HTC One review

ZDNet Editors' Choice

HTC One review

Summary: HTC has pulled out all the stops with the One, which looks great, performs well and includes some clever features. The lack of storage expansion and the persistence of BlinkFeed are irritations, but overall the HTC One stands up well against rival flagship handsets.

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  • Editors' rating:
    9.0
  • User rating:
    6.3
  • RRP:
    £441.66

Pros

  • Excellent design and build quality
  • Fast quad-core processor
  • Superb 4.7in. screen
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi support

Cons

  • No microSD storage expansion
  • Non-removable battery
  • BlinkFeed home screen can't be removed

HTC was once the darling of the smartphone world, but Samsung has usurped that crown thanks to products like the popular Galaxy S III and recently released Galaxy S4. HTC has produced plenty of phones recently (if not as many as the prolific Samsung), but badly needs a winner: so how does the flagship £529.99 (inc. VAT, £441.66 ex. VAT) HTC One shape up?

htc-one-1
HTC's flagship Android (4.1) handset features a superb 4.7in. screen with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. (Photo: HTC)

Design
The 4.7-inch HTC One is an excellent example of industrial design: not only is it attractive to behold, but its user ergonomics are also great.

Aluminium is used for the backplate and the screen surround, and fresh out of the box, our matte-black review sample looked and felt superb (it's also available in silver). However, the large expanse of the back could be prone to scratching by keys, coins and other odds and ends that find their way into pockets and bags.

HTC has taken pains to imbue the One with some character. The corners are rounded, while the backplate curves into the long edges, which makes it feel comfortable in the hand. The short edges are also curved to reflect this — it's quite subtle but it does make a difference to the look and feel of the device.

Between the aluminium front and back is a band of plastic that houses the side-mounted buttons and ports. This is a minimal set: the right long edge has a volume rocker; the bottom has the Micro-USB port for battery charging (this also supports MHL, so if you buy an adapter you can use HDMI); on the left edge is a caddy for your microSIM, which releases readily if you have a paper clip to hand. The caddy is there because the One has a sealed-in battery, and lacks a removable backplate.

Not everyone will like the power button's location on the top edge, the convention with larger handsets being that side-mounted buttons are easier to access. There's a reason for its location, however.

htc-one-side
The power button on the top of the HTC One also doubles as an infrared sensor. The handset can be set up to function as a remote control for consumer devices. (Photo: HTC)

Anyone who has followed smartphones since the old Windows Mobile days will know that infrared was once a standard feature. It fell out of fashion, but is now making a comeback. This is because handset makers are looking for new features to cram into their devices, and infrared is the universal standard for remote controls.

HTC has included an infrared feature it calls Sense TV, which you can use to set the device up as a remote control for any of your household media devices. The infrared sensor doubles up with the power switch, which is why it's mounted in the most ergonomic location — on top of the phone. Sense TV also offers electronic programme guides for Sky, Freesat, Freeview and Virgin Media.

The HTC One's 4.7in. screen is flanked top and bottom by grilles that hide a pair of speakers. One of this handset's notable aspects is that it pumps out a decent volume of sound — at good quality too. There's even a reasonably good stereo effect if the handset is properly positioned. We can see ourselves using the built-in speakers quite happily, which isn't something you can say for many smartphones.

The speaker grilles do make for a tall phone, at 137.4mm (5.4 in.). The other measurements are 68.2mm (2.68 in.) wide by 9.3mm (0.37 in.) thick. The HTC One is similar in size to the 4.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S III, which measures 136.6mm by 70.6mm by 8.6mm (5.38in. by 2.78in. by 0.34in.), and to Sony's 5-inch Xperia Z at 139mm by 71mm by 7.9mm (5.47in. by 2.79in. by 0.31in.).

There's not a lot between all these measurements, but it's clear that those speaker grilles do add height. As far as weight is concerned, the HTC One, at 143g (5.04oz.), is heavier than the Galaxy S III (133g; 4.69oz.) but a touch lighter than the Xperia Z (146g; 5.15oz.)

