For the past week and a half our own Brian Klug has been hard at work on his review of HTC’s new flagship smartphone, the One. These things take time and Brian’s review, at least what I’ve seen of it, is nothing short of the reference piece we’ve come to expect from him.

In the same period of time I’ve been playing around with a retail HTC One and felt compelled to share my thoughts on the device. It’s rare that I’m so moved by a device to chime in outside of the official review, but the One is a definite exception. By no means is this a full review, and I defer to Brian for the complete story on the One - something we should be getting here in the not too distant future.

I’m not a financial analyst, but HTC hasn’t been doing all that well over the past few quarters. There’s a general feeling that the aptly named One is HTC’s last chance at survival. Good product doesn’t always translate into market dominance, but it’s a necessary component when you’re an underdog. Luckily for HTC, the One is great.


Over the past two years HTC has really come into its own as far as design is concerned. The difference between the HTC One X and the plethora of flagships that came before it was remarkable. Moving to the One, the difference is just as striking.

I don’t seem to mind plastic phones as much as everyone else, but the One is in an appreciably different league compared to its peers. It’s the type of device that you just want to look at and touch. Given how much you do end up looking at and touching your smartphone, HTC’s efforts here seem well placed.

The One looks and feels great. The proportions are a little awkward in my hands, but I fully concede that’s going to vary from person to person. Despite the heavy use of aluminum, I don't feel overly worried about scratching/damaging the finish.

The challenge with any smartphone is to build something that looks distinct in a sea of black rectangles on a wall in a store. With the One (and arguably the One X before it), HTC does a good job of balancing the need to be seen with the need to be subtle. Elegant is the right word here.

While I’m sure there will be comparisons to the iPhone, the fact of the matter is that the design cycle on these smartphones falls somewhere in the 12 - 24 month range. With something as sophisticated as the One, you’re looking at the longer end of that spectrum. For what it’s worth, if I had to estimate I’d say design work on the One probably started before the iPhone 4S came out.

Smartphone Spec Comparison
  Apple iPhone 5 HTC One Samsung Galaxy S 3 Samsung Galaxy S 4
SoC Apple A6 1.3GHz Snapdragon 600 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz Exynos 5 Octa (1.6/1.2GHz) or Snapdragon 600 1.9GHz
DRAM/NAND/Expansion 1GB LPDDR2, 16/32/64GB NAND 2GB LPDDR2, 32/64GB NAND 2GB LPDDR2, 16/32GB NAND, microSD 2GB LPDDR3, 16/32/64GB NAND, microSD
Display 4.0-inch 1136 x 640 LCD 4.7-inch SLCD3 1080p, 468 ppi 4.8-inch Super AMOLED 720p, 306 ppi 5-inch Super AMOLED 1080p, 441 ppi
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 (depending on region)
Dimensions 123.8mm x 58.6mm x 7.6mm 137.4mm x 68.2mm x 4mm - 9.3mm 136.6mm x 70.6mm 8.6mm 136.6mm x 69.8mm x 7.9mm
Weight 112g 143g 133g 130g
Rear Camera 8MP 4MP w/ 2µm pixels 8MP 13MP
Front Camera 1.2MP 2.1MP 1.9MP 2MP
Battery Internal 5.45 Wh Internal 8.74 Wh Removable 7.98 Wh Removable 9.88 Wh
OS iOS 6.1.2 Android 4.1.2 Android 4.1.2 Android 4.2.2
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0, USB 2.0, GPS/GNSS 802.11ac/a/b/g/n + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, IR LED, MHL, DLNA, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0, USB 2.0, NFC, GPS/GNSS, MHL 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (HT80) + BT 4.0, USB 2.0 NFC, GPS/GNSS, IR LED, MHL 2.0


