Zoes and the Highlights Reel

The reality of the device landscape at the moment is that raw specs can certainly break a device if they’re not the right ones, but don’t necessarily sell the device. Experiences on the other hand sell devices directly, either from users indireclty marketing them to friends with demonstrations, or through well packaged advertising by an OEM. The short of it is that HTC can deliver an awesome device with great camera, speakers, and microphones, but without something compelling that touches all of them it’s just not quite as impactful or directly engaging.

Enter the HTC One’s killer app, by far, the combination of a new shooting mode called Zoe (short for Zoetrope) and a gallery feature called the Highlights reel.

Zoes are a new form of photography — part video, part still photo, part software. Put simply, a Zoe is video plus still images, specifically 3 seconds of video with 20 full resolution 4 MP images taken during the video record. HTC’s combination of ISP, SoC, and sensor choice enables them to take that 1080p video and simultaneously capture full resolution images, and that’s what a Zoe is. Inside the gallery Zoes animate and then go back to being still, and there’s a UI for scrubbing through the still images which make up that particular Zoe. To shoot a Zoe, one simply taps the button in the camera UI and hits the photo button, which then turns into a progress bar that fills with red as the Zoe is taken.


The gallery will animate thumbnails with Zoes and video content inside (left). Tapping on the big double wide icon up top triggers the Highlights Reel (right)

Zoe video is slightly lower bitrate and framerate, 1080p24 8 Mbps H.264 High Profile, but in practice these are good enough if you’re trying to balance a mode that essentially treats videos like photos.

ZoeMediaInfo

When I first heard about Zoes I was worried that HTC would break the DCIM (Design Rule for Camera File System - Digital Camera IMages) rules and dump the Zoe in some proprietary file extension or zip inside another directory. I was at first overjoyed when I learned they didn’t do exactly that. Instead these are just videos and photos with a different name that the gallery app parses and turns into the Zoe experience, eg “IMAG0815_ZOE005.jpg” and “IMAG0815_ZOE006_SHOT.jpg” for the shot you’ve chosen and “IMAG0815_ZOEVIDEO.mp4” for the corresponding video.

I say at first I was happy because I use Dropbox Camera Upload for all the myriad phones I have in conjunction with a python script I made that sorts the images into appropriate folders based on the camera type in use. The unfortunate part is that Zoes plus Dropbox’s camera upload file renaming makes looking through images a nightmare, and you wind up with 20 per. Hopefully the two will arrive at some collaborative solution since Dropbox and HTC have partnered to offer free storage on non US variants of the One. The rest of the Zoe experience, however, is quite good.

The only thing that takes a bit of a hit is low light performance while taking Zoes, partly because video framerate is prioritized and thus HTC can’t run as long exposures. Most of the time this isn’t a big deal until you’re in an extremely dark scene.

The real advantage to shooting Zoes instead of normal photos or videos is what you can do with them on the One with the next feature — the Highlights Reel.

HTC has combined the concept of events inside its gallery with a unique computationally edited 30 second video experience called the Highlights Reel. After tapping on the top icon in a gallery in the element view, you’re greeted with a short video built from all the images and videos from the event. Zoes, images, and videos get arranged into a video with music and appropriate editing, and it looks awesome.

Still images get a Ken Burns effect with panning and zooming, videos play back in short little sequences, it seems as though HTC also does face detection to pick out what images and videos to use, and the result usually is enough to tell the story of an evening or some social engagement if you’re actively taking Zoes and other media. There are six different themes, with different filters and moods that range from dreamy to making you feel like you’re part of some reality show. At present only those six combinations of music, filters, and cuts are available, though in the future HTC will add the ability to include custom music and perhaps more themes.


The Highlights reels can be viewed immediately (rendered in real time on the device, which is impressive) or encoded and saved out to a video for doing what you want with. In addition HTC has a first party sharing service called Zoe share which stores the Highlights Reel, Zoes, and media on HTC’s servers for 180 days with either an HTC account or Facebook login. I uploaded an example Zoe Share based on my low light downtown test photos and videos, and another one based on a few outings with friends.

I’ve made a lot of great Zoes in my time with the HTC One, and the best ones have people and friends in them, unfortunately those are the people most likely to get angry about me sharing videos of their antics. If you shoot Zoes for an evening or take a trip and only shoot them however, the One will produce some awesome Highlights reels. The HTC software does an incredibly good job creating something engaging and professional looking videos with minimal interaction. It’s really optimal to shoot Zoes if you’re going to be looking at the Highlights reel afterward, and this is the exact kind of content you want to use with the front facing speakers. It’s the perfect example of a killer app which shows off all the cool parts of the HTC One.

Video Quality Analysis Display Quality - 4.7-inch 1080p
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  • TEJASH - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link


    I actually did quite a bit of research on these cell phone trade in programs, and www.smartphonecashin.com is definitely the highest paying site. They are also very straightforward and easy to use.
    Reply
  • batongxue - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    Hope Brian will update some parts of this awesome review according to latest software update for the ONE.
    I really hope that HTC could make better use of OIS with further updates.
    Reply
  • matthewls - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - link

    I ordered the HTC One after liking a nexus 7 tablet. After getting the HTC One I spent a few days frustrated with the phone because I couldn't mod the launcher to my liking--couldn't increase the icon spacing enough, couldn't change the dock settings, all this annoying crap on the "sense 5" and "blinkfeed." Then I discovered launcherpro, and now the phone is a delight. I would like to get the 3 bottom "buttons" working to have separate, single tap "home" and "running app list" control, but I'm sure that will get here soon enough. Reply
  • vipuls1979 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    there are certain cons compared to Samsung Galaxy S4 , 1st , battery is not removable secondly storage cannot be increased , for more comparision you can visit http://mobiknowhow.blogspot.com Reply
  • htj - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Great detailed review. Very refreshing compared to other sites.

