It’s fun times for mobile consumers. The choice of devices just took a huge leap forward. Forget the specs, forget the operating system, just hold the phone, and you will understand. HTC have had a tough year, of that there is no question. The old adage goes that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. The team at HTC must live by that motto. Despite terrible performance for much of 2012, HTC have still managed turned out a truly spectacular phone in the ONE.

Steven Ambrose was fortunate to snag an early review unit, and has been putting it through its paces for the last two weeks.

HTC One

First the raw specs. The HTC One has a 4.7” Super LCD screen with a higher Pixels per Inch (PPI) than the XPERIA Z, the iPhone 5, and the Samsung GALAXY S 4. The sharpness and colour accuracy of the HTC One screen must be seen to be believed. The processor is the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 Quad core running at 1.7 GHz. Translation, blindingly fast with no lag whatsoever, no matter how hard I tried, or how many apps I had open. Combine this with the silky smoothness of the later versions of Android, and the One becomes a pleasure to use.

The One will come with 32Gig of storage memory, along with 2 gig of operational memory, double last year’s standard of 1 Gig. The One will have LTE as standard and all the various radios including Bluetooth 4 and Super-fast Wi-Fi. NFC is included along with Gyroscopes, Accelerometers, and proximity sensors. Basically all the very latest in tech is included in the ONE. It must be said that the HTC ONE is the first of this year’s Super Phones, but all these specs will be matched or exceeded by the Sony Xperia Z and the Samsung Galaxy S4 when they hit the market.

The magic of the HTC one is not just the technical specs, but in the thought that went into the industrial design, along with the refinement that went into the latest iteration of the user interface, HTC Sense 5. I have long felt that of all the Android launcher interface replacements, HTC Sense actually makes things easier for most users. Many of the hard-core power users prefer vanilla Android which can be tweaked and set-up just the way they would want it. For the rest of the potential users out there, they just want the whole phone to work and work effortlessly. Proof of this is the roaring success of the iPhone and its unbelievably easy to use iOS. Sense 5 gets the closest to iOs in ease of use and clever cross app integration.

HTC ONE Hands on

There are too many features in Android and Sense to fully explore in this review, so all I will say is that HTC Sense 5 is the best version of Sense yet. It’s clean fast and very comprehensive. The HTC One has one other unique feature that you may or may not get used to. That feature is called BlinkFeed. The default home screen looks like a cross between Flipboard, with tons of useful and themed informational feeds, and Windows Phone 8, with its live tiles. After two weeks I have finally started finding BlinkFeed useful. It took some time to select the feeds that matched my interests, and to understand the apparent randomness of the live updated information. My advice, try to live with it and see. For those that BlinkFeed does not work for, it is simple to un-tick all feeds, and set the home screen back to a standard HTC Sense screen, with all the icons you would need.

Moving on the physical side of the HTC One. The construction is nothing short of outstanding. No other Android device comes even close. The HTC One is a carefully crafted Aluminium sandwich with a curved back and an edge to edge front screen that just feels right in your hand. The balance is great, and one handed use is just possible despite the overall size of the phone. All the seams in the body are smooth and flush, and overall this phone just feels premium. Pictures don’t do it justice making the HTC One look flat and boring. In the flesh it is anything but.

Another innovative feature is the 4 Mega Pixel or should I say Ultra Pixel camera. HTC decided to go with a completely different technology to all the other premium phones on the market. Whilst its competition have opted for a 13 Mega Pixel cameras, HTC are using an Ultra Pixel sensor in which the actual sensor pixels are more than twice the size of more standard cameras. The net result is resolution close to the 13 Megapixel cameras, but low light sensitivity that far surpasses them. In actual use I am very impressed with the camera, it is super-fast , super sensitive and for everyday use , where lighting is never optimal, managed pictures that were as good, in challenging light, as the Nokia Lumia 920, and far better than any of the other high end phone currently at my disposal.

Included in the camera package is a neat feature called Zoe, a Zoe is a 3 second video clip, which allows you to select the perfect frame, or make moving slide show of your albums, all set to music in real time by the HTC One. Very impressive. In addition you can delete objects and people from the picture and take bursts of pictures as and when you want to.

HTC ONE BoomSOund

 

The HTC One also includes BoomSound with Beats audio, and this is a combination of front facing Stereo Speakers which are impressively loud, and amplifiers with equalisation by Beats Audio, for great audio to headphones. Another really clever sound feature is a processing mode which like top hearing aids, filters out background noise, and allows voice to come through clearly. It worked brilliantly at a 2 year old party when the kids were all going mad.

You must at least go and feel one, and decide for yourself. If you like precision engineering and cool aluminium along with the silky feel of the latest Gorilla glass screen, then the HTC ONE will blow you away. HTC pulled out all the stops to make this the best built phone on the market. It is easily in the league of the iPhone 5 which set new standards of fit and finish when it came out.

 

The HTC One is without doubt a clever, fully integrated, superbly constructed device, and has a shot at being the best phone of 2013. There are many more features that a review of this nature can explore , like the built in infrared remote with a TV function, which currently does not have South Africa as an option. The remote works but DSTV is not one of the providers listed. BlinkFeed will also soon have a choice of local content and works really well. The camera is outstanding and makes all your family shots easy and very high quality. Sense 5 is great and easy to get used to and use.

Choosing an HTC one will never be the wrong choice. The competition is however fierce. The Samsung Galaxy S4 looks truly formidable, and will be marketed in a way that the HTC One will never match. The Sony Xperia Z is also beautifully made, and has features, such as being pretty waterproof, that the HTC can’t match.

My advice is try them all and see which one works for you. They will all hit the market around the end of April 2013 to the beginning of May, and will be offered at similar prices on similar packages from all the mobile networks.

Steven Ambrose – Executive Editor, CEO of the technology and strategy consulting firm Strategy Worx and a major gadget geek. A chartered accountant by training Steven sports a history spanning from heading statups to divisions of major multinational corporations, he ran and wrote for Gadget.co.za from 2006 to 2010, and now consults on technology and its impact on business as the brainchild and CEO of Strategy Worx. For more immediate comment, views and discussion follow him on Twitter
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