be prone to scratches, small deformations over time and the white borders on the silver model will discolor and attract bad coloring from jeans or other dyed surfaces and are very easy scratched. That being said I am happy that the white borders are a very small part of the build and since the phone itself is a joy to hold I can overlook that. This will obviously not apply to the Black One but at the same time remember, the Black metal will show more scratches so it’s a tradeoff there.
That is where the bad ends. The fact that I had to nitpick to find flaws with the design is comical. I just can’t get over the beauty of this device.
Obviously everyone is going to be comparing this to the Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5/5S (assuming Apple doesn’t break their predictable pattern of devices). As you can tell from the listing above I had owned the GS3 which is pretty close to the build of the S4 and I have owned an iPhone 5. While it pains me to say this, holding the iPhone 5 up there on my top devices for hand feel. Apple does have a way to making a phone feel like it’s a quality top end product (as well it should for the price). Unfortunately that can’t be said about Samsung. I am not knocking Samsung for their devices as a whole, but because they continue to use plastic. While it’s cheaper, easier to use and provides a quicker build process this just shows that they are pushing as many out the door as possible. There are many arguments about plastic vs. metal and in the end it’s all personal preference.
However, after having an HTC One for a solid week now, no one has ever said to me that they like their S3 over the One when it comes to the build. Overall I really think that HTC took the right step to make a metal device, they wanted to make sure they had a premier feeling device, and plastic wasn’t the answer. The metal makes it very solid, no real rattling or loose fitting buttons that I couldn’t distinguish while using the device for a week now. Remember, I am basing my review off a GS3/Note 2 build. The GS4 has been out for a couple days now and reviews that I have seen are claiming better build quality in the GS4 but I cannot verify that as of now so I am going with previous experience with Samsung devices. That being said, almost all the reviews out there are saying the same thing. Plastic is getting old. Its 2013 and your being asked to shell out $250 for a new device (or $650+ for full retail) which to me is unacceptable.
The way that HTC has crafted the One is art in itself. They went over the phone with almost a psychotic level of OCD checking every detail to make sure that it can live up to the hype. The tapered sides, the metal body and the size of the device all work extremely well together and once you hold one yourself; you won’t want to put it down.
Software and Sense 5
I will be the first person to tell you that I am true stock Android lover. I have seen my share of skins over Android, whether it be Sense, Blur or TouchWiz they all have their flaws and all have reason why I despised them. The first phone that I had serious issues with that didn't run stock Android was the Galaxy S3. Everything else before that I was satisfied with just plopping a third party launch on top and call it day.
While Sense 1.0 on the Incredible was a cluttered mess, I was at the stage where I didn’t know any better. I installed a third party launch and I was happy. I started to flash ROMs on my phone when I got the Samsung Fascinate, which is where my hacker/modder/rooter stage in my life started to grow. With all the phones that I have had in the past (with the exception of the Galaxy Nexus) I did whatever I could to get my device to stocking looking by installing CM or in later phones AOKP. I loathed all bloated skins such as TouchWiz or MotoBlur and hell I even hated Sense on the Thunderbolt. I did play around with the Droid DNA for a day and I saw that HTC did improve Sense but it still wasn’t my preferred choice.
That said, here comes Sense 5. While this will be compared mainly to TouchWiz on the GS3/4 I feel that this is going to be an unfair comparison. HTC has come light years ahead with Sense 5. They have stripped it down to basics and while keeping their own skin they have made it more like stock Android without taking their own personal touch off. Granted, you can still tell that this isn’t stock Android, its still very much Sense but HTC has seemingly found a way to make Sense run as smooth and seemless as stock Android. Since Android ICS, stock Android has blossomed into a gorgeous OS that runs great on its own. JellyBean only improved that stand alone ability of Android and now with 4.2 Jelly Bean out on Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus, there is no doubting that Google is focusing just as hard on their software as they are hardware.
I have found that I always have been twitching with other devices to unlock, root and flash something like CM10 or AOKP to get rid of the Android skin I am starting to feel that this will be exact opposite. While I still will prefer stock Android, something about Sense 5 just works seamlessly with the One. HTC has removed all the lag with animations and pretty much everything has been changed to make this extremely fast and efficient. I will be honest… When I first got this phone the first thing I did was unlock the bootloader like all my devices before it. I never did anything with it, and therefore I actually went ahead and relocked it. Yes you read that correctly, I relocked my bootloader for the time being. Why? I saw no benefit to it yet since I actually am loving the stock experience with this device and feel there is no need for change.
