HTC One: Zoes and highlight videos may be best HTC innovations ever (videos)

HTC One: Zoes and highlight videos may be best HTC innovations ever (videos)

Summary: HTC is trying to change the discussion on cameras from megapixels to the full experience. They offer a new ultrapixel camera design with some slick software innovations that set the HTC One apart from everyone.


I spent several hours testing out the camera on the new HTC One this weekend with a focus on the experiences of the software. I was a bit confused about the Zoe Share and video highlights functions, but after seeing the brilliance behind what HTC has done I think these experiences may be compelling enough to get people to buy the HTC One instead of other smartphones.

As you can see in the video below, I actually learned something while recording my video and left it in there since I thought it was funny that even a smartphone enthusiast like me can learn something with brand new devices. I saw a highlight video appear after taking several photos and then tried to manually create one later. I spent 30 minutes trying to figure it out. The funny thing is, HTC makes these highlight videos automatically on the HTC One and I just couldn't believe it was done without me doing ANYTHING at all!

Zoe and HTC Zoe Share

A Zoe, I previously explained where the name came from, is a three second video clip captured like a still photo on the HTC One. On the left side of the camera interface is a small camera icon with two small bars on the sides. When you tap this, the next time you press the camera capture button a Zoe will start and you will see the right capture button turn red from left to right. The red indicates the timing on the Zoe.

I have primarily been capturing Zoes instead of still images because you can extract full resolution still images from Zoes. When you capture a Zoe and then go into the file system you will see the video part captured as a .mp4 file along with 20 still images named in a sequence.

There are actually many advanced cool editing options for Zoes, including sequencing, object removal, always smile, skin smoothing, anti-shine (my forehead pics will love this), and many more. I have to spend more time with those and may shoot a video covering just those editing techniques in the future.

After you capture Zoes, stills, and video, you can then tap the Share button and an HTC Share display will appear (you can have this hidden for future shares) to explain what HTC Share is about. After choosing HTC Share as a sharing option, a screen will appear with an option to add a title and a description. You can then tap the "+" icon and add up to 10 pictures, videos, or Zoes. The final step is to upload this to the HTC Share website. An HTC Share or Zoe Share does not apply the theme and music you see online, that is part of the Highlight Video as I explain in more detail below.

HTC hosts the content you upload and assigns a unique URL that currently stays active for up to 180 days. I have not yet found a way to view all the HTC Shares I created or browse through those submitted so if you want to visit these in the future, make sure to send a copy to yourself or to share the HTC Share URL to someplace you archive things. Sharing options include Facebook, Gmail, Google+, and more. A couple of my own examples of HTC Zoe Share pages can be found here:

One thing I learned that you should be aware of if you shoot with the HTC One at home is that location data is on by default and your home Lat/Long will appear on the HTC Zoe Share site if you don't toggle this off. The map and location data is awesome and I plan to use it when I go on trips, but I don't want others who I share my Zoe Share with to know where I live.

Highlight Video

In addition to Zoe Shares, there is another very cool way to share content you capture with the HTC One. The HTC One creates highlight videos from your still images, videos, and Zoes on the fly. That's right, you don't do anything at all and these 30 second (about 13MB in size) videos are created with some cool effects and background music.

The highlight videos appear in your Gallery, found in the Events section and highlight video folder. I am still trying to find out some of the details behind what events trigger creation of the highlight videos, whether it is time, date, or location-based, or if there is some other way to key the device to develop them. See details below in my update that describe event creation in more detail. There is no way to manually create a highlight video, but the first way I discovered to modify them was to go into an existing highlight video, select new content, and then have a new one created. I actually thought this was how you had to create these and at first I was disappointed in the kludgy method.

Don't make the same mistake as me though. The HTC One creates these automatically — automagically really. After the device creates one, you can then go into it and view it and then easily change to another of the current six themes: Avalon, Burbia, Islandia (my favorite), Eifel (cool black and white theme), Polaris, and Vega (bit too funky for me to use). See the video below that shows the same content in the six different themes. I understand HTC is working on more themes and I can't wait to see what is coming.

Each time you select a different theme, the resulting highlight video is a bit different. HTC splits even 3 second Zoes as it mixes up the content and delivers a fun and unique experience with highlight videos.

You can share highlight videos to HTC Zoe Share, but I prefer to share the videos directly with people or on Facebook so they don't have to visit another site to view the video and the content doesn't disappear off the HTC servers in the future.

