The HTC One, formerly known as the HTC M7, has been officially unveiled at media events in the UK and New York. The powerful new flagship for HTC looks to be a real contender, offering up impressive hardware and some cool-sounding new features.
Of course HTC has released great phones before, but has always seemed to be overshadowed by Samsung and Apple. This time round, if the HTC One makes good on its promises it just may find some of that market share that HTC so desperately wants.
We will quickly mention our disappointment with the name. The HTC One [insert letter(s) here] series of devices has delivered its fair share of confusion to many a customer. Handset titles like the HTC One X, One X+ and One XL can be difficult to tell apart for the average, casual buyer. Even worse is the non-relative connection between the HTC One V, One S and One SV.
Now HTC’s new flagship is simply called the ‘HTC One’ with no extra letter, symbol or combination of the two. Hopefully it won’t be an issue, but we’re still intrigued as to the decision making process behind the final moniker.
HTC One Hardware
The HTC One has the specs of a next-gen smartphone, without going over the top as we expected it might. Of course, we’re always in favour of the most powerful hardware, but it’s important to make sure said hardware is viable and efficient.
We were relieved to hear that the One boasts a quad-core, rather than an octo-core processor (as many rumours had claimed). Right now quad-core CPUs really are powerful enough to handle anything one could throw at a smartphone, yet not so powerful that they’re a huge drain on battery. We’ve also seen heating issues with both dual-core and quad-core chipsets, so we’d prefer for these wrinkles to be ironed out before moving on to the next step.
The quad-core CPU itself is a 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600. Unlike many previous quad-core handsets, the HTC One does not have to sacrifice two of its cores to support 4G LTE. It is both quad-core and 4G.
The CPU is backed up by 2GB of RAM and, although we were hoping for 4GB, 2GB is probably more suited to those ‘not-too-over-the-top’ comments we were throwing just before and should be more than sufficient. As for storage there’s the choice between 32GB and 64GB. Interestingly, we didn’t hear a 16GB option, meaning that storage technology might finally be starting to move beyond the old 16GB staple for flagships and adopting 32GB as the new minimum.
The 4.7 inch 1080p display definitely sounds impressive and is, much to our relief, not absurdly big. We have on a few occasions expressed doubts as to whether or not 1080p would necessarily be necessary on this generation of smartphones and while we don’t particularly prescribe to the idea that the 326ppi of an Apple Retina Display is the maximum quality perceivable by the human eye, a 1080p display could potentially eat lot of battery power compared to the benefits it delivers.
Despite this concern, we’re very excited to check out a resolution of 1080p, with a pixel density measuring at a whopping 468 pixels per inch (ppi), on a 4.7 inch screen. Whatever the result of quality vs power usage (it could go either way) we’re absolutely certain that the HTC One’s display will be one of the best that any of us have ever personally encountered.
HTC One Ultrapixel Camera with HTC Zoe
Firstly, the HTC claims to have taken such a new approach with its camera that it should no longer be measure in megapixels (MP). Instead, HTC has come up with what it’s calling ultrapixels (UP); a method of image capture that reportedly takes in up to 300% more light, allowing for fantastic low-light shots and smooth-edged daylight photos.
While this does sound a bit like the kind of general marketing hype that we’ve heard many times before from smartphone manufacturers, HTC included, we’re still happy to see companies like HTC dropping the focus on MP and looking for a new way to improve the camera experience.
The number of pixels that a camera can cram in to a photo does not, in theory, have to have anything to do with image quality. More pixels certainly allow for more detail in an image, but they do not create it – an important distinction.
Traditionally we’ve seen cameras of the same MP rating offering a hugely different quality of images and the tag of “8MP” ends up being nothing more than an extra marketing sticker.
Don’t be fooled, HTC’s dumping of a MP-centred approach is still very marketing-focused. Noone could look at a term like “ultrapixel” and say that it wasn’t designed to turn a head or two. However, we do find it reassuring that manufacturers are finding new areas of focus for the improvement of smartphone camera image quality, while still managing to churn out marketing jargon that can appeal to the masses.