Features
HTC has given the One a broad range hardware and software features, and there are some real innovations. We've already noted the infrared-driven Sense TV, but you'll expect a lot more on a device costing over £500 (including VAT).

Powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor running at 1.7GHz with 2GB of RAM, the HTC One fairly flies along. In fact, nothing we threw at it seemed to slow it down.

Storage capacity is another matter: 32GB may seem like plenty, although on checking we found that only 25GB was available to the user fresh out of the box. HTC also bundles 25GB of Dropbox storage, which might also seem generous. But there's no microSD card support here, which will disappoint anyone who likes to swap cards to move data between several devices — phone, tablet and notebook for example.

The HTC One is an LTE (4G) handset, with 3G (UMTS/HSPA) and GSM/GPRS/EDGE support too. As far as Wi-Fi connectivity is concerned, the device is noteworthy for adding the latest 802.11ac support to the usual a/b/g/n roster — this was a first when the One was announced, but has since been matched by the Samsung Galaxy S4.

We've already mentioned that the HTC One has HDMI support (although the adapter cable you'll need is not provided). GPS and NFC are also integrated, along with the customary array of sensors — gyro, accelerometer, proximity, ambient light. There's also a second microphone on the back of the chassis, which helps to filter extraneous noise during calls.

The HTC One's screen, as already noted, measures 4.7 inches across the diagonal. Its 1,920-by-1,080-pixel resolution equals the 5in. Xperia Z's and delivers a higher pixel density (469ppi versus 441ppi) thanks to its slightly smaller size. Both of these high-resolution screens better the 4.8in. Galaxy S III's 1,280 by 720 pixels (306ppi). The One's display is impressively clear, sharp and bright and is great for watching video, reading text such as emails and browsing websites. Combined with the excellent speakers mentioned earlier, the HTC One's multimedia capabilities are superb.

The HTC One runs Android 4.1, with HTC's Sense interface sitting on top. Sense has had a complete overhaul and is now at version 5. Sense has played a large part in the success of HTC's handsets, and version 5 is in many ways a simpler reinvention.

The app menu, for example, now has the classic Android clock — reinvented as a black-and-white version of itself, sitting at the top of what's by default a three-by-three grid of applications. You sweep up to see more apps, whereupon the clock scrolls off-screen. You can override this and revert to the classic four-by-four grid if you prefer. Apps can be grouped into folders, which lets you organise downloads, for example; HTC kick-starts this process with folders for Media, Google, Productivity and Tools.

htc-one-blinkfeed
BlinkFeed streams updated content to the One's home screen. (Photo: HTC)

The home screen features what's probably HTC's most significant innovation — BlinkFeed. This provides you with ever-changing news from external sources and your own social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr) feeds. BlinkFeed is graphics rich and you'll need to scroll vertically in order to view more than three stories at a time. External sources are selected from a walled garden, so if you have a few regularly monitored websites you're unlikely to be able to add them to BlinkFeed.

Irritatingly, it's not possible to remove BlinkFeed. You can turn it off and consign it to a subsidiary home screen, but it still sits there, displaying no data and occupying a screen that could be used for something you actually want. BlinkFeed clearly has potential, but it needs to be more flexible and accommodate user-identified information sources.

HTC has worked hard on the One's camera, introducing a couple of new features. The resolution is only four megapixels, but these are ultrapixels — essentially bigger pixels that capture more light (300 percent more than conventional pixels, according to HTC) for better performance. We got some good photos from the phone, but the results aren't stellar; to get good 'keeper' photos you'll still need a separate, dedicated camera.

HTC's biggest camera innovation is Zoe. This is a third shooting mode, in addition to stills and video, that takes a three-second video whose frames you can selectively retain as stills. That immediately overcomes those frustrating photos where you miss the best smile, or someone is blinking.

