Technofreak’s HTC One: my thoughts (photos)

, posted: 28-May-2013 13:46

There is no doubt about it: the HTC One is one very smart looking phone. It grabs attention where ever I go. There's also no doubting how solid it is, the aluminium back is quite cold to the touch this time of year when you first pick it up in the morning. It has that nice solid reassuring feel as well, however it is also the phone I've felt that I am most likely to drop due to its size.

I've been giving the camera and the maps a closer look. These are two areas in my opinion which have become important features on a smartphone. The cameras fitted to phones have come a long way and now rival and even surpass dedicated cameras. The mapping functions on phones have become integral with the device and in my opinion make stand alone devices like the NavMan and Tom Tom redundant.

The maps and navigation on the HTC One are easy to use and have some nice touches. There are some wrinkles too, the major one being the voice turn by turn directions are not heard when the phone is connected to a Bluetooth car handsfree device unless you are on a phone call, and then it’s not particularly helpful as you’re trying to hear the person you’re conversing with. One other big drawback is the maps will only work if you are online unless you have downloaded the area you want to use previously and this will use large chunks of data so any downloading really needs to be done on WiFi before you leave home.

Driving in an area with no mobile service coverage, and there are plenty of roads in New Zealand where coverage is poor to non existent, causes the Maps/Navigation app on the HTC One to struggle and you eventually drive out of the range of the maps area already on the phone (unless you’ve downloaded prior to your journey).

The navigation app lacks the ability to display the speed limit for the stretch of road you are on, plus there doesn’t appear to be any verbal/audible warning when you are exceeding the limit. There’s no place to set at which speed you wish to be warned. Also the voice instructions are not as timely nor as complete as other navigation apps, namely Nokia Drive.

When doing a side by side comparison the HTC lost the GPS signal twice within a short time whereas the other phone continued to provide navigation. Having said that the Maps/Navigation is generally very quick to obtain a fix when first turned on.

There are some really nice touches, one being the ability to use a Google search to find a business/cafe and then get the address to navigate to. One other very clever thing (again a Google thing) is a street view of your destination as you arrive there. It certainly helps when you’re not so sure which is the exact place you're looking for.

Overall though in my opinion the Navigation App as installed on the HTC One has a way to go to match the likes of Nokia Drive.

The camera doesn't come with high specs on paper… However I've been very impressed with results. It's one of the better phone cameras I've used. It’s very user friendly. HTC have used their Ultrapixel technology which seems to work very well. The results especially in low light have been very good. The auto focus works very well and almost without exception all the photos are nicely in focus.

Even though there’s a zoom bar, zooming for the camera can be done by pinching and zooming on the screen, which is a nice feature. Like many other phone cameras today the point of focus can be selected by pressing that point on the screen, with the focusing square turning green when the picture is in focus. With a lot of other cameras you need to use manual settings to get good results in some conditions, yet the HTC One when left to it's own devices does an excellent job in auto.

HTC have also equipped the HTC One with Zoe. ZOE is effectively HTC’s version of Nokia’s “Smart Shoot” app. When I first saw the Zoe option I wondered what it was and dismissed it as a point of difference gimmick. To some extent it is, but having said that I can see where Zoe can be used to good effect. Zoe is a feature where instead of just one photo being taken a series of shots are taken, in fact it's almost a short video clip.

One way HTC suggest Zoe could be used is to remove an unwanted object in the shot, like when you have the perfect shot lined up and as you press the shutter someone walks into the shot. With Zoe you can use the other shots taken at that time to effectively remove that person. Also I can see it being useful when taking a group shot and there's that one person with their eyes closed or looking the wrong way when the shot is taken, with the other shots that persons face can be replaced with a better one from another image.

One thing you do need to be careful with when using Zoe is there is about 20 shots taken each time you take a photo with Zoe enabled, this means if you are in the habit of syncing you photos to the cloud you can chew through quite a bit of data unless you control when you upload and use WiFi as the default connection.

