HTC One User Review

It’s been a month since I have been using the HTC One as my primary smartphone. From emails to reading the news to taking pictures with the Ultrapixel camera to testing Maxis’ 4G/LTE connections, I got to try everything this Android flagship smartphone from HTC has to offer.

In case you don’t follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or read my previous posts, then you’d likely miss how I was gushing about how much I love the HTC One. The all metal unibody design, improved HTC Sense 5 and powerful 4G / LTE capability of this Android superphone – checks all the right boxes in my book on why I love HTC phones so much.

See Also : HTC One Announced and What The Tech Sites Are Saying

So, here’s a quick user review of the HTC One for those of you still uncertain.

 

Hardware Overview

HTC One
HTC One

For a quick refresher, here’s a quick overview of the tech specs of the HTC One:-

  • 4.7″ Super LCD3 Full HD display (1920 X 1080)(468 ppi)
  • 1.7 GHz quad core Snapdragon 600 processor
  • 32 GB internal storage (no expandable microSD, FREE 25GB Dropbox cloud storage) + 2 GB RAM
  • Powered by latest Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS (with new HTC Sense 5)
  • 4 megapixel HTC Ultrapixel camera, 2.1 megapixel front facing camera (1080p Full HD front & rear camera video recording)
  • 9.3 mm thin, weighing only 143 grams
  • 2,300 mAH non-removable battery
  • Connectivity : WiFi, HSPA+/4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC
  • Available in Glacial Silver and Stealth Black colours

For more information, tech specs and features of the HTC One, please check out the official HTC One SEA Product Page  at http://www.htc.com/sea/smartphones/htc-one/ or HTC Malaysia’s Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/HTCMalaysia

Hardware overview of the HTC One
Hardware overview of the HTC One

The all metal unibody build means the 2,300 mAH battery is non-removable. As with most new flagship smartphones today, the HTC One uses a micro SIM.

The phone is nice and slim and feels really solid in your hands. The curved back ensures that the device sits comfortably in your palm. The power button at the top doubles as an IR blaster, which allows you to connect to your TV as a remote control. The front facing speaker both at the top and bottom means you get really nice, clear and loud sounds.

The back all metal unibody, matte silver of the HTC One
The back all metal unibody, matte silver of the HTC One

Most notably, I can’t stress enough how gorgeous the matte silver back of the HTC One. It’s certainly a sexy phone. The phone certainly turns heads. People stop to ask about it. People want to hold it and then comment how beautiful the build quality is. Heck – even my Apple iFanboi hubby loves the hardware!

Ultrathin clear back case for HTC One
Ultrathin clear back case for HTC One

Even with the multiple cases I bought to protect my HTC One from dinks and scratches, I keep coming back to this ultrathin matte clear hard back case I bought. It’s the only “barely there” case that I managed to find that still showcases the gorgeous back of the HTC One.

See Also : HTC One Unboxing and First Impression

The HTC One I have has 32 GB storage space in Glacial Silver. It’s not really a major problem. 32 GB is more than enough for me, although there is a 64 GB version available for sale as well.

I use the auto upload feature on Dropbox that uploads every picture I snap with the phone automatically to the cloud. Every now and then, I can delete pictures on my phone as it’s already backed up on Dropbox. For videos, I stream downloaded videos from my Plex Media Server at home via mobile data / WiFi, so I don’t store them on the phone. I don’t listen to music much on the phone, but I have a Spotify account as well, which would allow me to stream music or listen to internet radio. Again, no storage on the phone. I truly live very much in the cloud.

 

Software Overview

HTC Sense 5 on HTC One
HTC Sense 5 on HTC One

HTC Sense 5 is the new upgrade of HTC’s skin on top of Android Jelly Bean 4.1 OS. The HTC One was released with a slightly outdated OS because Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with the latest Android 4.2 OS already. No worries though, coz HTC has indicated that the HTC One will soon be receiving an Over-The-Air software update (meaning it will be pushed to your phone over mobile data/WiFi) to get your phone to the latest Android OS version.

