By now you have probably see the news and press releases about the new HTC One but here’s my summary ‘review’ of the HTC One that I had chance to play with last week. Obviously this isn’t a full review of the HTC One but rather my initial take on the device as well as some coverage of the features and summary of the information we were given at the briefing last week.
I have to open by saying that the HTC One is probably the most interesting Android phone I have seen in some time and there’s a raft of new and cool things in there plus the design is stunning!
We’ve known about a new flagship device coming from HTC for a while and there has been plenty of rumours about the device codenamed HTC M7. There were some leaks a few weeks ago and claims that the M7 would launch as the HTC One and they have proven to be quite correct.
HTC have taken a ‘grass roots’ approach to the HTC One and have studied how people use their phone in detail. With the updated HTC Sense 5 user interface comes an all new feature: Blinkfeed. With Blinkfeed you get a timeline or digest of Twitter, Facebook and news updates in one streaming list which allows users to ‘snack’ on the info. The user can choose which news feeds they want to see, for example ITN, Sky News or the Independent have news feeds and over 1500 providers have worked with HTC on the feature to date with more in the wings.
Blinkfeed isn’t an RSS reader and RSS feeds cannot be added to the stream but rather this is a rich media, news and data feed that provides headlines and images that link back to full featured articles.
HTC think that Blinkfeed is so important that this becomes the default home panel within HTC Sense 5 although users can disable it in favour of a more familiar homescreen if they so desire.
The changes made in Sense 5 don’t stop with Blinkfeed, many other changes include a redesigned app launcher, new easier to read fonts and a variety of other bits that we’ll no doubt get to play with once we have a review unit.
Perhaps one of the most radical things that HTC have done is with the primary camera. It has long been a frustration of mine that the compact camera and camera phone industry has driven consumers to understand only metric when comparing cameras: the number of megapixels. This really is the wrong way to look at a camera as a higher pixel count does not equate to better image quality and better photos, indeed it’s often the opposite.
Cameras and image quality is a very complex subject. Obviously the sensor is important in terms of its physical size as is the quality of the glass used in the lenses.
So HTC have perhaps been quite brave in challenging the convention and are looking to break the Megapixel Myth. So when you first read that the primary camera sensor is ‘only’ 4 MP you may be inclined to think that’s a typo. However, 4MP really is more than adequate for photos even when you blow them up to poster size. And consider this: is it better to have a good 4MP photo or a dirty, dark and or noisy 13MP photo?!
What HTC have done with the sensor on the HTC One is to keep the physical size of the sensor the same and have made the individual pixel size larger. Around 200% larger at 2 microns. HTC call these Ultrapixels. Larger pixels gather more light and more light means better photos, less noise etc. Furthermore, the lens elements are carefully matched to the sensor to further improve this, the result is a really fast lens/sensor combination. I actually had a chance to play with the camera for a while last week and was really impressed with how well it worked in low-light without flash! It’s the industry’s largest aperture camera on an Android phone.
HTC have created their own bespoke image processor and have improved the dynamic range with lens distortion correction.
One thing you will notice when you look at the HTC One (check out the photos) is that the camera does not project out of the back of the phone and the back remains neat and flush, just 9mm at the widest. No size penalties here.
Another feature and name to get used to is Zoe. Zoe is the name HTC have given to their camera interface or ‘experience’. Loosely this stands for Zero Editing. We heard of some of the features before such as shooting photos before the shutter is pressed so that you can pick the best shot but HTC have then taken this further. With Zoe you don’t choose between photo or video, you simply launch the camera interface and forget it. The HTC One has full dual-path image processing so captures photos and video at the same time, both 4MP bursts of still photos and 1080P HD video – at the same time!! Thus the shutter button acts more like a bookmark when you are looking back at photos and video captured. No more missing moments.
There’s a whole lot to talk about when it comes to video and photo sharing with Zoe share and the Intelligence Engine technology but this is best covered with the full review and some sample videos!
As a final word on the camera itself there’s also built in optical image stabilizer to further improve images and take out those shaky-hands photos we all have from time to time. The stabilizer works over to axes at 2000hz.
Audio is another area in which HTC have made significant investment in the past with its Beats Audio tie in on may devices. The HTC One takes that further and introduces Boomsound.
First you’ll find two front-facing speakers, one above and one below the screen. This means stereo sound when you have the phone set in the landscape position to watch video for example. Each speaker also has large acoustic chambers to provide a better and louder sound. These speakers are very loud!
Like many phones on the market at the moment, there’s dual microphones to aid in-call noise cancelling. However, not satisfied with this HTC have used dual membranes on each microphone to improve the dynamic range.
