HTC One hands-on: An Android dream phone worth lusting over

Credit: Raymond Wong/DVICE

If you thought last year's impressive HTC One X and One S were great, you're going to love the HTC One. Does the Taiwanese mobile company have what it takes to snatch users back from Samsung and Apple? 

Too Hot For This World

It's tough to put into words just how fantastically engineered the HTC One is. Everything from its "zero-gap" unibody aluminum frame, to its chamfered bezel (way less flashy than the iPhone 5's), to its front-facing (yes!) stereo speakers with built-in amplifier (yes, again!), to its bright and sharp 4.7-inch screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution scream "premium."

Spec heads will be happy to know that the HTC One is a hardware beast thanks to its 1.7GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 2,300mAh battery (non-removable), NFC, 4G LTE, 32/64GB internal storage (no microSD slot), completely new cameras (see more below) and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

BlinkFeed and Zoe

But the HTC One isn't all about its looks: HTC's added two major features to its new flagship smartphone. First is the BlinkFeed, a centralized news feed that aggregates content in real-time from over 1,400 content providers. HTC says its learned that the "apps and widgets" system isn't the best way to consume news; the best way is a news feed. At first blush, BlinkFeed looks like it's a Windows Phone rip-off. In reality, BlinkFeed is actually closer to Flipboard. It can be overwhelming to see so much real-time news getting pulled into your main screen, but for social media and news junkies (like me), it's nirvana.

The second major feature on the HTC One is its "Zoe" feature. Zoe isn't the name of HTC's rival to Siri. It's actually short for zoetrope. So what is an HTC Zoe? It's a 3.6-second video made from 20 full-resolution images. HTC calls it a "living moment." Users can then go back and pull images they want from the video. The Zoes can then be automatically combined into a highlight video — complete with preset video, transitions, cuts, etc. It's a fun little feature, but unlike the BlinkFeed, I don't think it'll convince people why the One is worth buying.

A 4-megapixel Camera With UltraPixels

Stick with me for a second. Yes, while it's desirable to have more megapixels, that war has passed. What's more important are clear photos that don't look muddy under low light. To achieve that, the HTC One uses "UltraPixels" — pixels that 2.0-microns compared to the 1.4-micron pixels found in competing phones such as the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III. The result is a camera sensor that captures up to 300 times more light, and can also record video in slow motion and HDR mode at 1080p resolution.

The front-facing camera is also pretty great, too. It's got 2.1-megapixels and the lens is wide enough to ensure a group of friends can easily fit into the frame. If it sounds familiar, you're right, this is the same front-facing camera found on the HTC Windows Phone 8X.

When You Get It

My initial impression is that HTC has another solidly built smartphone on its hands. The design is gorgeous and it's incredibly light. The hardware is top notch and the camera, despite its lower resolution is leaps and bounds better than the iPhone 5's. That said, it might also be wise to wait and see if Samsung is revealing the Galaxy S IV next month, just so you won't kick yourself later.

The HTC One will be available in 80 countries worldwide on 185 carries in late March. In the U.S., AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint will stock the device in white and black, and in 32GB and 64GB models. Sorry Verizon fans, it looks like you'll be stuck with the recent HTC Droid DNA.

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