Today HTC announced its next flagship smartphone, the new HTC One. I was lucky enough to spend a brief 48 hours with the device and I can say with confidence that HTC has delivered one of the best Android phones I have ever seen. HTC has already sold me on the device, but they will face a tough time trying to sway the masses away from Samsung.
The HTC One includes most of the bells and whistles you could wish for, and it packs several unique features that you might not be able to do without after using the device. Highlights of the HTC One include a breakthrough UltraPixel Camera with HTC Zoe, Sense 5 UI with HTC BlinkFeed, HTC BoomSound, Snapdragon S600 processor, 1080p display, and an iconic design with zero-gap aluminum body.
A quick scan of the press release or spec list might confuse you with some new marketing terms, so lets dive into the details.
HTC UltraPixel Camera with HTC Zoe
My favorite feature of last year’s HTC One X was the camera experience, and HTC has taken that to new heights with their latest flagship. Once again, HTC has designed their own dedicated ImageChip to enable enhanced camera features that only they can offer.
HTC’s biggest risk with the new One is the custom camera module. It includes a best-in-clase f/2.0 aperture lens and a breakthrough sensor that gathers 300 percent more light than traditional smartphone cameras. This new approach delivers excellent photos and low-light performance, but the max resolution of images is 4 megapixels and that might worry some consumers who buy into the megapixel myth.
Just like the gigahertz rating of a processor won’t tell you the true performance of a PC, we can not rely on megapixels to tell us the quality of a camera. HTC will try to educate consumers and tell them it’s the size and quality of the pixels that really counts, which we think is the reason why their marketing department came up with the UltraPixel name.
The camera experience that I am most excited about is HTC Zoe, which allows the user to capture high-res photos and videos at the same time. This unique camera mode will let you record a brief moment in time that can be used later to save the perfect picture or relive an experience years later.
These Zoes are only three seconds long, but HTC has included a tool that automatically creates a 30-second long highlight film that sets your photos and video to music with professionally designed cuts, transitions, and effects. HTC included a pack of different themes, and you can instantly remix a video with the tap of a button.
As I’m typing this, I realize the concept might be a little hard to grasp so I’m hoping that HTC releases a bunch of sample videos this week. To sum things up I’ll just say that I think HTC Zoe and highlights will change the way we capture video, just as Instagram has altered the behavior of how we capture photos.
HTC BoomSound and HTC Sense Voice
We have seen HTC focus on sound since they made an investment in Beats, and the One keeps that tradition alive. HTC BoomSound introduces for the first time on a phone, a pair of front-facing stereo speakers with a dedicated amplifier.
I love my Samsung Nexus 10 with front-facing stereo speakers, so I’m glad to see HTC bring this feature to their flagship smartphones. Audio is loud and crisp, so you will no longer need to worry about cupping your hands around the back of the phone. Beats Audio integration once again delivers authentic sound.
A new feature called HTC Sense Voice automatically boosts the call volume and quality when you are in a noisy environment.
HTC Sense 5 with BlinkFeed
HTC really toned down Sense 5, and the most notable feature is BlinkFeed. This new service creates a live stream of content right on the home screen. Users can connect their social accounts like Facebook and Twitter, and then subscribe to both local and global content from more than 1,400 media sources.
When you first see BlinkFeed, you might just write it off as a poor man’s Google Now or some Flipboard clone, but HTC has spent a lot of time to create a unique experience and they have a roadmap in place to keep improving the service. For example, HTC will soon provide a software developer kit so that other Android apps can tie in to the streaming service.
At first glance, I’m not really sure how much I would use BlinkFeed. I enjoy the concept of a live stream with snackable pieces of content, but I’m pretty set in my ways with how I read news and keep up to date on my social networks. I need to live with BlinkFeed for a couple of weeks to really make up my mind, but it would appear that Google Now will likely offer a better experience for the time being.
It appears that the overall goal of Sense 5 was to make it even easier for new users to pick up and learn. The number of initial homescreens has been reduced to one, icons are larger in the all apps tray, and HTC decided to reduce the number of buttons to two.
The One includes a Back and Home button, while the multitasking button has been removed. Users can long press Home to launch Google Now or double tap Home to bring up recent apps. This might annoy some users who use the multitasking button frequently, but they can still access recent apps with just an extra tap.
