With its unibody aluminum smartphone, HTC will finally be launching the same Android device with the same name on multiple US carriers. The HTC One combines amazing hardware with a unique software experience.
2012 was a tough year for HTC and they need to do something dramatic in 2013 to compete for customers in the Android market.
Today, we see the official announcement of the HTC One and, after using one for a bit a couple weeks ago, I think HTC is on the right path to success.
With the HTC One (I agree that using this name again may be a bit confusing) we see innovations in hardware and software along with HTC finally releasing an Android device across multiple carriers in the US with the same name and hardware. Apple does this with the iPhone and Samsung has done it with the Galaxy S III and Note II.
HTC was able to actually release hardware with the same name and design on multiple carriers with the HTC 8X, but that is running a platform (Windows Phone 8) that has yet to gain any appreciable market share. I think having the HTC One, an Android smartphone, on multiple carriers with the same name and design will indeed help the HTC brand and that is something that must be done to succeed.
HTC One name
Last year at Mobile World Congress we heard HTC's strategy to reduce the number of devices and focus on quality. We heard of the HTC One brand, but then saw US wireless carriers kill that idea with the launch of different devices all with different names. We saw the T-Mobile HTC One S, AT&T One X, Verizon Droid DNA, and Sprint HTC EVO 4G LTE.
I still think the HTC One X is one of the best Android devices ever made, yet with the release only on AT&T it seems few even knew how great it was.
While it may be a bit confusing for us smartphone enthusiasts that HTC is launching the HTC One, again, I doubt many consumers will even know HTC tried using that naming strategy last year. I am not a marketing specialist so don't know if this HTC One branding will resonate, but with the same device launching on multiple carriers and all looking the same we may hear people asking for The One.
HTC One hardware
I think the new all aluminum body HTC One is the highest quality smartphone I have ever held in my hands. The Apple iPhone 5 has fantastic industrial design, as does the HTC Droid DNA. IMHO, HTC took this further with their HTC One design. Some have said it looks like an iPhone, but you really have to hold it to see that it is MUCH different.
NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 a/ac/b/g/n WiFi, DLNA, Infrared (more on this below)
Dual front facing speakers with integrated amplifiers
HTC Ultrapixel camera with 2.0 micrometer pixel, F2.0 aperature, 28 mm lens, and 1/3' sensor
2,300 mAh Li-polymer battery
Dimensions: 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm and 143 grams
It is fantastic to see another amazing 1080p LCD display, the ample RAM, and finally a healthy does of internal storage capacity, since it seems that HTC won't put microSD in these new high end devices. The dual front-facing stereo speakers are a nice touch.
While camera phone geeks may be concerned about the new ultrapixel camera, I think as long as HTC can show the One takes great photos and videos they may be able to get away from the megapixel discussion that people focus on way too much. More megapixels does not mean a better picture. Nokia showed this with the 808 PureView that captures 8 and 5 megapixel photos and then uses the technology to achieve the 41 megapixel level. You can capture 38 full res photos without PureView imaging and no one can argue that the Nokia 808 PureView is the ultimate in camera phones.
HTC's new camera has a sensor that they claim lets in 300 percent more light than traditional camera phones. It also has optical image stabilization (OIS), which is a function that prompted me to buy the Nokia Lumia 920. I cannot wait to test out the HTC One and see how it compares to the lowlight and image stabilized experiences of the Lumia 920.
The front facing speakers also lead to the HTC BoomSound feature. These speakers have a dedicated amplifier, along with Beats Audio. HDR recording is also present with dual microphones and advanced audio processing. You will also find HTC Sense Voice that boosts call volume and quality in busy environments.
HTC One software
We see a few new innovations and interesting ideas in the HTC One. Peter Chou, CEO of HTC Corporation stated:
People today immerse themselves in a constant stream of updates, news and information. Although smartphones are one of the main ways we stay in touch with the people and information we care about, conventional designs have failed to keep pace with how people are actually using them. A new, exciting approach to the smartphone is needed and with the new HTC One, we have re-imagined the mobile experience from the ground up to reflect this new reality
The main new innovation we see that people will notice right away is HTC BlinkFeed, which is the focus of the new home screen experience. HTC BlinkFeed presents personally relevant information rather than typical Android widgets, Live tiles, or application shortcuts. You can fully customize what appears here so you can make the HTC One a Facebook phone if you want by just having Facebook updates appear; make it a sports phone with sports feeds appearing; or have a wide assortment of fresh content.
For those who don't want this unique home screen experience, you can always swipe once to a typical Android home screen environment. However, I know that many family and friends pick up the iPhone or Windows Phone because they say they are too overwhelmed by Android and I think that HTC's BlinkFeed may appeal to these type of smartphone buyers.
One of the coolest new functions I saw when I met with HTC folks was the HTC Zoe camera utility. Zoe is named after the zoetrope, a device that appears to make still images move. The HTC Zoe utility lets you use the camera to create Zoes, 3-second videos that can then be easily "mashed" together with still images, videos, and theme music to create fun highlight films that you can then share with others.
The gallery on the HTC One comes to life too, much like the newspaper you see in Harry Potter films. The experience is very cool and I honestly don't think these highlight films are gimmicks, but will be a useful way to share events with people in a more dramatic way than just through still photos or videos. I can see using these when I take business trips to share destination highlights with my family, to capture my daughters' basketball and soccer game highlights, and other memorable events like birthday parties.
Another new feature we tested out is the HTC Sense TV software that lets you control your TV, set-top box, and receiver through the infrared unit that is found in the top power button. In addition to simple control, the software has ways to make the TV viewing experience one based on favorite stations and genres.
Pricing and availability
Until carrier announcements are made, we won't know detailed pricing or availability information. HTC did state that the HTC One will be launching around the world starting in March. In the US, we will see it on T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Cincinnati Bell. We haven't heard anything about Verizon's plan, but the HTC Droid DNA is very similar to the HTC One and Verizon may be waiting to clear out some of that inventory.