I wish that I could say the same with TouchWiz, but sadly I can’t. TouchWiz for me always had issues with lag on certain animations, application opening and to me just looks like a cluttered disaster of colors. Samsung also employees the “throw features at the wall and see what sticks” method which in its own right is great but this can bring issues to other essential features of the device, like performance. Yes the S4 has a Snapdragon 1.9Ghz quad core; yes it has 2gb of RAM. The internals are solid but it NEEDS those internals just to be able to run the Android skin and the plethora of features that only about 10% will ever be used on a daily basis… I’m looking at you eye scroll.
The HTC One seems to never have a problem running the OS as well as other apps at the same time. Everything flows gracefully without an hiccups or pauses in between functions. While the iPhone has had this fluidity for years, you can’t compare those operating systems since iOS is limited to what you can do so therefore it does not need top end internals. The HTC One has the same fluidity without having to sacrifice its OS features. In fact, they packed in more features than previous versions of Sense and improved the performance. Not an easy task no matter what OS you may be running and that is what makes this device impressive. HTC has built this device from the ground up and appears to have built the phone around the software. HTC wanted to ensure that the experience was consistent no matter what you demand of your phone. That they have been successful, it has taken me, a hacker/modder/rooter and made him a lover of Sense 5.
I am going to make this short and sweet. DAYUM. This screen is amazing, nothing looks bad and everything is crystal clear to the point of not even being able to notice pixels unless you are up close and extremely personal with the screen. Pictures, videos, games and just general use; everything is pleasure to use because of this screen. Simple as that, nothing else on the current market compares. The Galaxy S4 has a great screen as well, I have not had any hands on time with it yet but I can tell you this. The HTC One screen will still be the best if not tied for the best once I finally see one first hand.
With or without headphones this phone sounds simply amazing. Most phones I really don’t put much stock on speakers seeing that I never actually use them. That being said, this is the first device that I have used speakers to play music while shaving, taking a shower, getting ready for work and other activities like that. Basically the only times I listen to music would be in my car or those times during the day and listening to my favorite songs on the “Boomsound” speakers has been a treat. The sound quality is nothing short of exceptional and the volume is scary loud. Before I got the device, I was skeptical of the volume that reviewers have been praising.
Well, I can safely say that I am a believer. The speakers are so loud that it can drown out mostly anything else that is going to compete for your attention. The most fascinating feature is that even when the volume is cranked up all the way to 100%, the sound quality does not get distorted at all. Sound is still clear and crisp and I was surprised as how well the bass was. I have a feeling that I will be using my speakers on my phone more often than before.
Oh, on a side note that I felt like adding thanks to dmmarck… if you have a habit of sleeping through an alarm in the morning. Get this phone. If it doesn’t wake you up, you are probably dead.
I’m going to throw you some of the buzzwords… Zoe, Ultrapixel and Low light. These are the words that you will mostly hear about the HTC One camera and I will say they are all great marketing words but did they work? HTC took a different road than just throwing more megapixels and they went with a 4MP ultrapixel shooter that performs exceptionally well in almost all light levels. Takes amazingly quick shots that are clear, accurate and impressive even for a modern smartphone. I never used my camera all that often, but I have been using it more so on this device because it takes such great pictures and not to mention really quick photos for those quick to snap fast moving shots. I took multiple pictures in my room where I didn’t have a lot of light on in the room and the camera didn’t have an issue focusing or taking the actual shot.
Now lets talk about Zoe…
Zoe is something that still intrigues me but slightly confusing to me at the same time. I have played around with the Zoe feature and I like the fact that I can take the short video of what I want and basically take one specific frame from the Zoe shot and use that or just keep the entire short video. I don’t really see how this is going to be a feature that everyone will use but I can see its use. If this is something that interests you, great! If not, be assured that you are getting a great camera either way.
This is another category that is going to be short. Simply put, the One destroys everything you throw at it. Games, multitasking and videos; no matter what you are doing the One will handle it. I don’t put much stock into benchmark testing but I did one for the hell of it and it was insane. I have watched HD videos, played games and had about 8 apps open for multitasking and I didn’t even notice a dip in speed. The Snapdragon quad-core lives up to its hype and will take all the abuse and happily return you a blazingly fast performance.
Screen shot of my quadrent standard score below at the time of writing this section of my review:
Pardon the poor quality... when shrinking and uploading it got slightly distorted.
This is usually the make or break category for most people when it comes to new aged smart phones. Some phones have huge batteries, like the Note 2 or Droid RAZR MAXX/MAXX HD but they are either too big or hideously ugly. I have found that with moderate use I can easily get a full day out of my One and have some left to spare the next day. I played music, made some phone calls, send text messages, checked social networks, checked BlinkFeed, played some games and surfed the web and it managed all that perfectly fine till I got home. Granted, I don’t use my phone as much as others so your usage time will vary based on a long list of factors: cellular service, number of services syncing, time between syncs, screen brightness (I always leave mine on auto) and WiFi/cellular use.