 

Sense 5 UI – Menu, Navigation, Keyboard, Browser

The new Sense 5 UI has been reworked. Mostly on the backend, coz the skin is now simpler (less flashy animation) and faster. Swiping and scrolling is now smooth.  Opening and closing apps is now quick.

HTC One now comes with only 5 panels for your Home Screen, with HTC’s new Blink Feed as one of them. More on BlinkFeed later. Pressing and holding on an empty screen will bring up the function for you to add widgets, apps and shortcuts.

HTC One - App Drawer
App Drawer on HTC One

The App Drawer on the HTC One by default, now shows the digital clock at the top, with your pre-installed or downloaded apps at the bottom, on a black background. Scroll through downwards for all your apps on the HTC One instead of sideways with most Samsung phones.

Apps are arranged in 3 icons in a row, showing more background spaces. If you don’t like this and prefer your app icons a little more compact (like I do), you can pull down to reveal 3 dot button icon to change the “Grid size” (bottom centre) to a 4 icons in a row view.

Creating and managing folders are easy now where you’ll just press and hold, then dragging one app icon on top of another to automatically create a folder. Pressing and holding on the folder title will then allow you to name the folder accordingly.

HTC One - People
Phonebook and contacts (aka “People”)

What I’ve always liked about HTC phones are the way your phonebook contacts are managed. The “People” app allows you to link each contact with other social media profiles. I can link each contact info with their respective profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, WhatsApp and more. HTC’s Sense UI also suggests these links to you (far left), so you don’t have to link then one contact at a time.

Once connected and linked, you’ll see all the linked accounts in a single contact card (far right).

Of course, you can manage your contacts that syncs everywhere from your phone, SIM card, Google accounts, other email accounts and social media accounts as well. Including WhatsApp!

HTC One - Phone & Dialer
Phone and keypad dialer

“Phone” app maintains info on your Call History (far left), keypad dialer where you can just type out the name and it looks up from your Phonebook (second from left), Favourite contacts you maintained from your phone or Google account (third left) and your phonebook aka “People” (far right).

HTC One - Keyboard
Default on-screen keyboard

HTC One’s keyboard provides great word prediction, suggestion and accurate auto correct. It’s easy to type without making too much mistakes.  But once again, I am much more of a fan of Android’s ability to use other 3rd party keyboards. Which is why I almost always immediately switched to SwiftKey downloaded from Play Store. I absolutely love their predictive and learning capabilities.

HTC One - Browser
Default browser on HTC One

The default browser is actually quite good. It’s fast and syncs with your Google Chrome browser tied to your Google ID. It supports multiple tab browsing and other standard features like “Incognito browsing”, Share, Bookmarks, Desktop View and even enabling “Flash Player”.

Again, I am much more of a fan of Chrome for Android browser. Still, at times when I do use the default browser on the HTC One, I don’t hate it.

HTC One - Gallery
“Gallery” that syncs to Dropbox, Flickr, Picasa and Facebook

The “Gallery” app, as usual, syncs with your cloud storage accounts such as Dropbox, Picasa, Flickr and Facebook.

By default, the Gallery is sorted by “Events” view which is based on time and date (second from left). This can get really confusing. I personally don’t like it. You can easily change it to  sort by “Albums” which shows you other albums like “Screenshots”, “Instagram”, “WhatsApp” and more (far right).

HTC One - Settings
“Settings” menu

You can access the Notification Centre by swiping down from the top of the screen anytime. Unlike on Samsung smartphhones, there are no shortcut toggles for you to turn on/off WiFi, Sound, Flight mode, etc. To get to those settings, you can access the “Settings” menu by tapping on the “Gears” icon. Here you’ll see the most used toggles at the top (Flight Mode, WiFi, Bluetooth etc) and the rest of the settings at the bottom.

A great thing I like about Android phones, and the way HTC has presented it in Sense 5 UI is the “Usage” monitoring section for your mobile data, phone calls and SMS.