I am posting some photo comparisons. I have used my Nokia N9 and Sony A57 DSLR for comparison. I was wondering how I was going to get the HTC photos onto my computer without too much hassle, as HTC Sync Manager doesn’t work well with my PC. I paired the phone via Bluetooth and was easily able to share the photos via Bluetooth to my laptop, a simple transfer. In fact I did the transfers this way several times without hiccup. (The reason for several transfers being that I stuffed up with the white balance setting on the HTC One and needed to re shoot the photos.)

Below are pictures taken inside with low light conditions


In order: HTC One Auto No Flash, Nokia N9 No Flash, Sony A57 DSLR No Flash


In order: HTC One Flash, Nokia N9 Auto Flash

You will see the HTC does a very good job with no flash, a much better result than the N9. Also the HTC One when the flash is used creates a sharper picture compared to the one without the flash. I didn’t take a flash picture with the Sony. The N9 when left in auto mode defaulted to using the flash where as the HTC One didn’t need the flash. There’s not much in it with the photos using the flash, the HTC shows the colours to be a bit more vibrant than in real life.

The next group of shots were taken outside:


In order: HTC One, Nokia N9, Sony A57 DSLR


In order: HTC One, Nokia N9, Sony A57 DSLR


In order: HTC One, Nokia N9, Sony A57 DSLR

Other than resizing the photos to fit on the page and for email they are exactly as taken. With the two lots of tree shots, I’ve taken one facing into the sun, (the top set of photos) and the other with the sun to the side, to see how the camera works in differing outside light situations.

Once again the HTC One seems to add a little bit of vibrancy to the colours but aside from that does a very good job. For the top row of tree shots both camera phones get saturated with the light from the sky compared to the Sony. The Sony shows a blue sky whereas the phones show the sky being almost white.

In the top set of tree photos you will notice at bit of “flaring” around the top edges of the trees on the phone pictures… More about that later.

I also got some macro shots, with the HTC One providing a sharper image when using the macro feature:


HTC One (left), Nokia N9 (right)

The camera in the HTC One produces very good pictures, it’s easy to use with great focusing ability and good low light results. The low light ability is good because in many situations you don’t really want the shadows and contrast that are caused with a flash. Overall it’s a pretty good result for a 4 megapixel camera, and many will tell you it’s not all about the megapixels it’s also to do with the sensor size and in this case the HTC One proves that I think.

Back to the ‘flaring’ I mentioned earlier. The photo below on the left was taken by the HTC One when I originally shot the photos shown above. You will agree it’s not the best of photos. I was a bit perplexed to start with as all the other photos were OK. Then it dawned on on me, the lens had a smudge on it. I was standing at right angles to the sun and as a result the sun was shining right across the face of the lens thus causing the flare. I cleaned the lens and then took photo on the right.


Later on when I was preparing the photos for the blog I noticed the slight flaring in the two photos taken into the sun with both the N9 and the HTC One. After my experience with the HTC One I went and cleaned the lens on the N9 and that flaring disappeared as well. The moral of the story is if you want the best shots your phone can take, make sure the lens is cleaned first. The smudges won’t be obvious by just looking at the lenses. Unfortunately the design of most phones means it is inevitable that the lenses will get smudges on them.

My next blog will cover the calendar and the browsers I’ve used on the HTC One and a bit about the music player plus some general comments and a wrap up of my impressions. I know I promised to do the calendar this time but have run out of time for this blog.

About the author

My name is Alan. I’ve been a Geekzone member for almost eight years (as Technofreak) and have enjoyed contributing and helping people on the site and have also gained a lot of help here myself at the same time. My involvement with technology goes back to another life when I was a Technician for NZPO/Telecom. I still remember the first cellphone I used, a Panasonic, which was the size of a handbag. I was an avid user of Palm handhelds for many years, having owned a 515, a T5 and a TX, all fantastic devices, I only recently pensioned off the TX.  These days I find smartphones extremely useful devices for keeping me in touch, especially being out and about with my job. The HTC One is the first real foray into the world of Android for me, it going to be an interesting and learning experience.

Other related posts:
Technofreak’s HTC One: final thoughts
Brad’s root guide for the HTC One
Brad’s HTC One reviews: camera

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