Most of my work day I am on HSPA+, my area does not have LTE on AT&T yet, but at home I am connected to WiFi all the time plus I get WiFi in most spots with either AT&T WiFi or Optimum WiFi from my cable provider. If you have LTE your battery will drain slightly quicker considering LTE is a battery hog. It has gotten significantly better since my days with the Thunderbolt but it’s a noticeable difference. This phone while idle will sip battery, its great compared to the GS3. Overnight my GS3 with data off and sync services off would drain around 8-10%. With my One, the battery only drains 4-5% and I don’t turn anything off. Also, power saver mode is a great feature that I use more than I thought I would. When I am at the office and know that I won’t need my phone for a while, I turn it on and it sips battery even slower. Best of all, it doesn’t impact performance.
So I can tell you this, I can make it whole day and half usually on my usage but that isn’t everyone’s benchmark. I can tell you that you should be safe when considering battery life. I have not seen an issue yet, but remember you can’t swap batteries. If you need to ensure you have the juice for all day use you might want to consider something else or an external battery pack. Remember, this phone is powering a quad core CPU and 1080p screen. You shouldn’t expect the world out of the battery, but from my uses it has lived up to my expectations and in fact exceeded them.
I have AT&T, and I have no issues with cell phone reception or calls. I had one call drop but that could be because the area I was in when on the call I only had 1 bar of service and it’s been a bad area even when I had Verizon. I can’t give a bad mark to HTC for that. What I can say is that the speakers make either normal voice calls or speaker phone calls clear, loud and very well balanced between call volume and actual playback. I know it sounds strange but let me say it this way….
Some phones that I had in the past sounded distorted when you turned the volume to 100% but the sound is so low normally that I had no choice to have the in call volume on 100%. With the HTC One I actually had to turn the volume down, not because of distortion, but because of it just being too loud! First time I can say that for a cell phone. I can’t speak for Sprint or T-Mobile, but I know for AT&T the quality has been exceptional. In the end this is a phone, so be assured that you will be perfectly happy in this area.
This is where the One will start to fall short. Accessories, most importantly cases, are going to be harder to find than its other Android counterparts such as the GS4, Note 2, or in the new future Note 3. Lets not even talk about the iPhone 5/5S either as they take the cake. While you will be able to find cases and other accessories for the One, it will be harder to find them and there will be much less selection. While for me, that’s not a bad thing. I usually go with minimalistic cases or naked but my use is not reflective of everyone’s use. There are a lot of cases out there from CruzerLite, Otterbox and Case-Mate just to name a few but some of the case makers that I prefer like Spigen only have 2 cases available while for the GS4 they already have more than 5 with more on the way. So for me, this isn’t that big for a deal but if you need to have a selection of accessories you need to think twice here.
So whats my verdict on this phone after that lengthy review? Well if you spent the time to read it then you can probably guess the answer to that. The One is truly the phone to rule them all. Simply put this is probably tied for my top phone of all time and that is based on a long phone history. The only phone that ties it for first is my beloved Galaxy Nexus. While that phone had it flaws, it was an incredible device that had some of the best dev support out there and provided me with endless hours of fun flashing, modding, theming and just hacking. However, the praise isn't without its hate. I hated the build on the phone, if you can't tell I hate cheap plastic and the constant issues with radios and AMOLED displays plagued the device. I was lucky and got one of the devices that never had an issue but I know many who never had a perfect one.
So where am I going with this? Well I am at a point in my life as an Auditor from one of the largest accounting firms in the country that I don't have time to constantly flash ROMs, radios or kernels on my device to improve it. I need a phone that will be a solid device without having to do anything to make it work better, or in the case of the Nexus, how it should have worked. The One is that phone. After playing with it for a week, I can safely say that I have no desire to flash a ROM or hack the device. Its an amazing phone out of the box and I believe that is what a phone should be. Most people don't have the time to hack their devices like I did before I started my job.
Back off my tangent... All in all, the HTC One is probably the best phone out there right now. Yes, I am saying THE best which puts it over the GS4 and Nexus 4. While I love the Nexus line of devices, I have to say that HTC has brought Android to the next level with their solid build, software and features. If you are looking for a new device and need a change of pace, you can't pass up the One. Simple as that. While the GS4 will get more attention, the HTC One to me is a superior device. I will do everything I can to endorse this phone to friends and family but in the end HTC needs to endorse its device. They need the advertising to make it known that this phone is the benchmark.
Will I stick with this phone for 2 years? Maybe, maybe not. That will all depend on what the next Nexus will be, but rest assured. Until then, nothing will be replacing my HTC One.
Updated by creccaj, Apr 28 '13 @ 7:57 AM.