The HTC One might be the best smartphone you never heard of.
won critical acclaim last year, yet it barely made a dent in the
marketplace. It's overshadowed by Apple's iPhones and Samsung's Galaxy
line of smartphones.
Good thing HTC Corp. doesn't understand defeat.
updated One expands on some of the features that made it notable. The
new One has a metal design like last year's model, but it feels smoother
and more comfortable in my hands. The back edges are more curved and
remind me of the sleek finish in Apple's latest iPads. HTC also turns
its hub for personalized content, the BlinkFeed, into a companion rather
than an unwelcomed guest.
HTC is making the Android phone
available through all major carriers simultaneously this time, starting
Tuesday online and by April 10 in retail stores. Verizon customers don't
have to wait months, as they had last year. In an apparent concession,
Verizon is the first to get them in stores - on Tuesday.
(Also see: HTC One (M8) with Snapdragon 801, duo rear camera launched)
phone, known officially as HTC One (M8) (Pictures), will cost about $200 to $250
with a two-year service contract, or about $650 without a contract.
Customers can choose gray, gold or silver.
(Also see: HTC One (M8) price roundup)
The One still has some
flaws - namely, its 4 megapixel rear camera. By comparison, Samsung's
Galaxy S5 phone, which comes out April 11, will have 16 megapixels. Sony
and Nokia already have phones that exceed 20 megapixels. Apple's
iPhones are at 8 megapixels, twice what the HTC One offers. More
megapixels typically translate to sharper images and more options for
printing and cropping.
HTC is correct in saying the megapixel
count is just one factor in what makes a good camera. It prefers making
the size of individual pixel sensors larger to absorb more light for
night and indoor shots. That's laudable, but Apple's iPhone 5s (Pictures) and
Nokia's Lumia Icon are both able to offer decent low-light shots while
providing more megapixels than the One.
see: Apple iPhone 5s vs. Sony Xperia Z2 vs. Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. HTC One
Compared with last year's
model, though, the One's camera is much better, even at 4 megapixels.
Colors look washed out in day shots I took with last year's camera. The
new model seems to have fixed that. The new version also has a 5
megapixel front camera for selfies, far better than what rivals offer.
HTC also has improved its camera software
Thanks to a second lens on the rear, the phone now captures depth
information. That lets you decide later through built-in software
whether to focus on the foreground or the background while blurring
everything else. Other phones also offer this capability, but the One
does this automatically. You don't have to switch to a special mode
ahead of time.
The One offers plenty of manual settings, as
other phones are starting to offer. The One goes further in letting you
save frequently used combinations of settings. If you take a lot of
action shots indoors, for instance, you can save a combo that uses a
fast shutter speed to reduce blurring from motion, while adjusting the
white balance to filter out the hint of color from the ceiling lights.
(Also see: HTC One (M8) vs. HTC One)
You can pause video recordings. Most phones only let you stop
recording, so you have to stitch together several files with software to
get the same effect. The Vine and Instagram apps also let you pause
video recording, but those clips have length limits. With the One,
you're limited only by the phone's storage.
As for watching video,
sound quality is wonderful, thanks to the phone's two front-facing
speakers. If I hold the phone close enough to my eyes and slide the
volume to maximum, I can pretend I'm watching in a movie theater. Phones
with rear speakers sound boxy by comparison.
The One also has
some useful shortcuts when the screen is off. Swipe from the left to get
the BlinkFeed content hub, and swipe from the right to get your regular
home screen. Press the volume button to get the camera and press it
again to take the shot. Double tap to get the lock screen.
optional $50 Dot View case, you can see the time and the weather
through the small holes, or dots, on the case's front, flip cover. You
can answer and reject incoming call by swiping on the case, without
needing to flip over the cover.
As for BlinkFeed, the One now
offers more ways to customize it and increases the number of social
media services it works with. Through a partnership with Foursquare,
BlinkFeed also suggests restaurants based on the time and location.
Monday's lunch recommendation was dubious, though: It was suggesting
frozen yogurt at Pinkberry as outdoor temperatures in New York hovered
at water's freezing point.
I do like that you can get BlinkFeed by
swiping from the left. Otherwise, it stays out of the way. To get back
to the home screen, just tap the home button once or twice. I hated
BlinkFeed in last year's model because there was no easy way to restore
the home screen without knowing the proper swipes.
The HTC One is a
work in progress, though. There's supposed to be a power-saving mode
offering 15 hours of battery life when you're down to a 5 percent
charge, for instance. That and other promised features weren't done in
time for the U.S. release. But if you buy the phone now, you'll get them
through upcoming software updates.
(Also see: HTC One (M8)
India launch in April; compatible with country's 4G LTE networks)
U.S. customers are also eligible for a one-time screen replacement if it cracks in the first six months.
One doesn't have a fingerprint sensor to bypass the security code on
the lock screen. The iPhone 5s has it, as will the Galaxy S5. It's also
in the HTC One Max (Review I Pictures), a larger version of last year's model. But HTC's
version didn't work well, and the company is wise to leave it out in the
There's a lot to like in the new phone. This phone likely
won't be as popular as the iPhone or the S5, but the One is one worth
considering if you're looking for something that feels right and works
The HTC One (M8) in pictures