Zoe shots can be viewed in the gallery and shared; and because they're so short, these 'living photos' can be stitched together to make fast-paced longer videos that you can share via YouTube. It is hard to say whether Zoe will really take off, but it's certainly an intriguing feature.

Another potentially good idea is Kid Mode, which lets you create a child-friendly area of your handset. We like the idea, but HTC has bought into a third-party app for this service and it's available for any Android or iOS device.

Performance & battery life
We've noted that the HTC One's quad-core processor is fast, that the screen is superb and that the speakers are excellent. With HDMI-out and full 1080p support it would be entirely feasible to use the HTC One as a presentation device if you had a large screen to link up with. For more detail on the HTC One's performance compared to its peers, see this benchmark test.

The 2300mAh battery has a lot of work to do keeping this handset going. HTC includes a power-saving mode, but this doesn't let you decide exactly how power is saved. Similarly, 'sleep mode' turns data off after 'long periods' of inactivity, but the handset doesn't tell you how long these periods are, and you can't configure it. Even simple settings like turning data off overnight would be useful, and we'd really like a lot more facility for user intervention here.

Anecdotally, battery life was average: during the test period, we generally had to recharge the device during the late afternoon as well as at the start of the day.

Conclusion
HTC has pulled out all the stops with the One. It looks great, sounds great, performs well and includes some clever features. HTC Sense 5 isn't intrusive, and Zoe may well turn out to be a killer app.

The lack of storage expansion and the persistence of BlinkFeed are irritations, but overall the HTC One stands up well against rival flagship handsets such as the Sony Xperia Z and Samsung's Galaxy S4.

Specifications

General
Dimensions (W x H x D) 68.2x9.3x137.4 mm
Weight 143 g
OS & software
Software included Android 4.1 with HTC Sense 5
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.7 GHz
Processor model Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
RAM 2048 MB
Storage
Internal 32000 MB
Display
Display technology TFT touch-screen (active matrix)
Display size 4.7 in
Native resolution 1920x1080 pixels
Connections
Ports Micro-USB (MHL-compliant; supports HMDI via adapter cable)
Networks
2.xG GPRS, EDGE
2G GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
3.xG UMTS, HSPA
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac
Short range Bluetooth 4.0, NFC
GPS technology
Antenna built in
GPS receiver GPS + GLONASS
Input devices
Other on-screen keyboard
Touchscreen Yes
Camera
2nd camera front
Flash Yes
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 2.1 megapixels
Main camera resolution 4 megapixels
Power
Battery type Li-polymer
Removable battery No
Battery capacity 2300 mAh
Number of batteries 1
Standby time 500 h
Talk time 18 h
Miscellaneous
Accessories AC adapter; 25GB of Dropbox space free for 2 years
Expand

Prices

Price
Price GBP 441.66
Price USD 649.99

Topics: Mobility, Android, HTC, Reviews, Smartphones

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Talkback

33 comments
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  • Belated reviews don't get me

    8.0

    Despite being elaborated and meticulous the review comes "waaaaay" to late. HTC One reviews have been published in decent quality weeks ago on other tech savvy medias. Therefore this attempt is futile since most readers are already well informed.
    EnticingHavoc
    • Late reviews...

      5.0

      Late reviews are typically better informed, though this particular review isn't far off from other reviews written weeks ago.
      Bud Fox
    • My HTC One Opinion!

      9.0

      The HTC one is a device for style-conscious users lifestyle. It looks good, feels good in the hand and is its premium aspirations through the power and equitable. On paper and benchmarks the Galaxy S4 has the edge. In daily use the HTC one but does not act as if something lacks in any area.

      Not all users will be happy with flashing feed, even if you have to acknowledge the courage of the manufacturer, by about another for the Android home screen to try. The HTC one but has a big problem: there is with iPhone 5, Galaxy S4 and numerous other very good Lumia 920 smartphones on the market, and they all are in stock and available at local dealers.

      With a price of $600 without contract beyond the HTC one is also the most expensive model of the iPhone fifth It would be a pity if the device would be a commercial flop. Because HTC has raised the bar a little higher in the design to other manufacturers.