UPDATE: I received some instructions from HTC about how to create new events manually. Keep in mind this is really for power users taking a ton of photos and testing things out. The majority of time, most people will see these created automatically for sessions of their lives. Since I was taking lots of photos in the same area and around the same time just one highlight video was being generated. Here is what I was told:

  • New Events are created automatically if the file is created more than 2 hours or more than 3km from the first file in the Event.
  • To create a new Event on your own, follow these steps:
    1. Go to the Gallery
    2. Switch to Album view
    3. Tap on Camera Shots
    4. Tap Menu > copy to
    5. Select the images you want too add to the new event
    6. Then click on Next
    7. Tap the + icon and name a new album. 
    8. This creates a new folder that is visible as its own Event when you go back to Event view and then you should see a highlight video appear after a few minutes.

Most of the time, we see people using their smartphones to take pictures and video and then never really doing much with that content after it is captured. I see lots of poor-quality media on Facebook, as they downgrade images and video, so I am pleased to see HTC finding other ways to share content in a unique way.

The three seconds captured by Zoes can be important, especially when you are taking photos of more than one person or photos of moving children, since you can look through each frame in a Zoe and extract the full resolution image when everyone was smiling. It's cool to see your Gallery come alive with moving pictures and you get a real Harry Potter newspaper feel on your HTC One. The highlight videos really are the highlight of the experience and so far everyone is enjoying my creations.

Congratulations to HTC on coming up with something that distinguishes them from the rest. Now get out and tell everyone all about it.

Topics: Mobility, Android, HTC, Reviews, Smartphones

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  • Thanks

    Thanks for the review. Could I trouble you with a few questions please?
    1. I couldn't help but notice that there was significant lack of detail in the stills of your daughters playing hoops? Is this because these were stills created extracted from a video clip or is the 4MP sensor to blame?
    2. The group photo of the football team (front facing) is significantly blurred. I was of the impression that because of the high shutter speed of the camera this would be prevented.
    Also the group photo of the girls( turned away) is over exposed in the back ground. Was HDR used for this photos?
    3. The so called silly shots show a lot of detail and are very good.

    Confused. Don't know whether to cancel my order for this phone or not. Please help :)
    • Considering this phone...

      I am also interested in the questions above (particularly #2).
    • Some answers

      Not sure why the basketball pics don't look better. Even with slight movement, the HTC One has OIS so it should be better. I am getting a final retail device tomorrow so maybe this "near final" unit didn't have the latest software for the camera or something.

      I'll test the retail one out more and let readers know how things go.

      BTW, I did use the editing software on the HTC One for the two images of the soccer team grouped together so maybe that software oversampled or something.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • Animated gif?

    So basically Zoe is extended animated gif, that you can easily create, right?
    Tomas M.
    • Actually, more of a burst shot with still images

      Like the zoetrope of old, the Zoe is a collection of still images made to look like an animated gif or video. You will see that the frames are actually captured on your device so there is a memory consideration.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • One Question.

    First of all, thanks for the sharing of your personal experience with HTC Zoe. I personally liked the idea of HTC Zoe and it's nice to see it actually brings good to daily use, not just a gimmick to sell the phone. I've got one question though, how big is file of one Zoe photo? And because there is limitations to the memory of the phone, can we choose the best frame from the Zoe and then delete the "unwanted"?

    For example, I can imagine you have shot a lot of your daughter shooting the hoops with Zoe, but not all made it but she might look very good in some of it...So, can I choose the frame where she looks good to save as one picture and then delete the remaining frames to save space in the phone?
    • more than one question

      sorry i failed my maths, that's more than one question.
      • Some answers

        Just getting to grips with Zoe highlights. Like the reviewer I'm loving it so far, the only down side is that it's not very intuitive to use - took me ages to get where I wanted first time around.

        To answer your questions, there are 20 photos for each Zoe and they are 1 - 1.5MB each - the lower MP count works in your favour here. Have yet to be convinced about the quality of each individual picture, but kind of screwed up my first attempt by panning the camera while taking the Zoes - apparently much better just to keep still as if taking a still shot - so the jury is still out on that.

        Zoe saves all the pictures individually and you can delete any you don't like to free up space.
  • zoe photos

    hi, great review/preview of zoe's. just one question. I have seen a lot of videos on youtube about photo editing using zoe's. Does the zoe keep all the photos so editing can be done later, or does the editing have to be done straight away?