HTC One hands-on review

MANILA, Philippines - Coming to the Philippines this May, the HTC One is arguably one of the most anticipated smartphones of the year. Announced in February and slated for a March release the phone saw production delays due to supply chain-related issues. Global release dates were pushed back with the device arriving in the United States only this week.  

At a special event held Monday, April 22 HTC Philippines announced the phone is scheduled to go on sale in the Philippines this May.  

Aesthetics-wise we love the HTC One’s full metal body - understated, yet elegant. Similar to the iPhone the HTC One is carved from a single block of aluminum. It also has the same diamond cut chamfered edges. The curved back of the phone is an ergonomic wonder and allows the phone to fit perfectly in your hand.

At its thinnest edge the phone is only 4mm thick and at its thickest point 9mm. 

MINIMALIST DESIGN. The HTC One's volume rocker is flushed on the side of the phone.  Photo by Rappler / Michael Josh Villanueva

MINIMALIST DESIGN. The HTC One's volume rocker is flushed on the side of the phone.

Photo by Rappler / Michael Josh Villanueva

Keeping to the minimalist theme, there are only two buttons on the phone. On the top left is the power button and on the upper right is the volume rocker. Unlike typical smartphone buttons the One’s volume rocker doesn’t protrude from the phone, instead it blends nicely onto its sides. From an aesthetic standpoint this is great but we’re not fully convinced it scores well in the usability department. Although in the limited time we had with the device we didn’t find it difficult to access. 

The HTC One’s internals won’t keep even the most intense power user wanting. The phone is packed with a lot of power including a 1.7 GHz quad core processor, 2GB of RAM, 32 or 64GB of space, a 2300 mAh battery, NFC connectivity and LTE support. 

In our Quadrant benchmarking test the phone scored 12,325 higher than the 11,239 scored by the pre-production version of the Galaxy S4. The quad-core Sony Xperia Z which we reviewed recently scored 8,210.  

The HTC One’s 4.7-inch FULL HD display is breathtaking. At 468ppi it has the highest pixel per inch count of any smartphone in the market today. 

But the phone’s standout feature has got to be its camera. 

ULTRAPIXEL. Larger light sensors on the HTC One give it the ability to take great low light photos. Photo by Rappler / Michael Josh Villanueva

ULTRAPIXEL. Larger light sensors on the HTC One give it the ability to take great low light photos.

Photo by Rappler / Michael Josh Villanueva

While these days smartphone manufacturers try to outdo each other with higher megapixel cameras - we know from all the reviews we’ve done that more megapixels doesn’t always equate to great photos. 

The HTC One only comes with a 4 megapixel main camera, which by these day’s standards isn’t much, but the company is touting a new technology called ultrapixels. The sensor size of the HTC is much bigger than smartphones in its class. The bigger sensor allows the phone to capture 300% more light - and as a result better pictures in low light. 

While we didn’t have much time with the phone, the low light photos we took came out really good.  

The camera also comes with a host of options including Instagram-like filters, and other customizable settings that would satisfy any pro-photographer.   

The HTC One’s camera also includes a feature called Zoe mode. A hybrid photo and video mode that brings with it a host of nifty new tools.

The phone also comes with a 2.1 megapixel front facing wide-angle camera. 

Another standout user interface feature is called Blink Feed. 

If you’ve seen Flipboard, Blink Feed will look familiar. Blink Feed is the default window on your home screen - and depending on how you customize it can include your Facebook News Feed, Twitter Timeline, and articles from a host of online sources. You can scroll through recent posts up to several days worth.

From Blink Feed you can also post straight to Facebook and Twitter.    

Another important feature of the HTC One is Boom Sound. You’ll notice the phone has grills on top and on the bottom. These dual frontal speakers are said to provide a “richer, more authentic sound.”

The HTC One also comes with Beats Audio although we weren’t able to see if this made a big difference. The phone is also said to come with an HDR microphone and a dedicated audio chipset which is supposed to improve recording quality. 

THROW BACK. The customized settings app in Sense 5 is reminiscent of the first colored Palm Pilot. Photo by Rappler / Michael Josh Villanueva

THROW BACK. The customized settings app in Sense 5 is reminiscent of the first colored Palm Pilot.

Photo by Rappler / Michael Josh Villanueva

While not our favorite Android customization - the Sense 5 User interface looked sharp and clean. We liked the look of the settings menu but weren’t too thrilled about the lack of features on the drop down menu shade. 

If we were to nit pick, the phone would have been better had it given users the option to insert a microSD card for expandable memory, and perhaps come with a removable back cover so you could pop in a new battery. 

Also, while the ultra pixel camera performs well in low light, it would have been great if the camera shot at least 8 megapixel photos. HTC says images shot on the phone make great 8R photos but at 4MP we still feel a bit restricted. 

That said, the HTC One is a great Android phone - one of the best we have seen so far this year. With a superior build, top-notch specs, and impressive camera features this is one of two Android phones you need to have in 2013. 

The phone will be available locally starting the 3rd week of May 2013 and will retail for P32,990. HTC Philippines says it will announce pre-order information on its Facebook page sometime soon. - Rappler.com