      Note: check best deal for HTC One at Androidphonesbuying.blogspot.com/p/htc-one.html
      ESizer
    • HTC astroturfing

      1.0

      Yeah but HTC is still busy astroturfing with fake positive reviews. I actually own one and its a piece of crap.
      onomojo
  • Best Smartphone of 2013

    10.0

    Unlike the S4, the HTC One has a great design and made with aluminum not plastic. It also has impressive front dual speakers and great camera (don't be deceived with its 4mp). Read this before getting it http://www.squidoo.com/htc-one-review-and-best-prices
    Rich Dawson
    • HTC One

      That camera is lousy . They made a mess of it by using the so called ultrapixels. After all said and done , it's still just a 4MP camera and I don't want this.
      Jillxz
      • Compare

        You have to think about what you want the phone camera for. It excels in low light, indoor pictures, and is better than OK in bright light. Sure 13 MP sounds good, but the improvements sometimes are subtle for the uses that the average person presents with.
        Mark Cleary
      • It's not JUST a 4MP camera.

        5.0

        Technically it has a 4MP sensor, however it captures more light per pixel allowing for much better photographs. Unless you need hardcopy output that exceeds the size 4MP will provide, then, as the testing has been showing, this is a superior camera to 8MP and potentially the 13MP in the S4.
        People
      • Please stop knocking things you know nothing about.

        9.0

        I do not understand why some find it so important to spread their opinions about subjects they are clearly not knowledgeable in. If you need to make big posters of photos you shoot in daylight, or if you constantly crop your photos heavily, then you should choose the 13MP if the S4. Canon famously went from 14 to 10 MP on their top of the range compact cameras because if the quality professional photographers and enthusiast photographers demanded. The mobile phone is the camera you always have with you. I take many pictures and videos in low light in the evening or inside, and better performance here is something I welcome. I chose the HTC one x over the s3 solely based on the quality of the camera, where the optics if the one x performed better in low light (I made a comparison in store, I believe the difference is partly to do with the cider max aperture of the HTC, as both are 8MP sensors. As for you who want every new mobile phone camera to have more MP than the previous, please steer away from the flagship phones, they should contain max quality and performance, not quantity...
        CP-Sven
  • HTC One

    10.0

    This is the perfect phone according to me... Let me talk about the 'Cons'..

    Blinkfeed shouldnt be a problem (for those who hate it) because every people owning android devices love to customize using other launchers...

    non-removable battery is no big issue.A person who can carry a spare battery can also carry a small portable charger.instead of having to change the battery one can easily plug in the portable charger inside the pocket only. And the portable charger can also be of higher capacities.Suppose 5000mah..about double that of spare battery.

    and lastly... non-expandable storage... In-built memory is far more secured than microSD-s...if you lock your phone someone can easily remove your sd and get hold of your important files.HTC is also offering 32GB and 64GB models at real low cost than Samsung...

    So the above 'CONS' themselves have a few pros and cons...

    having used both SGS3 and SGN2...This year I'll go for HTC One...
    Prongsss
    • No big issue?

      I, for one, prefer to be able to replace my phone's batteries when it wears out instead of depending on service centers and sending off my entire device to it when only something is wrong with the battery.

      The battery is usually the part in a phone that wears out first. It should be user-replaceable without much effort. This is the main reason I never owned an Apple phone. As a former HTC customer it was sad to see them go down that road as well, as HTC's build quality is excellent.
      vinlaurens
    • HOW is it "more secure"?

      2.0

      I can encrypt my SD Card, and since "time is money" it's far faster to move the card if I move to another device.

      More importantly, the SIM card - which is not the SD data card - holds my number and personal information. And if you're not protecting that, you WILL be SOL.
      HypnoToad72
  • Moving from iPhone 4s

    10.0

    When my iPhone contract expires this will be my primary phone while the BB Z10 will be the business phone.
    Azizi Khan
  • Pretty, but just another android phone

    6.0

    No wireless charging, once you have it, you can't imagine going back to plugging in your phone.
    Huge flaw.