The other great feature that’s added in HTC’s recent phones are the quick assistance for you to transfer content (pictures, contacts, files) from other phones to your new HTC. Also, there’s a cloud storage service that syncs, backup and reset your HTC phone with a HTC account. Basically, these are features handy if you’re a first time Android user or first time HTC user or upgrading from another HTC phone.

 

Killer Features

Thankfully, HTC One is not so jam packed with as an features as its rival Samsung Galaxy S4. That doesn’t mean that there are little or underwhelming features on this flagship smartphone, though. HTC One included quite a few great and functional features on the HTC One without being too gimmicky or slowing down your phone.

 

HTC BlinkFeed

Simply put, HTC BlinkFeed is HTC’s new Home Screen.

HTC One - BlinkFeed
HTC BlinkFeed

HTC Blink Feed is a grid based page that shows you all the top stories from news sites and your social media. Pull down on the screen to reveal more options. You can customise the various topics and services from News, Tech, Business, and more. You can turn all news off and just use BlinkFeed for your social media highlights.

Click on a story and you can read the latest news right from this rebranded Home screen. You can also share the stories to social media, email, etc.

As you scroll down to read more headlines, you might suddenly move to open another app or do other task. When you come back to BlinkFeed screen though, it remembers where you last stopped reading.

If you want to go all the way back to the top, you don’t have to scroll your way up. You can tap on the soft “Home” button on your phones, tap the top Notification bar, or use 2 finger to swipe down from the Navigation bar.

HTC BlinkFeed is the default screen when you tap on the soft “Home” button on your HTC One. However, if you don’t like / use it, there is a workaround. Pinch on any home screen or press and hold on any empty space in any homescreen to access the “Customise Panel” area. Press and hold any other panel and you’ll see an option to set that screen as your new “Home” screen.

However, HTC BlinkFeed can be extremely useful for you to scan headlines when you check your phone periodically throughout the day. It’s HTC’s way of keeping you updated with news and info without the need to subscribe to RSS news feeds, bookmarking sites and opening your browser.

 

HTC TV

In case you didn’t know, the Power On/Off button at the top of the HTC One is actually also an IR Blaster (Infrared sensor). This means you can use your HTC One as a remote contol for your TV. If you think this could be troublesome and might not be easy to setup, you’re wrong. HTC Malaysia demoed this at the HTC One Malaysian Launch (read about it HERE) and it is really easy to use.

HTC One - TV
HTC TV

There’s a pre-installed HTC TV app on the HTC One. This app allows you to manage all your TV viewing. It works for Malaysians! You can sync and manage your favourite channels and TV shows from Astro channels or other local Free-To-Air stations like RTM1, RTM2, TV3, NTV7, 8TV and TV9.

Manage reminders to your favourite shows, use it as a TV Guide and then, if you wish, sync your phone to your TV and use it as your TV and Astro remote. The step by step guide makes it really easy to setup (no technical details or user manuals needed). Everything synced and done in minutes!!! Seriously cool and handy!

Since you likely have your phone in your hands when you’re watching TV in your living room anyways, why reach for the TV and Astro and other remotes, just use your phone to change channel, adjust volume. So easy!

 

4G LTE ready

HTC One comes with 4G / LTE capabilities already. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S4 that has LTE and non-LTE versions, ALL HTC One in Malaysia is LTE ready.

Using the HTC One with 4G LTE enabled, I was lucky to be in certain areas where Maxis’ coverage was available. I did a few Speedtest on the HTC One and came away impressed.

HTC One - Maxis 4G LTE Speedtest
Maxis 4G LTE speedtest with HTC One

I can’t pinpoint exactly if it was the HTC One that’s powerful or that Maxis 4G LTE connection was strong, but I managed fast and good average of 18 Mbps download speeds most of the time.

At the worst, I get 5 Mbps download, which is not bad. At the best test, I got a whopping 42 Mbps download!

