Android/Sense

The One ships with Sense 5.0, and I have to say that the latest version of Sense is really the first custom Android skin that I don’t mind. I’m not sold on Blinkfeed, the default homescreen that allows you to aggregate content from multiple web sources as well as Twitter and Facebook, but thankfully you can easily change that default to something more traditionally Android.

With Sense 5.0 HTC dramatically reduced the presence of widgets on the default home screen. Other than the Blinkfeed screen, there’s only a single home screen by default and the only widget on that screen is a Google search box. You can obviously add all of the widgets you want, but this is a noticeable departure from HTC’s strategy in the past. To be honest, it’s a lot cleaner.

Sense 5.0 isn’t intrusive, and the work HTC has done in the gallery app sort of make the customizations worth it (more on this later). Even the default pre-load of apps is very sensible.

Thanks to the underlying use of Android 4.1.2 combined with the fast Snapdragon 600 SoC, UI frame rate is incredibly smooth. Some interactions are still not perfect (e.g. zooming in Google Maps) but the overall experience is very polished and very fast.

 

Performance & Battery Life

The One is the first Snapdragon 600 based smartphone that I’ve used regularly. For those who aren’t familiar with Qualcomm’s latest branding change, Snapdragon 600 refers to a quad-core Krait 300 based SoC with Adreno 320 graphics (APQ8064T). The SoC still uses the same 28nm LP process as the previous quad-core flagship (APQ8064), but clocks are a bit higher (1.7GHz in the One, 1.9GHz in the Galaxy S 4).

GPU clocks appear unchanged, which is contrary to what I was told at the launch of Krait 300 but it’s entirely possible that we’ll see implementation with higher GPU clocks.

Performance, as I mentioned before, is very good. Even the speed of the NAND HTC used in the device is among the best I’ve seen in Android devices. We’re still not yet at the point where I believe smartphone SoC performance is good enough, but at least we won’t see a huge jump in SoC performance (at similar power) until the move to 20nm in mid to late 2014.

The impact of all of this on battery life, as always, depends on your usage model. I’ve been using the international One on AT&T, and 3G battery life is comparable to the iPhone 5 on the same network (non-LTE) at identical brightness levels. I have yet to see what the difference will be like with LTE enabled.

Obviously with four cores and a larger, higher resolution display, the One definitely has the ability to draw more power than the iPhone 5. Keep the cores more active and/or drive the display at very high brightness levels and you’ll see worse battery life. For the past couple of years I’ve been talking about the increase in dynamic range when it comes to smartphone battery life, the One is no different in this regard. Brian will have a full rundown of battery life data on the One in his review.

Other Frills: Of Big Screens and Usability

For me, the iPhone 5’s display is a little too small, and the One is probably a little too big. I think I agree with Brian here in that the ideal display size is somewhere around 4.3”. That being said, I find both devices (the 5 and the One) to be comfortably usable. The 5 is better for one handed use, while the One is better for actually consuming web content. In pocket, the One is thin enough to not be a problem.

Although it’s probably a bit overkill, I am pleased with the move to 1080p across all of the high end Android smartphones. The One’s display looks excellent and lacks the oversaturated colors of the alternative AMOLED displays.

The One also features stereo speakers that get impressively loud (louder than any other smartphone I’ve used, by a considerable margin). I keep my phone on silent all the time but when showing others highlights reels, the One’s loud stereo speakers definitely come in handy.

The final element of the One that I’m really happy about is the integration of 802.11ac support. The One is good for WiFi speeds of up to 275Mbps (that’s actually tested, not theoretical).

The Camera Final Words and the Galaxy S 4 Comparison
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  • darwinosx - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    Practically nobody uses the sd card slot or removable battery as the phone makers know. Besides, like iPhones, the HTC One comes in different memory sizes.
    Google has given up on memory card slots as they don't support them in the latest version of Jelly Bean and are on record as not liking non-contiguous memory.
    Be prepared to see hem go away as many manufacturers have already done. They aren't important to the vast majority of users.
    Reply
  • apertotes - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    wow!!! that is a bold statement seeing how many phones Samsung sold last year. Apple can do whatever they want 'cause they have a horde of blind followers, but on Android there is a thing called competence, and clients can choose between many brands and features. Last year Android winner (S3) was a worst phone than HTC One X in almost everything, but S3 had removable battery and microSD. Maybe you are going to blame it all on marketing, like HTC seems to be doing. They are going to need bigger brains if they really want to catch up. Reply
  • casualsuede - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    To say that Samsung's success came from inclusion of MicroSD cards and removeable batteries is just as bold (and asinine).

    Everyone in the industry knows that Samsung outspent HTC 6 to 1 last year with a device that was pretty darn good. It doesn't matter that the HTC is a little better than the SG3 (if it was), the fact is that everyone is ONLY talking about the Galaxy or iPhone at this point in time and hence Samsung wins...and HTC loses. It had very little to do with the actual handsets.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, March 25, 2013 - link

    so let me get this straight - Samsung wins because of marketing, but APPLE, oh it wins because... well... marketing is not a consideration as to why it's crappiness was everywhere... ?

    Apple's fanboys are only equaled and exceeded by AMD fanboys. Both are to a large extent marketed mindsets, though APPLE earned it seat initially.
    Reply
  • Steebie - Thursday, April 04, 2013 - link

    apertotes: Because you value something, doesn't mean everyone does. I know about a dozen S3 users and none of them...NONE...use the memory slot and half of them don't know what a microSD card is! Why did they buy an S3? That leads to the marketing part of your story:

    Samsung spends, literally, over a billion dollars per year advertising their smartphones. On top of that, they give incentives to phone sales people, such as monthly prizes, for moving the most S3's. You're Joe Blow phone salesman and 50% of customers know NOTHING about phones and ask you what to buy. You rationalize, "Gee...they'll be happy with any phone. I'll be happy with incentives." You tell them to buy the S3 and they trust your geeky sales knowledge and buy it. THAT is how you move more phones than anyone.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    Strange that the One X lost against the S3, then, when by all accounts the One X is a nicer device, other than the battery and the SD card. Reply
  • Ne0 - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    My brother owns a cell phone store. His highest sales from accessories (besides car chargers) comes from SD cards. Protector cases are next and he sells a lot of batteries as well. Reply
  • thesavvymage - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    huh. im not an analyst or anything, but im pretty sure atleast 80% of android phones sold last year had sd slots in them. Reply
  • casualsuede - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    Many of the devices have both a removable battery and MicroSD card slots (Android devices that is). The truth is that Samsung's product hardware isn't that unique. If great battery (that's removable) and MicroSD card slots determined success, then the Droid Maxx at Verizon would have outsold the One X at ATT...it didn't. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, March 25, 2013 - link

    Droid Maxx has those goofy slightly slanted side to corners. It looks strangely retarded and distracting. Reply

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