    The S3 and S4 and just plain ugly compared to it though.
    everss02
  • blinkfeed

    8.0

    i lyk da phone totally...but can v keep any picture as a wallpaper?.........i heard that if der's blinkfeed v cant actually keep any wallpaper f my images,i just hav to use da blink feed.....
    help me on this one plzzzz.....
    grandybuddy
    • Do you have foodstamp sauce all over your keyboard?

      Good god, learn to write in English.
      everss02
    • idiot

      1.0

      Learn to spell,
      ldiot.
      Kenny Cruz-ruiz
  • Not good enough for the price compared to the competition

    7.0

    I think the HTC One is a very nice device. However the cost of an HTC One is the same price as a Galaxy Note 2 from T-Mobile. With the software improvement and admittedly gimmicks, the Note 2 is a better device dollar for dollar, IMO. Not to mention, lack of a removable battery and sdcard slot (I'm using a 64gb card because I use my phone primarily as a media and news consumption device) is an unforgivable sin for me.With FlipBoard, I don't need BlinkFeed, which was the biggest selling point of the HTC One for me. So Samsung rules for me.
    tallbruva
  • Galaxy S4 is a superior phone.

    5.0

    I rated the Samsung S4 and HTC ONE is the following 45 categories noting which phone outperformed the other. I have read many articles and feel this is a fair comparison.

    Item: WINNER
    Weight Galaxy 4s
    Build Quality HTC ONE
    Repairability Galaxy 4s
    Durability HTC ONE
    Reliability HTC ONE
    Removable Battery Galaxy 4s
    Removable RAM Galaxy 4s
    On-board RAM HTC ONE
    Battery Life Galaxy 4s
    Size Galaxy 4s
    Camera Features TIE
    Filming Video-Stereo Audio (standardized format) TIE
    Video Image Stabilization HTC ONE
    Picture Quality-Low Light HTC ONE
    Picture Quality-Normal Light Galaxy 4s
    Picture Detail Galaxy 4s
    Picture Stability-Anti Shake HTC ONE
    Picture Quality Auto Mode Galaxy 4s
    Camera Settings TIE
    Photo Galery TIE
    Picture Hi Detail Galaxy 4s
    Camera Auto Modes Galaxy 4s
    Quality of Flash HTC ONE
    Color Accuracy Galaxy 4s
    Watching videos Galaxy 4s
    Screen Brightness in daylight HTC ONE
    Retina Type Display pixel density Tie
    Screen Color Accuracy HTC ONE
    Screen Color Vibrancy/Contrast Galaxy 4s
    Screen Durability Galaxy 4s
    Screen Size TIE
    Microphone Quality TIE
    Sound Quality through speaker(s) HTC ONE
    User Interface TIE
    Call Quality-Microphone HTC ONE
    Android Level Galaxy 4s
    Program Speed and Integration HTC ONE
    Speed of Processor Galaxy 4s
    Ease of Use TIE
    Phone Performance running programs HTC ONE
    Useful Phone Features-include split screen Galaxy 4s
    Android Purity TIE
    Sensors Galaxy 4s
    Stock Keyboard Galaxy 4s
    Price new TIE

    The Galaxy S4 outperformed the HTC ONE in 20 categories, while the HTC ONE outperformed the Galaxy S4 in 14 categories. There's so much the S4 can do that the HTC ONE can't even begin to compete.
    leftcoastwolf
    • A few of those categories are subjective...

      For example size. While you may like a bigger phone, I prefer a smaller one.

      At the end of the day with the current line up, they all pretty much do the same thing so it comes down to looks. The HTC one looks far better than anything else on the market right now and that's why I would buy one.

      As far as camera is concerned, if I want to take proper photos I will use a real SLR camera. Mobile phone cams are purely for happy snaps hence the 4MP HTC One camera is more than adequate.
      deanzdnet