Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: HTC One — easily the best Android phone yet

HTC One M7 Philippines

It’s got a very incredible design, a supreme performance which can go neck and neck with the other flagship Androids, and a marvelous screen which has always been lauded on their devices. The HTC One is here.

It boasts of a screen with full HD resolution packed in a 4.7-inch display, a powerful 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, 2GB of RAM, a capacious 32GB storage, and features the new HTC Sense 5 on top of Android Jelly Bean. How’d you not like it?

To make it even better, the HTC One is being offered by Globe Telecom at P1,699 per month on a 24-month contract with unlimited LTE data, 101 SMS, and 5 minutes of calls — all in.

Design and Display

If there’s one area that HTC One has triumphed on, it would be on the overall design. The zero-gap aluminum body just feels striking in your hand. So much that in fact, I was mesmerized by the One when I lifted it up from its box. You don’t always get that feeling with other phones.


The front face of the HTC One looks almost symmetrical. There’s the two BoomSound speakers at the opposite ends, the not-so-large 4.7-inch screen, and the back and home capacitive buttons below. For some odd reasons, they got rid of the third multitasking button which makes things a little confusing at first. You now need to double tap the home button to get to the multitasking screen, hold it to access Google Now, and, that’s about it (tap it to go to the home screen, obviously). The menu key functionality has been completely left out. If an app requires a menu key, a soft-key will be displayed at the bottom of the screen which takes up space. The company intends to fix this issue in an upcoming update which adds button remapping.

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The edges of the HTC One is made out of what seems to be a single-piece polycarbonate shell, with real dazzling chamfered metal edges which gives it an even more premium look and feel. The volume rocker is conveniently positioned at the right-hand side, with the power button (which by the way conceals the IR blaster) still located at the top. The micro SIM card tray is on the left side, and the microUSB and headphone jack are at the bottom and top respectively.

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Turning the HTC One back completes all of its glory: the 4 UltraPixel camera and that cold-feeling splendid aluminum body. Just like the Butterfly, the HTC One features tapered edges which makes it sit comfortably in your hand. The back looks really neat and attractive thanks to its almost seamless construction. The only downside I see is that the body heats up when you use it intensively. And when it does, it really is hot.


The Super LCD 3 display on the HTC One, as it has always been on other HTC phones, is really stunning. The colors appear really accurate, not too warm nor too cold. There are bright whites and deep blacks, which can almost rival with its AMOLED counterparts. The viewing angle is pretty much excellent. As many would’ve normally expected, pixels cannot be easily discerned by the naked eye. The display is just awesome as it can get.


The HTC One runs on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean out of the box. On top of that there’s their own skin, called the HTC Sense 5.

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The HTC Sense has gone through a radical change in the latest iteration. From the get go, you will immediately notice the dramatic reduction of glossiness. The interface are now much more flatter and easier to the eyes. Icons look more minimalistic compared to those on the previous versions of Sense, too.

The lock screen has got rid of the ever popular sliding ring. All it has now is a row of icons on the bottom with the lock icon in the middle and a simple clock and weather widget above. Unlocking the screen will take you to the BlinkFeed home screen by default. Think of BlinkFeed as Flipboard for your home screen. It aggregates all the latest news from the sources that you subscribe too. In addition, you will also see feeds from your social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. The idea is that contents from publications that you like should be there right on your home screen. It works quite well, and saves you time and space because you won’t be needing a feed reader or apps for different news publications anymore.

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Those who might not like BlinkFeed though will be happy to know that you can use a normal home screen with the usual widgets and shortcuts and set it as default. In a software update that will be coming soon, there will be an option that will allow you to completely hide BlinkFeed.

The app drawer has been reworked too. It is now scrolls vertically as opposed to side-scrolling before. The app launcher also displays 12 apps (3x4) by default, which is really space-consuming. There’s an option available to change that to 20 apps (4x5). I wonder why they didn’t made that the default one. You can sort apps by their names in alphabetical order, by how frequent you use them, or you can arrange them to your own liking.