    I picked up an HTC One on Sprint... the quality control seems really bad. The buttons were recessed and difficult to press. I swapped it out for another one with better buttons, and that one had 2 stuck pixels out of the box. Returned that one and will get an S4 eventually.
    Reply
  • getoliverleon - Sunday, May 26, 2013 - link

    Thank you so much for the long, detailed and absolutely fun to read review! I've been reading for years, but this review made me register to comment.

    One thing I sorely miss from your review: The Sense UI used to have very enticing features in the contacts app for power users. You could have something like a unified messaging view for your contacts. I would love to read about this, the good contacts widgets and the other changes HTC made to the stock Android experience. Sadly the review falls short of this. But the rest is great!!
    Reply
  • arunbala - Thursday, June 06, 2013 - link

    Why I'm Going Back to my 18-month old iPhone 4s...

    I've been on iOS since the smartphone revolution. I use my iPhone a lot for browsing the web (on the chrome app), corporate email (stock iOS mail client), Gmail, Whatsapp, paid navigation (Navigon), Netflix, Lots of music, Facebook, following sports scores through built in apps, shopping apps (Amazon, Red Laser, BestBuy) some games and financial management apps.

    I'm clearly a techie and not averse to tweaking my phone. I've been a serial jailbreaker on both my old iPhone 3GS and my current iPhone 4S. I mostly jailbreak for the all the efficiency tweaks and customizations. When my iOS 6 jailbreak crashed I was forced to restore to the stock iOS experience.

    Right around this time the HTC One rumors started pouring in. I was growing sick of all the customizations I lost as I followed the HTC One's launch very closely and waited with bated breath for Brian's full review after the teaser mini-review from Anand. I got the black HTC One 32GB from Costco online for $129.99. I thought this was an awesome deal. Here are some of my thoughts and observations after a week with the phone and why I returned it.

    What I LIKE about the HTC One:
    32GB, 129.99 on contract, LTE, Ultrapixel Camera, Awesome 4.7” screen, great Industrial design and iconic look

    I really loved the industrial design of the black HTC One, except for one glaring aspect that has been oft repeated in other reviews. The speaker grill assembly has very poor quality. The bottom speaker grill was not sitting flush with the screen and formed a small ridge under the screen. This ridge acted as a convenient platform for dust and grime to collect on. This was just from 2 days of use.

    What I HATE about the HTC One:
    Battery life, Battery recharge time, Android app quality, Blinkfeed, Facebook shares showing up in Gallery

    The battery on the HTC One lasted way less than the iPhone as mentioned on the Anandtech detailed review. This was something I expected. How long it takes to charge up was also mentioned on the detailed review but I was shocked by what this meant in real time use. The painfully slow recharge time in combination with the low charge retention made for an awful real world experience. Coming from an iPhone I found myself really paranoid about even using my phone for basic stuff worrying if I was going to drain the battery.

    I've been reading over the last couple of years about how the Android app marketplace has now completely caught up with iOS. I found this to be grossly mis-representative. I went hunting for an exchange email client app for my corporate email not realizing at the time that this was one of Android's weakest links. After trying the stock HTC mail app, K-9 and a free version of Toucdown I was left very disappointed about the quality of these apps. I tried the built in browser, Firefox and Opera browsers for kicks and found them seriously lacking in the polish that I observed on the chrome app. There were a couple of similar examples but the end result of all these app hunting exercises left me seriously missing the app experience I had on my iOS device.

    I came to Android thinking I would be getting the added benefit of customizations and widget screens without losing out on app quality. I found out how big of a compromise I would be making in giving up great iOS apps for not so great equivalents on Android. I was left feeling that most app makers did not care about creating great experiences on Android or that the severe fragmentation significantly hampers their ability to translate their vision into reality on a consistent basis. This seems to me like a disadvantage Android will always have over iOS that I am personally surprised by this having misled by the generous amount of press Android's emergence seems to receive.

    This combination of crappy real life battery usage and the Android app experience has me running back to my iPhone despite an otherwise lovable HTC One for all the things they did right - Ultrapixel Camera, Top notch design (even though manufacturing quality control doesn’t come close to Apple's), gorgeous screen etc.

    I've still not given up on the HTC One. I read rumors about a 4.3 inch HTC One mini with a 720p screen. Maybe the HTC One mini will have better battery life? I want to see if HTC will release the stock Nexus ROM for folks that buy the HTC One on contract.

    Having said all this if I do decide to try a HTC One again, I will do so with the full realization that I will be compromising significantly on App quality. I will have to plan better to use specific apps on my iPad to make up for crappy ones on Android and prepare myself for a less compromising transition from iPhone to HTC One. At the end of the day I'm not sure if the compromises will be worth it if the next iPhone manages to meet or exceed the current expectations set by HTC One hardware and iOS 7 brings some degree of compromise in terms of efficiency focused features and customizations.

    For now, I'm going to wait till fall.....
    Reply
  • npnpatidar - Thursday, June 20, 2013 - link

    I really like this mobile. My only concern is battery longevity that it will become "use and throw" after 2 years. As I am spending 40K Rs., I want to hold it for long time. Could HTC Service Center replace the battery ?
    By the way great review Brian !!!
    Reply
  • erickr.cr - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    I was told HTC that the EMEA WCDMA Bands do not use the 850mhz frequency, do you check that? Reply
  • TinCity - Tuesday, July 02, 2013 - link

    My mother just bought the HTC One and it is just awesome. Got her a case from Amazon and couldn't believe the discounts they have. I'm sharing this with everyone, here's a list of the cases with the biggest discounts and best reviews: http://amzn.to/1ayqnnq. Very Happy. Reply

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