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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  • BoloMKXXVIII - Monday, March 25, 2013 - link

    Nobody uses the SD card slot or removable battery? I replace my battery yearly. Hard to do with the HTC 1 or Iphone. The microSD card slot is not as necessary with a phone with 32 or 64 GB of storage but a lot of phones still come with a measely 8 or 16 GB. Reply
  • jmunjr - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    Nobody? I swap batteries all the time. I don't have to worry about charging my phone when I have a freshly charged battery at hand, and I can go on a several day trip without charging if I use just 2-3 batteries(at least 2 being extended batteries)... It really sucks when I don't have access to charging and don't have an extra battery. It must suck for people who can't charge and can't change the battery.

    I also can say my phone is MUCH easier to handle with an oversized extended batterry since I have such big hands. Any time I use a skinny phone made for little people I have trouble. Once I add the extended battery/cover I instantly can use the phone with one hand...

    As for the SD card, yes I could conceivably live without it but O do swap cards from time to time. I prefer to have the option mainly for external content. Storing apps on the SD card is not preferable for me for this reason, but being able to have lots data accessible while offline is nice.
    Reply
  • mohnish82 - Saturday, March 30, 2013 - link

    I miss the SD card with my GNex while using Linux. The MTP crap doesn't work well in Linux. Had to go SSH route. Reply
  • darwinosx - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    I don't like the grossly oversaturated screens Samsung uses. Given a choice I much prefer the HTC One screen. Whats odd is that Samsung does not use their best display technologies on their phones and tablets. Reply
  • krumme - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    Nonsense. On a s3 you can change profile to neutral, and its far better picture for photos than their best pls screens. On the S4 you can change to rgb adobe. Satisfied? Reply
  • Ne0 - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    That's why there's the Screen Mode option of Dynamic (if you like over saturation), Standard, Natural (what I choose), and Movie. You have options. Reply
  • RichPaterno - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    Why is it that people who like the GS3 display never seem to notice the bluish tint inherent in these GS phones? Side by side with my HTC one x, the bluish tint is really noticeable and quite annoying Reply
  • s44 - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - link

    As I said elsewhere, HTC has designed the best Android device for iOS users who aren't going to switch anyway.

    This seems a poor market strategy, but if you actually ARE going to switch, that would be big.
    Reply
  • danbob999 - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - link

    good point Reply
  • flyingpants1 - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - link

    Yes, very good point. If you're going to switch from an iPhone, why not switch to a device with the benefits of removable battery/microsd? Reply

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