Mobile Phones Guide

HTC One (32GB) review

HTC One - There Can be Only One (Updated!)

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Launch SRP S$968
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Overall rating 9/10
Design:
9.5
Features:
9
User-Friendliness:
9
Performance:
8.5
Value:
8
THE GOOD
Aluminum unibody, zero-gap construction
Variety of useful features such as BlinkFeed
Fast processing speeds
Natural looking screen
Excellent audio
THE BAD
Unconventional soft button configuration
lmaging quality is middling due to 4MP sensor
Average battery life
Display is hard to view under direct sunlight


Features

Full Featured

Design and hardware are not the only areas where the HTC One excels. There are other contenders in the market that can match its hardware. So in order to give it an edge and a unique selling point, HTC has armed the One with some really innovative and progressive software.

 

HTC Sense 5

As the Google Android OS improves with every new installment, the need for smartphone manufacturers to constantly progress their own UI advancement has decreased. Even so, the vast majority of smartphones still come with some minor tweaks and add-ons to whatever version of Android they are running underneath. The HTC One is no different and it runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS with HTC Sense 5.

The previous versions of the Sense UI have had a 'cartoony' feel to them, not that anything is wrong with that, but HTC Sense 5 took into consideration of its new physical design and complemented it with a clean and smooth UI. A simplistic layout with flatter icons coupled with a minimalist black, white and blue color scheme looks crisp. The use of Google’s Roboto font as well brings its closer to the look and feel of the vanilla Android OS. HTC Sense 5 also displays the clock and weather updates on the home page and main app screen.

Two soft keys are provided for navigation. The back key located on the left of the HTC logo works as one would expect. The home come is located to the right of the same signage. Double tapping the home key twice brings up the app manager, which displays running applications in a 3-by-3 grid format. In the app manager, flicking the individual 'app cards' in an upwards motion closes the application. Google Now (your personal assistant, somewhat like Apple's Siri) can be accessed with a long press on the home button.

 

HTC BlinkFeed

HTC BlinkFeed draws inspiration from Windows Live Tiles’ usability and Flipboard’s functionality. It's a key feature of the HTC's new user interface and is integrated as part of the main home screen that you're presented with as soon as you unlock your phone. The idea of BlinkFeed is to help consumers to quickly glance through their most preferred content without having to launch multiple apps to achieve the same purpose. From its menu options, you can select a number of applications, services and content to be displayed on your BlinkFeed page. According to HTC, future iterations will also provide support for general RSS feeds.

All this means that you're no longer presented with a home page consisting of widgets and key apps as your first panel. If for some reason you prefer to see your list of apps as your main starting panel, you can opt to select another panel to be shown as your primary panel; you cannot however disable or remove BlinkFeed as it's not a widget and is built into the Sense UI. From our perspective, we don't see a reason why anyone wouldn't want to use BlinkFeed and customize it to their usage consumption.

Even in its present form, there is a lot of content available considering that the One isn't even officially launched locally. We saw local content in the form of The Straits Times and a wide selection of reputed internet news sources. It goes without saying that major social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can also be directly incorporated into BlinkFeed, although at present only one account for each service can be supported. Switching over and picking a Category greatly expands the amount of content being displayed.

On the whole, BlinkFeed matches up quite well to the undeniable champion of reader apps, Flipboard. The amount of content and services available is extensive and the usual gestures such as tapping to expand content or pulling down to refresh the page are all retained. BlinkFeed can serve as an excellent way for users of the HTC One to have a quick glance at all the relevant information they would requires from the web in an instant. If we are being nitpicky though, we would have liked the provision of Google Now as an app which could be added to the stream.

 

HTC UltraPixel

Innovation with respect to camera features and photography functions has become a major differentiating factor between smartphone products. Nokia with the PureView 808 decided to play the megapixels number game and push the camera capabilities on the smartphone front ever possible with a larger 41MP sensor. HTC with the One however has decided to move in the opposite direction. The rear-facing camera on the HTC One offers an imaging resolution of just 4 megapixels. HTC explains this is a deliberate choice because allied to this low megapixel count is a large than usual camera sensor.

A single pixel on a 13MP smartphone camera sensor corresponds to an area approximately 1.3μm2 on its sensor. Similarly, a pixel on an 8MP smartphone camera senor corresponds to an area of 2μm2 on a sensor. With the HTC One however, a single pixel on its 4MP camera sensor occupies an area of 4μm2. The primary idea of HTC UltraPixel is to take advantage of a the low pixel count and large sensor size so that each "UltraPixel" can capture as much light as possible.

To further this aim, the HTC One offers a large aperture of F2.0. Compared with the other smartphones, the iPhone 5’s lens has a maximum aperture of F2.4, while the Galaxy S III has a lens with F2.6 aperture. The hardware choices all point to the fact that HTC wants to capture more light with its camera than its competitors, thus provide its users good low-light shooting capabilities. Here's a quick video clip taken during the launch of the device to show its capability:-

Additionally, the HTC One also comes with the HTC ImageChip 2 for processing the captured images. Optical Image Stabilization is also thrown in for good measure and this feature allows the lens on the HTC One to physically move to compensate for any motion detected. Both these features are intended to help reduce the incidence of blurry photos taken with your smartphone camera.

Updated on 25th March: For a more detailed analysis comparing its photo capturing capabilities against other competitive phones the market and to see if the HTC Ulttrapixel concept is any good, tune into this article.

 

HTC Zoe

Taking advantage of the phone's fast processing capability, bright lens and a limited photo resolution has allowed HTC to debut 'live' images and photo gallery with the HTC Zoe. With a 4MP sensor, images shot don't take up too much space and it allows the camera to take photos and videos in quick succession. From a certain point of view, HTC Zoe feature is essentially the ability to extract still shots from a video. Zoe can be activated by clicking on the camera shaped button on the top of your screen once you have entered the camera application. At this point of time, the camera is continually recording to a buffer - even before you've hit the capture button.

Once you hit the on-screen capture button, HTC Zoe proceeds to store 3.6-second full HD 1080p video with audio - it consists of 0.6-second before pressing the shutter button and three-second video after. In addition, you are also given access to 20 full resolution stills (5 from before you press the shutter button and 15 from after) with no quality compromises. Next to the following on-screen photo capture, we've embedded a video demo of HTC Zoe in action at the HTC launch event last month.

Updated on 25th March: Find out how the quality of the still shots compare against the photos taken without the Zoe mode activated. You'll be interested to know that the photos captured normally, turn out better.

 

HTC BoomSound

The HTC One comes with dual stereo speakers and a built in amplifier along with Beats Audio codecs. The micro-drilled holes at the front of the HTC One also show that the speakers come with a front firing orientation as opposed to the rear firing configuration we commonly see with other smartphones.

Not only was HTC concerned with projecting sound, they also paid attention to capturing it. A HDR Microphone is included in the mix to capture sound accurately when recording videos. To help out with the ambient noise Sense Voice technology, leveraging two other built-in microphones, is intended to clean up the audio being transmitted from your end.