HTC Sense TV with IR Blaster
This little known feature might surprise some people, but the HTC One features an IR blaster built into the power button on the top of the phone. After a quick setup, it can be used to control most TVs, set-top boxes, and receivers. We have seen Samsung include this feature on their Galaxy Tab family, but it has not really caught on with smartphones yet.
The HTC Sense TV app provides an interactive program guide that is powered by Peel. I was really excited about smart remotes when Peel was first released on the Galaxy Tab, so it’s nice to see them making a comeback. Smart remote apps still feel like a niche market, but HTC will be the first of several companies to push the trend this year.
Zero-gap Aluminum Unibody Design
Fans of HTC phones will love the design of the One. It stays true to HTC’s iconic style, but the materials set it apart from any other Android phone. HTC went with a zero-gap aluminum unibody that feels very high end. Android fans that have been disappointed by HTC and Samsung’s plastic phones will really be drawn the the metal body of the One.
Availability and Pricing
The HTC One will be available globally across 185 mobile operators and retailers in more than 80 countries beginning in March. No pricing was announced, but rumors suggest the One could go for $199 with a 2-year contract.
In the US, the HTC One will ship on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Cincinnati Bell. As previously expected, Verizon is absent from the party. Best Buy will also sell the One through their retail stores. No mention was made of an unlocked version for the US, so you will likely have to import the One if you want a pure HTC experience with no carrier interference.
HTC One Impresses, but Marketing Strategy is Key to Success
For the second year in a row, HTC has delivered a premium smartphone that any Android fan would be proud to carry. HTC has hit a home run with the camera experience, speakers, and aluminum unibody design, but I believe they will still struggle to gain ground on Samsung.
Several of the new features on the HTC One are hard to relay through text and pictures, so HTC will have to increase their marketing budget to properly share the story of the One and convince consumers to go out and try the product.
I truly believe that HTC can compete with Samsung if we only examine the product, but that’s not how this industry works. Samsung has the resources to hire more developers, create more custom software and services, spend more money on R&D, and they boast a seasoned marketing team that has excelled at building the Galaxy Brand.
We expect to get our hands on a HTC One review unit soon, so be on the lookout for our detailed impressions in the coming week.
The Full HTC One Specs List
SIZE: 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3mm/4mm (max/min)
WEIGHT: 143 grams with battery
DISPLAY: 4.7 inch, Full HD 1080p, 468 PPI
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, quad-core, 1.7GHz
- HTC Sense with Android (4.1.2)
- HTC BlinkFeed
- Total storage: 32GB/64GB, available capacity varies
- RAM: 2GB DDR2
- GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
- WCDMA: 1900/2100 (B2/B1) MHz
- CDMA: 800/1900 (BC0/BC1/BC10, Sprint)
- LTE: 1900 (B25, SPCS)
- Gyro sensor
- Proximity sensor
- Ambient light sensor
- 3.5 mm stereo audio jack
- NFC capable
- Compliant with Bluetooth 4.0
- Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX enabled
- Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11 a/ac/b/g/n
- DLNA for wirelessly streaming media from the phone to a compatible TV or computer
- Support consumer infrared remote control
- micro-USB 2.0 (5-pin) port with mobile highdefinition video link (MHL) for USB or HDMI connection (Special cable required for HDMI connection.)
- Dual frontal stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers
- Studio-quality sound with Beats Audio
- HDR Microphone
- Sense Voice
HTC ULTRAPIXEL CAMERA
- BSI sensor, Pixel size 2.0 µm, Sensor size 1/3′
- Dedicated HTC ImageChip 2
- F2.0 aperture and 28 mm lens
- Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
- Smart Flash: Five levels of flash automatically set by distance to subject
- Front Camera: 88 wide angle lens with HDR capability
- 1080p Full HD video recording for both front and back cameras
- HDR Video
- Continuous shooting and VideoPic
- Slow motion video recording with variable speed playback
- HTC Zoe with highlights and HTC Zoe Share
- Retouch with Object Removal, Always Smile, and Sequence Shot
- Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS
- Digital compass
- Embedded rechargeable Li-polymer battery
- Capacity: 2300 mAh