The Camera
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  • RicGrupe - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    As a photographer, I can assure you that the amount of "megapixels" is not a determining factor to image quality.....but, rather a consideration.
    Your eyes will do the determining!
    Smaller file sizes and the need for less storage, IMO, are more meaningful for this type of photography.
  • Death666Angel - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    Nice first look. You are missing PPI for the iPhone5 in the table. :) Thanks for the metric units used!
    I doubt I'll be buying a smartphone in '13 (still very happy with my GNexus). But both the One and the S4 look nice. But I'd probably take an S4 over the One. Material choice is moot for me, all my smartphones get stuffed into full cover cases and I don't see them again unless I'm changing the SIM, the battery or the SD card. While I can tolerate Touchwiz I cannot stand Sense (though I'd use none in the long run). I also have less faith in HTC updating the software and the community always seems larger with Samsung devices. And I don't like that HTC locks the bootloader for non-developer devices. 32GB is great for the low-end configuration of the One. But I'd still take a 16GB S4 with mSD slot over 32GB onboard with no mSD slot. I don't use the camera on my phones for anything worth remembering a day later. So I really don't care much about either camera. SGS2 camera was very good. GNexus is fine as well. If all were equal, I'd chose the One over the S4 because of the camera though. As for screen, I like my AMOLED and I like 5". Coming from a 4.7" device, I would not upgrade to a 4.7" device if the competition was offering bigger screens. I'd take a Note2 if I was going to upgrade this year. Hell, maybe the Note3 will get me to upgrade. For me, the larger the better until ~6". I don't see myself using either Zoe or the highlights reel a lot either.
    What is your distinction between enthusiasts and mainstream users. You say the One is geared towards enthusiasts while the S4 is for mainstream users. Based on what features do you make that assessment? I consider myself an enthusiasts (albeit with a limited budget) but I don't think the HTC One caters to me (see my paragraph above).

    I hope the One sells well for HTC.
    I got an email from my carrier some days ago that they were the firsts to send out HTC Ones worldwide. Seems like the people who ordered one from them will be getting it at the start of next week. :)
  • Pjotr - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    You don't wanna make iPhone look bad, so you omitted the DPI on the screen for it?
  • phillyry - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - link

    It's 306PPI
  • GimpsUnlimited - Saturday, March 23, 2013 - link

    Wait, this little phone as an 802.11 ac radio and yet I can't buy one for my laptop? What the #$%! I want 802.11 ac module wifi module for my laptop now.
  • groundhogdaze - Saturday, March 23, 2013 - link

    Can someone point out to me why it's so hard to include an SD Card slot? Is there some sort of patent royalty involve? Does it significantly drop battery life? "Because you don't need it" is not a strong case for excluding a feature that some folks are pretty fervent about. Many people do not need it but enough people still want it for it to be a marketable feature. Consumers are looking for the best bang for the buck, having an SD slot gives you a cheaper alternative than paying $100 for the next 32GB increment up. Listening to some of the folks on this thread, 32GB would all that you need, the manufacturers shouldn't even waste their time with the 64GB models. Is there some reason you don't want the slot? There might even be dirt cheap 128GB SD cards a year or two down the road - but you won't be able to use that unless your phone has a slot. Having extra storage allows us more ways to be creative with what we do with the devices. Why not include it?? "Oh 32GB is a loss leader, they can only make money if they sell 64GB to you. Poor manufacturers, boo hoo"... Don't give me that crap, I don't care. I am consumer. I want Bang for the Buck! I want Love me Long Time! Give it to me.
    Samsung teabagged HTC on the last go around - does HTC really want a repeat? Put the SD card slot in and be done with it...
  • tommo123 - Saturday, March 23, 2013 - link

    IMO google don't want mSD so you have to use google drive and pay them for more space for your stuff
  • haze4peace - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    They chose to omit mSD slot for the form factor.
  • piroroadkill - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    Yeah, just not true. Plenty of thin phones that have micro SD. Also, mSD would be "milli SD", no such thing exists, so surely it would be µSD if we're going to use an incorrect form of "micro SD" in the first place.
  • haze4peace - Monday, March 25, 2013 - link

    They didn't omit it for the thinness, but for the unibody design.

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