I’m a happy camper who subscribed to the highest 5 GB monthly data plan and enjoying good speed when I use mobile data on my phone. That is if Maxis don’t experience any network outages… 😛

 

The “Ultrapixel” Camera

Ultrapixel camera on HTC One
Ultrapixel camera on HTC One

One of the more important feature of any flagship smartphones today has to be the camera. After all, the best camera is the one you have – and we all carry our phones with us everywhere these days.

So let’s talk about HTC One’s camera – the one they call the “Ultrapixel” camera.

It’s actually only 4 megapixels? Well, here’s the thing. HTC wants to educate the consumers that it’s not about the megapixel count on your camera. It’s about how well the camera performs. In this case, the HTC Ultrapixel camera takes pictures that are 3 times clearer than your average lenses. It performs better in low light condition as well.

HTC One - Camera
HTC One Camera features

When you power on the “Camera” app, you’ll see minimal camera button as well as a video button on the right (Top Left). You can access the various settings with the 3 dot button to select different functions like scene selection, toggle front facing camera, select HDR function, and other settings like ISO, white balance, etc.

You can also select to include filters and effects before you snap your photo (Bottom Right) ala Instagram.

Check out some of these pictures I took in various conditions, on Auto mode on the HTC One. Click the respective image to view the original enlarged version:-

The Photo Editor function is quite cool too.

HTC has included several functions in the Photo Editor. Other than the standard crop, rotate and adding filters, you can now do some editing to your subject like enhance their eyes, contour their face or smoothen the skin.

HTC One Photo Editor
HTC One Photo Editor

Check out these hilarious pictures I took of myself and played around with the Photo Editor to “enhance”  my face. After snapping a self portrait, I opened the “Photo Editor” and it detected my face for some of these edits. Selecting the respective functions, use the slider on the left to enhance accordingly.

(Top) “Eye Enhancer” can make my Chinese sepet eyes bigger. (Centre) “Face Contour” can make my chin narrower. (Bottom) “Skin smoothness” uses a bloom effect to smooth out my wrinkles.

I get such a kick looking at my buggy eyed effect. Hahahaha. But of course, I went to the extreme. If I was moderate with the slider, you can actually enhance the face to look more naturally beautiful.

 

HTC Zoe

Who is this Zoe? What is Zoe?

HTC Zoe is a cool feature they’ve introduced with the HTC One. In the “Camera” app, there’s an icon to activate Zoe on the left. Basically, what this does is snap a few seconds video instead of one shot of picture. Samsung Galaxy S4 has an equivalent feature called “Best Picture” but selects the best frame from a series of burst shot. HTC Zoe lets you select  the best picture from a video instead.

HTC Zoe process
Using HTC Zoe – from a video to the perfect picture

Here’s how it works. Using HTC Zoe, I snapped a video instead of a burst shot of pictures. Let me break it down on the various features of HTC Zoe:-

  • Select “Camera Shot” – Using the slider, I drag over to the frame where the picture is the best and clearest
  • “Transform” – to crop, rotate, flip or straighten the image
  • “Frames” – to add any frame to my picture
  • “Retouch” – to edit the image with the many features included in the “Photo Editor”
    • “Sequence Shot” – stitch several pictures together to create an action shot (jumping, biking, running, etc) <– S4’s “Drama Shot”
    • “Always Smile” – face detection that then lets you change individual subject’s face to select one that is a smiling shot <– S4’s “Best Face”
    • “Object Removal” – remove unwanted moving object in the background, when your subject is posed <– S4’s “Eraser”
    • “Skin Smoothening” – blurs the image somewhat to create a glowing, smooth skin complexion (as shown above) <– S4’s “Beauty Face”
    • “Lighting” – adjusts the brightness of the image
    • “Face Contour” – slims your subject’s face and jawline (as shown above)
    • “Eye Enhancer” – enlarge your subject’s eyes to widen it (as shown above)
    • “Red Eye Removal” – remove red eye effect from flash
    • “Eye Brightening” – brighten your subject’s eyes to make it sparkle
    • “Anti Shine” – removes your subject’s facial shine
  • “Effects” – to add various filters to my picture from Black & White, Sepia and more (ala Instagram filters)

In the screenshot above, from a video captured by HTC Zoe, I applied various effects and edits and finally got a nice shot where everyone is posing, everyone is smiling and even added a nice brightening filter to make the image pop!