HTC Zoe is a feature that we’re particularly interested in. Rather than take a standard, still-frame photo HTC Zoe instead records a 3 second clip whenever a photo is taken, assuming that the Zoe function has been enabled. The picture album can then be set up to display each photo as its 3 second clip when in album mode, then only display the still picture when it is enlarged. We’ve also heard talk of a picture only playing the sounds that were recorded when it was taken, rather than the complete video clip. This would be an interesting way to add an extra dimension to picture viewing. On top of the video clips, each photo/clip can also be displayed in a slideshow with professionally designed transitions.
All of this sounds pretty cool. It’s a new approach to displaying photos that we’ve not yet seen.
Of course, being ourselves, we’re once again dubious about how this will affect overall performance. Enhancing the aesthetic qualities of a device certainly has its perks, but replacing every photo with a 3 second video clip could take its toll on battery life, not to mention storage space.
Ultimately though Zoe sounds like a very cool feature and one of the first truly unique tweaks to the camera experience that we’ve seen from HTC.
HTC BlinkFeed is the new Home Screen being trotted out on the HTC One. BlinkFeed is essentially a social media feed, except with a layout more similar to Windows Phone live tiles.
An increasing number of people these days have multiple social media accounts: Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram etc so having them all in one place would certainly make things easier, in theory.
Problem is, we’ve seen this kind of thing before on most Android handsets. All kinds of social media feed widgets have been released and re-released for years now and not a single one of them has even held, or even really caught, our interest. BlinkFeed has the potential to be the first, but it could also just be another unappealing offering in a long line of well-intentioned failures.
Aesthetically we have to say that BlinkFeed is definitely the best-looking social media feed we’ve yet seen. It really is a blending of the Android and Windows Phone styles, at least visually. We have no problem with this, as both Apple and Android have borrowed from each other in the past, leading to better experiences across the board. The adoption of Live Tile-type displays for certain services could just be another step in the evolution of smartphone interfaces.
HTC is touting BoomSound as “the best audio experience of any mobile phone available today.”
“HTC BoomSound introduces for the first time on a phone, front-facing stereo speakers with a dedicated amplifier and an amazing full HD display that immerses people in music, videos, games and the YouTube™ clips they love. BeatsAudio™ integration is enabled across the entire experience for rich, authentic sound whether you’re listening to your favorite music, watching a YouTube video or playing a game. “
- via HTC
We’re reminded of the ill-fated HTC Surround with its slide-out speaker. The concept of a smartphone that doesn’t require an additional speaker in which to be plugged is a good one and could at times be very handy. We hope it lives up to the hype.
HTC One Design
The HTC One isn’t a device we think screams “HTC Design”, like many of its forebears. There are still definitely elements of HTC design there and, more importantly, the device looks to be continuing HTC’s reputation for stunning build quality.
The unibody brushed aluminium case looks solid, classy and downright sexy. The centre glass console that covers the screen reaches almost all the way to the edge, even though the screen stops further short of that. The end result is a kind of metal, glass, metal look on the front, with a continuous metal finish on the rear.
We question the sturdiness of the glass design, as it is very close to the edges of the handset. Other than that we’re huge fans of the overall look of the HTC One.
HTC looks to have really stepped things up with the HTC One. What we’ve traditionally seen from the company are extremely solid devices that don’t ever really add anything new. Rather, HTC has churned out solid smartphone after solid smartphone, yet been always overshadowed by competitors who innovate and change their user experiences.
HTC looks to have finally caught on and, for the first time in a long time, really shaken things up. The Home screen has seen a massive change in focus with HTC BlinkFeed, the camera experience is very intriguing that’s to Ultrapixels and HTC Zoe, we’re keen to see what kind of sound HTC BoomSound speakers are capable of and the design is, while not entirely new, beautiful, classy and solid in appearance.
We’ll know more tomorrow when we get to attend our very own Sydney viewing of the HTC One, when we will hopefully get to play with it ourselves. Until then some educated guesswork and reporting on the facts is the best we can do, so it’ll have to do for just another day longer.