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Stock apps like the phone and people app are now behaves similarly as the apps on stock Android do. For example, on the phone app, you can now just slide left and right to quickly switch to contacts and logs view. On the previous versions, you would have to tap different tabs on the bottom, similar to that on iOS. The keyboard also got better. It now looks cleaner and flatter. The keys are well-spaced enough and the layout is pretty good, which makes for a good typing experience.

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The browser has been also improved, the bottom bar which has quick actions like add to reading list and bookmarks and take up screen space are now gone. What surprised me though is the inclusion of the Flash Player, which is just a tap away to enable it. That should be useful to some people though as some websites still implement it.

There’s also a TV remote app available, as the HTC One sports an IR blaster, which you can use to adjust volume or change channels on your TV. I really use this app a lot especially when our TV remote is out of arms’ reach. Also, you can play prank on your friends or family with this app. Those monitors you find at the malls? Hey, no. That’s bad.



The Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor handled out everything on the HTC One pretty much easily. Stutters and lags are not to be found anywhere. Switching between apps, navigating between websites in multiple tabs, and playing graphic-intensive games proved to be smooth at most times.

The 2GB RAM is more than adequate to keep multitasking a breeze. The One also did well in synthetic benchmarks. It obtained a 12,822 score on Quadrant and 25,006 on AnTuTu, just behind the Galaxy S4. The benchmarks were performed with 3rd-party apps installed.

The HTC One's BoomSound dual-speaker on the front performed very good, too. The music are more clearer and louder compared to most smartphones. They have also worked to get Beats Audio enabled not just on headphones but on the loudspeaker too. The HTC One just blows other smartphones out of the water.

It also had a satisfactory Wi-Fi performance. I found the reception really great compared to my other devices. The One also supports Globe’s LTE network too.

Battery Life
HTC One's 2,300mAh battery survives an average of 14 hours on light to moderate usage, which includes casual browsing, using apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, 1 hour of gaming, and about 1 and a half hour of calls using cellular and VoIP apps like Viber. That's with Wi-Fi on for most times when at home and 3G when I’m out.

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For heavy usage like intense gaming, movie playback, and streaming videos continuously, the battery lasted for around 7 hours.


Instead of packing more megapixels in the camera sensor, HTC opted to go the other on the HTC One. They equipped it with what they call the UltraPixels, which in reality is 4 megapixels. Don’t let the number fool you though! The HTC One performed really well in the camera department.


Having less number of pixels means there’s more light the camera sensor can accommodate with the same sensor size. UltraPixels really does make a difference. The photo on the left below was taken with the HTC One and the photo on the right was taken with another Android smartphone.

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A slew of features were also added to the camera app, like the HTC Zoe, which captures several video frames before and after you press the shutter button. You can then use those frames to create action shots, remove photobombs, and many more. It requires a steady hand and it works well when used properly.


Another nifty feature is the video highlight. It collates all images taken in an album and instantly creates a photo presentation using pre-defined filters and music. See the sample video here.

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“The ultimate flagship Android smartphone of 2013…”

The HTC One is undeniably the best Android phone I've ever used. The 4.7-inch display with full HD 1080p resolution, while quite small, has top notch quality. The UltraPixels camera with HTC Zoe brings, the BoomSound speakers with Beats Audio, and the magnificent aluminum body makes it the ultimate flagship Android smartphone of 2013.

The good
Beautiful looking aluminum body with solid feel and build quality
Gorgeous-looking screen
Fast performance
Good camera
Stellar speaker performance
Respectable battery life
Supports LTE

The bad
Non-removable battery
No microSD card slot

HTC One Specifications and Features
4.7-inch display with full HD (1920x1080) resolution at 468ppi
1.7GHz Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 600 quad-core processor
2GB of RAM
32GB / 64GB internal storage
HTC Ultrapixel camera (4 Megapixels) with LED flash
- BSI sensor
- 2.0 μm pixel size
- 1/3' sensor size
- f2.0 aperture
- 28mm lens
- Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
- HDR Video
- HTZ Zoe
- 2.1 Megapixels front-facing camera
2,300mAh battery capacity
Bluetooth 4.0
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/ac/b/g/n
GSM - 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
HSPA+ - 850/900/1900/2100 MHz
LTE - 1800/2600 MHz
Size: 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3mm/4mm (max/min)
Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS

Special thanks to Globe Telecom who provided us the loaner unit!

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