HTC Zoe - Final Pic
HTC Zoe – Final Pic (click to enlarge)

 

Battery Life

HTC One comes with a non-removable 2,300 mAH battery, which is just 300 mAH less than the S4. I expected good battery life out of the HTC One but maybe not as good as the 2,600 mAH on the Samsung Galaxy S4. Boy – was I wrong.

Because the S4 packed in so many features, if I had it all turned on, it became a battery hog. Without it, I managed an average 14 – 17 hours daily on it.

With the HTC One and my daily usage about the same – a few phone calls, emails, social media updates, browsing (BlinkFeed and browser), some messages, a few pictures, generally moderate to heavy usage, I’d say – I managed more than a healthy 17+  hours a day before it gets below 10% battery.

HTC One - Battery Life
Battery Life on HTC One

The above screenshots will show you how the battery fared in different conditions:-

  • (Top) Light usage – lasted 19 – 20 hours
  • (Centre) Moderate usage – averaged 15 – 17 hours
  • (Bottom) Heavy usage – anywhere from 12 – 15 hours

I have to say, I am really impressed with the battery life of the HTC One. I would be happy with 15 hours, but I was pleasantly rewarded with more. In the last month, I rarely get to the point where I desperately needed to break out my power bank or rush home for my charger.

 

Pricing and Availability

As you know, the HTC One has been on sale and available for a month now. It’s retailing at the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of RM 2,299 for the 32 GB version, and RM 2,499 for the 64 GB version; both available in Glacial Silver or Stealth Black colour.

If you don’t have the moolah to purchase the phone outright, you can get the phone at discounted price when you signup for any of these mobile telco plans:-

  • Maxis from RM 1,299; plans HERE
  • Celcom from RM 1,428; plans HERE
  • DiGi from RM 1,269; plans HERE
  • U Mobile from RM 1,488; plans HERE

See Also : HTC One Launched and Goes On Sale in Malaysia

The problem though – is that there are very limited stock for the HTC One. At one point, you can’t find the Glacial Silver version anywhere. Then, when stocks were replenished, the Stealth Black version was hard to find. Then, there’s also limited 64 GB version available in the market.

The phone is quite popular, but the limited stock, not only in Malaysia but worldwide, is ultimately going to be the biggest challenge for HTC.

So, if you’re looking to go play around and perhaps purchase the HTC One, I suggest you call your telco branch before heading there or walk around a few stores in a shopping mall near you, as you might not be so lucky. It’s been a month, and even a friend recently grew tired of waiting for his telco to replenish their HTC One stock.

 

Conclusion

As with my previous post on Samsung Galaxy S4 (read the full user review HERE), I mentioned for you to check out the HTC One. Now that you’ve read my review about the HTC One, you want to know if you should buy this or the Samsung.

Check out this video here on my Video Review of the HTC One; from hardware and specs overview, killer features (some not covered above), what I like and dislike about the HTC One and my conclusion.

Just so I don’t torture you, my verdict is this…

HTC One is currently the BEST ANDROID SMARTPHONE you can buy right now.

It’s no surprise they won “Best Smartphone in MWC 2013”, “TechRadar’s Best Smartphone of the Year” and so much more accolades. If you’re looking to upgrade your phone, seriously consider the HTC One. The sexy phone is a head turner. The features are minimalistic but functional and not bloated. The camera is great in all conditions. The latest Sense 5 UI is clean and smooth. The front facing speakers and Boom Sound technology is amazing, wonder why nobody thought about it before.

Doesn’t matter if you’re an Android user or not – GO BUY THE HTC ONE!!!

PS. Even Hubby, the Apple iFanboi, commented that the HTC One is sexy, and that it’s the first Android phone that makes him consider a switch.

 

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