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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  • darwinosx - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    Practically nobody uses the sd card slot or removable battery as the phone makers know. Besides, like iPhones, the HTC One comes in different memory sizes.
    Google has given up on memory card slots as they don't support them in the latest version of Jelly Bean and are on record as not liking non-contiguous memory.
    Be prepared to see hem go away as many manufacturers have already done. They aren't important to the vast majority of users.
    Reply
  • apertotes - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    wow!!! that is a bold statement seeing how many phones Samsung sold last year. Apple can do whatever they want 'cause they have a horde of blind followers, but on Android there is a thing called competence, and clients can choose between many brands and features. Last year Android winner (S3) was a worst phone than HTC One X in almost everything, but S3 had removable battery and microSD. Maybe you are going to blame it all on marketing, like HTC seems to be doing. They are going to need bigger brains if they really want to catch up. Reply
  • casualsuede - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    To say that Samsung's success came from inclusion of MicroSD cards and removeable batteries is just as bold (and asinine).

    Everyone in the industry knows that Samsung outspent HTC 6 to 1 last year with a device that was pretty darn good. It doesn't matter that the HTC is a little better than the SG3 (if it was), the fact is that everyone is ONLY talking about the Galaxy or iPhone at this point in time and hence Samsung wins...and HTC loses. It had very little to do with the actual handsets.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, March 25, 2013 - link

    so let me get this straight - Samsung wins because of marketing, but APPLE, oh it wins because... well... marketing is not a consideration as to why it's crappiness was everywhere... ?

    Apple's fanboys are only equaled and exceeded by AMD fanboys. Both are to a large extent marketed mindsets, though APPLE earned it seat initially.
    Reply
  • Steebie - Thursday, April 04, 2013 - link

    apertotes: Because you value something, doesn't mean everyone does. I know about a dozen S3 users and none of them...NONE...use the memory slot and half of them don't know what a microSD card is! Why did they buy an S3? That leads to the marketing part of your story:

    Samsung spends, literally, over a billion dollars per year advertising their smartphones. On top of that, they give incentives to phone sales people, such as monthly prizes, for moving the most S3's. You're Joe Blow phone salesman and 50% of customers know NOTHING about phones and ask you what to buy. You rationalize, "Gee...they'll be happy with any phone. I'll be happy with incentives." You tell them to buy the S3 and they trust your geeky sales knowledge and buy it. THAT is how you move more phones than anyone.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    Strange that the One X lost against the S3, then, when by all accounts the One X is a nicer device, other than the battery and the SD card. Reply
  • Ne0 - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    My brother owns a cell phone store. His highest sales from accessories (besides car chargers) comes from SD cards. Protector cases are next and he sells a lot of batteries as well. Reply
  • thesavvymage - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    huh. im not an analyst or anything, but im pretty sure atleast 80% of android phones sold last year had sd slots in them. Reply
  • casualsuede - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    Many of the devices have both a removable battery and MicroSD card slots (Android devices that is). The truth is that Samsung's product hardware isn't that unique. If great battery (that's removable) and MicroSD card slots determined success, then the Droid Maxx at Verizon would have outsold the One X at ATT...it didn't. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, March 25, 2013 - link

    Droid Maxx has those goofy slightly slanted side to corners. It looks strangely retarded and distracting. Reply

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