Oh and there’s another simple but effective thing that the HTC One does with those mics; when it detects a noisy environment during a call it automatically turns up the speaker. Simple, obvious but genius!
How many of us sit in front of the TV at home but use our phones at the same time? I think the answer is a significant number of us do. Building upon this HTC have added a TV app to the HTC One. This includes electronic programme guides so you can see what’s on and when. Not satisfied with that? Well why not use your HTC One as a remote control for your TV, satellite receiver etc. ? There’s a built in infrared transmitter that allows you to do just that. Turn up the volume, change the channel or pick something to watch while looking through the EPG and the phone will switch it for you. And as if that’s not enough the TV guide learns what you like and reminds you about programmes that you have previously watched. You can also have updates in Blinkfeed.
Lastly let’s talk about the design and spec. of the HTC One. HTC have a heritage of using metal within the construction of their phones, starting with the HTC Legend a few years ago. One challenge that has always faced engineers that want to use metal in the construction of phones is that radio signals and metal don’t play well together so typically HTC have placed WiFi and radio antennas outside for the aluminium body on plastic battery covers for example.
However, HTC engineers have come up with a solution and although the details are a closely guarded secret, the Diversity Antennas allow them to be placed within the aluminium body of the phone without compromising the signal. In fact reception and signal are actually improved.
The result of this is that the back of the device is one-piece aluminium with no edges or seams, perfectly smooth and with gorgeous curves. Nothing feels quite like metal in the palm of your hand.
The whole construction and design of the HTC One is amazing. It’s ‘gapless’ build means that there are no sharp edges or seams even where two materials join.
The Gorilla Glass has been bonded directly to the LCD screen so that there is no air gap to impact the optical quality. The edges of the glass are also polished for both visual and ergonomic impact.
HTC One Specifications:
SIZE: 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3mm/4mm (max/min)
WEIGHT: 143 grams with battery
DISPLAY: 4.7 inch, Full HD 1080p, 468 PPI
· Qualcomm® SnapdragonT 600, quad-core, 1.7GHz
· HTC SenseT with AndroidT
· HTC BlinkFeedT
· Total storage: 32GB/64GB, available capacity varies
· RAM: 2GB DDR2
EU: 900/1900/2100 MHz
US (AT&T): 850/1900/2100 MHz
US (TMO): 850/AWS/1900/2100 MHz
US (Sprint): 700/AWS MHz
Asia: 850/900/1900/2100 MHz
UMTS only: 850/900/1900/2100 MHz
US (Sprint) 800/1900 MHz (BC0/BC1/BC10, Sprint)
EU: 800/1800/2600 MHz
US (AT&T): 700/850/AWS/1900 MHz
US (TMO): 700/AWS MHz
US (Sprint): 1900 MHz
Asia: 1800/2600 MHz
· Gyro sensor
· Proximity sensor
· Ambient light sensor
· 3.5 mm stereo audio jack
· NFC capable[iv]
· Compliant with Bluetooth 4.0
· Bluetooth 4.0 with aptXT enabled
· Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 a/ac/b/g/n
· DLNA® for wirelessly streaming media from the phone to a compatible TV or computer
· Support consumer infrared remote control
· micro-USB 2.0 (5-pin) port with mobile high-definition video link (MHL) for USB or HDMI connection (Special cable required for HDMI connection.)
· Dual frontal stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers
· Studio-quality sound with Beats AudioT
· HDR Microphone
· Sense Voice
HTC ULTRAPIXEL CAMERA
· BSI sensor, Pixel size 2.0 µm, Sensor size 1/3′
· Dedicated HTC ImageChipT 2
· F2.0 aperture and 28 mm lens
· Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
· Smart Flash: Five levels of flash automatically set by distance to subject
· Front Camera: 88 wide angle lens with HDR capability
· 1080p Full HD video recording for both front and back cameras
· HDR Video
· Continuous shooting and VideoPic
· Slow motion video recording with variable speed playback
· HTC ZoeT with highlights and HTC ZoeT Share
· Retouch with Object Removal, Always Smile, and Sequence Shot
Audio supported formats:
· Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma (Windows Media Audio 9)
· Recording: .amr
Video supported formats:
· Recording: .mp4
· Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS
· Digital compass
· Embedded rechargeable Li-polymer battery
· Capacity: 2300 mAh
· Voltage range/frequency: 100 ~ 240 V AC, 50/60 Hz
· DC output: 5 V and 1 A
We’re hoping to have our hands on a review unit later this week. You can expect to see plenty of videos and photos etc. as soon as we have it!
Posted by: Matt