For the past week and a half our own Brian Klug has been hard at work on his review of HTC’s new flagship smartphone, the One. These things take time and Brian’s review, at least what I’ve seen of it, is nothing short of the reference piece we’ve come to expect from him.

In the same period of time I’ve been playing around with a retail HTC One and felt compelled to share my thoughts on the device. It’s rare that I’m so moved by a device to chime in outside of the official review, but the One is a definite exception. By no means is this a full review, and I defer to Brian for the complete story on the One - something we should be getting here in the not too distant future.

I’m not a financial analyst, but HTC hasn’t been doing all that well over the past few quarters. There’s a general feeling that the aptly named One is HTC’s last chance at survival. Good product doesn’t always translate into market dominance, but it’s a necessary component when you’re an underdog. Luckily for HTC, the One is great.

Design

Over the past two years HTC has really come into its own as far as design is concerned. The difference between the HTC One X and the plethora of flagships that came before it was remarkable. Moving to the One, the difference is just as striking.

I don’t seem to mind plastic phones as much as everyone else, but the One is in an appreciably different league compared to its peers. It’s the type of device that you just want to look at and touch. Given how much you do end up looking at and touching your smartphone, HTC’s efforts here seem well placed.

The One looks and feels great. The proportions are a little awkward in my hands, but I fully concede that’s going to vary from person to person. Despite the heavy use of aluminum, I don't feel overly worried about scratching/damaging the finish.

The challenge with any smartphone is to build something that looks distinct in a sea of black rectangles on a wall in a store. With the One (and arguably the One X before it), HTC does a good job of balancing the need to be seen with the need to be subtle. Elegant is the right word here.

While I’m sure there will be comparisons to the iPhone, the fact of the matter is that the design cycle on these smartphones falls somewhere in the 12 - 24 month range. With something as sophisticated as the One, you’re looking at the longer end of that spectrum. For what it’s worth, if I had to estimate I’d say design work on the One probably started before the iPhone 4S came out.

Smartphone Spec Comparison
  Apple iPhone 5 HTC One Samsung Galaxy S 3 Samsung Galaxy S 4
SoC Apple A6 1.3GHz Snapdragon 600 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz Exynos 5 Octa (1.6/1.2GHz) or Snapdragon 600 1.9GHz
DRAM/NAND/Expansion 1GB LPDDR2, 16/32/64GB NAND 2GB LPDDR2, 32/64GB NAND 2GB LPDDR2, 16/32GB NAND, microSD 2GB LPDDR3, 16/32/64GB NAND, microSD
Display 4.0-inch 1136 x 640 LCD 4.7-inch SLCD3 1080p, 468 ppi 4.8-inch Super AMOLED 720p, 306 ppi 5-inch Super AMOLED 1080p, 441 ppi
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 (depending on region)
Dimensions 123.8mm x 58.6mm x 7.6mm 137.4mm x 68.2mm x 4mm - 9.3mm 136.6mm x 70.6mm 8.6mm 136.6mm x 69.8mm x 7.9mm
Weight 112g 143g 133g 130g
Rear Camera 8MP 4MP w/ 2µm pixels 8MP 13MP
Front Camera 1.2MP 2.1MP 1.9MP 2MP
Battery Internal 5.45 Wh Internal 8.74 Wh Removable 7.98 Wh Removable 9.88 Wh
OS iOS 6.1.2 Android 4.1.2 Android 4.1.2 Android 4.2.2
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0, USB 2.0, GPS/GNSS 802.11ac/a/b/g/n + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, IR LED, MHL, DLNA, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0, USB 2.0, NFC, GPS/GNSS, MHL 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (HT80) + BT 4.0, USB 2.0 NFC, GPS/GNSS, IR LED, MHL 2.0

 

The Camera
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  • glugglug - Thursday, April 11, 2013 - link

    SD Card slots are intentionally missing nowadays.

    Apple couldn't charge 120 more for a 64GB iPad vs. a 16GB model if it had an SD slot where you could put a 64GB card for $25.

    As for the people saying to "just use the cloud" good luck trying to access your cloud storage on a train or a flight. Even having the bandwidth for 480p video outdoors is not consistent with most cell service, especially if you enter a crowded area with other cell users.
    Reply
  • raj-jamaica - Saturday, March 23, 2013 - link

    the world would be so much of a better place if 3 pests,namely...jayseeks, cerisecogburn and darwinosx areout of this blog. Reply
  • hp79 - Saturday, March 23, 2013 - link

    Can't wait for the release on AT&T next month. I was waiting for HTC One, but then Microsoft was giving Nokia 920 for free with 2 year contract (upgrade). I really wanted try out WP from long time ago, and was not worried since Nokia 920 is the flagship product of WindowsPhone so I got the Nokia.
    I use the cheapest possible data plan, 300MB for $20 which is a rip off, so I'm careful with how I use data. I looked around, and found out that it didn't even have a data usage monitor app (DataSense is missing from at&t version).
    Also, there's no Starbucks app, no Google Voice, bunch of bank apps missing, and no way to remove the hotmail contacts (I use google contacts) from showing up. Contacts are all duplicated because I have google contacts and hotmail contacts showing up. Sure, they are linked under one name, but eventually I had to manually clean up all the contacts in hotmail.

    It's a shame to Nokia that they used "PureView" mark on the Nokia 920 because the photo quality was so-so, even compared to my Note 1 (N7000). Nokia 920 has Carl Zeiss lens, but I don't think there's any benefit. My ancient dumbphone - Sony C905 takes better pictures than this.

    I returned the Nokia 920 today, and now back in the waiting line for HTC One.
    Reply
  • Techlover30 - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    Honestly 64GB would be plenty for me. Realistically why would you need anymore space than that? Unless your putting A LOT of movies or an absolute crap load of photos on your phone it doesn't really make sense. As for the removable battery, I can understand if people need or want that feature. Nearly every phone I've ever had has had a removable battery but I've never had the need to change out or replace the battery in any of them. More than likely I will be getting the HTC One because of the materials, build quality, better screen and Sense (much better than Touchwiz in my opinion). Don't get me wrong I think the SG4 is a hell of a phone I just like the HTC One better. Reply
  • doctorpink - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    I had a HTC Wildfire S & SGS2.... Htc wins it hands down im my opinion... even if the wildfire s was a low end device.

    Easier to unlock/root , easier to modify, smaller and Sense >> Touchwiz
    Reply
  • Biln3 - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    So the htc one has ddr2 and the gs4 has ddr3 with the same SOC (here in the states). is there gonna be much of a performance difference? Reply
  • cyberguyz - Monday, March 25, 2013 - link

    We're better because we have a 4MP rear Camera with bigger ccd elements? Seriously?

    That is the quality of digital cameras in the '90s. Can't HTC find a way to clean up an 8MP camera?

    I guess it comes down to this:

    How much will it cost? If it is significantly cheaper than the SGS4, this might be a viable solution for those that want to get a little more bang for the buck. But if the cost is the same you need to step back, look at both phones and ask yourself "Which one gives me the most for my money?" and "What am I willing to give up in the name of bling?".
    Reply
  • phillyry - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - link

    Pixels are too small in 8MP and up to let in enough light for good low-light performance. Reply
  • phillyry - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - link

    Re: bling vs. perceived utility

    Different consumers.

    Both extreme views. Reality is that the utility between these phones is marginally different.
    Reply
  • xenol - Monday, March 25, 2013 - link

    Reading a few pages into the comments seems to center around whining that the HTC One has no removable battery or SD card slot. But it makes me wonder... How many people actually use those features on a regular basis? If you don't, then why complain about a feature you don't really use? Reply

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