I've had the HTC One for six weeks now and have had a good chance to get to know it.
The HTC One reminds me to some extent of the Samsung F480T that I once owned. Both are very well made and great looking phones that lack finish in some areas. When I say this, it is very subjective and relative to what other smartphones are capable of these days.
Overall it is a capable device that does a pretty good job, there are some real highlights and some disappointments.
Before I recap on those I have some other comments.
The Trace keyboard, as HTC call it, is not as polished as I’m used to on my Nokia N9. I’m comparing the stock apps in both cases. Despite the N9 having smaller screen, and therefore smaller keys, the Swype keyboard on the N9 works better than the Trace keyboard on the HTC. Also the HTC lacks features, like being able to swipe up to enter a capital letter or swipe from the full stop to the space bar to add a full stop, space and capitalize the first letter at the start of the next sentence. The dictionary gives some rather odd choices of words at times.
I believe there is an upgrade you can purchase which is supposed to be better, but again this is another example of only the basic version of an app being installed. Also the Trace keyboard does silly things at times and won’t allow you enter characters by tracing, as if the "Trace" function is frozen. My N9 also supports various keyboard styles (qwerty, Swype, T9) and allows an easy change between styles with a sideways swipe in the keyboard area, with the HTC One you need to go to the settings menu to make the change.
Speech quality has generally been good except when used in the car on Bluetooth handsfree when there's often a background noise like heavy rain. Also I've had the voice signal fade or drop out in locations where I don't normally have problems.
Like many current smart phones the battery is not user replaceable. However a lot of phones are constructed in such a way that a user with reasonable technical expertise can replace the battery. Not so with the HTC One apparently, the battery has to be replaced at a service centre. However for the average owner this is unlikely to be too much of an issue.
Battery life has got better as time has gone on, though I still consider it only average for the battery size. I leave Bluetooth on all the time and have WiFi set up not to search for new networks, just like on my other phones. With two days of light to moderate use it be down to 29%. However I’ve also had days where using Sportstracker for an hour or so has reduced battery life to just one day.
With Android you are driven to the world of Google and while it’s certainly not a walled garden like Apple, there are some many Google centric things. Here I’m thinking about the calendar, email and maps particularly. I guess this isn’t just an Android thing as I strongly suspect Windows Phone 8 does a similar thing. For those who have Google accounts this is probably perfectly acceptable.
I don't particularly like being herded in one direction, I like to choose, and while the HTC One is quite Google centric there are still good alternatives to the Google option, for example, Exchange Active Sync works well with other calendar and email options.
One of the big selling points of the phone is the screen size but to me it’s also has a downside. While a big screen is great for web browsing and videos, it makes the phone hard to operate with one hand. The lock/unlock button being located at the top of the phone is very difficult to operate single hand. The lock/unlock button would be much easier to use if it were on the side.
With my other phones I can text and answer calls with one hand and the size of the HTC makes texting particularly hard to do with one hand and even other actions require two hands to ensure you have a good grip on the phone. It would be a real shame to drop such a great looking device
Over the last few days I’ve gone back to using the N9 as my main phone and it is nicer to hold and surprisingly it didn’t take long to get used to the smaller screen. Perhaps because I’ve been using it alongside the HTC One to compare functions, the change in screen size hasn’t been as dramatic.
The major disappointments for me were:
Not being able to sync the calendar and Notes directly with Outlook. This is a bit limiting for me particularly the Outlook Notes. HTC provide HTC Sync manager to do this but I found it would crash 9 times out of ten, making it useless. The calendar I managed to sort out by using Outlook.com with Exchange Active Sync. This worked quite well in the end for me, as I was able to easily keep the calendar in sync on all of my devices. I have had issues with some repeating events showing up a day out, though to be fair this isn’t the fault of the phone. Not being able to sync Notes was a bit of a deal breaker though.
Having no turn by turn voice instructions when connected via Bluetooth made the Maps app almost useless for me. I have a handsfree kit in my car, with the phone connected to the handsfree kit there was no voice instructions either from the phone speakers or the car speakers. Perhaps the next Jellybean update will sort this out. Otherwise the maps worked well.
Like most devices you keep finding little nuggets, that’s what I call them, cool little functions or features you stumble across by accident. One I discovered the other day was the ability to zoom the size of text in a SMS message, a very nice feature.
Now to the highlights
The HTC One shines as a media device. The music player is pretty good, it’s easy to use and has some nice features. The screen saver with the lyrics is particularly cool. The front facing stereo speakers provide very good high quality sound for such a device. Even though I suspect most users will use ear buds, for those occasions you want to share the music with others, the speakers provide good fidelity and volume. Unlike many small speakers the sound has reasonable base with not too much treble.
However the real stand out component for me is the camera. I think it is outstanding particularly in low light. The auto focus works very well and the on screen zooming is a great feature. You will go a long way to find a better camera on a phone as the HTC One has a very good camera. Sure it’s not a big mega pixel camera but plenty enough mega pixels for the average person. You should be able to blow your shots up to A4 size without too much of a problem and still retain reasonable quality.
Overall I think the average owner will be pretty happy with the HTC One. Everyone’s mileage will vary depending on their needs. There were some areas that let it down for me but these areas won’t be important for everyone. It’s a good looking phone which draws good comments from those that see it. It does everything you’d expect of a smart phone and does some of those things particularly well.
I see the HTC One giving good service and a lot of satisfaction to the people that own it. This is demonstrated by the number of Geekzoners that have bought the HTC One and keep raving about it on the HTC One owners thread.
If you want a very smart looking phone that has a great stereo speakers coupled to a good music player and you make good use of a camera in low light situations then you will be very very happy with the HTC One.
This was my first real foray into the world of Android. I would like to thank Telecom New Zealand and Mauricio for the opportunity to take part on the TelecomTech blog. I have enjoyed the experience immensely. I hope readers have gained something from what I have written. I’ve certainly learned many things along the way. I look forward to reading other TelecomTech blogs as they come along in the future.
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:
Brad’s root guide for the HTC One
Brad’s HTC One reviews: camera
Technofreak’s HTC One: music, weather, browsers
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