There’s a reason why Apple products — in general, but to be specific, the iPhone and the iPad — are so well regarded: the build quality is awesome and the choice of materials is exceptional. Whether you like the iPhone or not you have to agree to the fact that it speaks “premium” in terms of build quality, materials, and in-hand feel.
As someone who is working in the business I have spent time — more or less, depending on the case — with many devices, low-end, mid-range, and high-end. It is the HTC One that had me conclude this for the first time: it is right there with the iPhone, it is one of the best-built devices I ever held (there were a couple of others too, not many though).
The HTC One Is Gorgeous
Yes! You might not be able to tell from pictures and hands-on videos but once you hold the device you’ll fall in love with its aspect (of course, if you’re not fundamentally against metal, large-ish screens or tapered edges). The unibody aluminum chassis of the HTC One is the company’s business card for premium quality this year.
HTC combined metal with glass and the result is a thin and light phone, cold to the touch at first, warmer after a couple of minutes, offering you a great visual and sensorial reward by holding it.
The Screen Is Stunning
The HTC One X from last year already had an exceptional, top-three worthy display. The 2013 One takes that one step further! It’s not at all “extremely” large — we guess HTC went with a more conservative display size — and the 468PPI resulting from the Full HD resolution on a 4.7-inch screen will offer exceptional levels of detail.
Color accuracy is top-notch and so is brightness. However, you will probably need to get used to it if you’re coming from an AMOLED screen. Not too much though! Blacks are not absolute blacks on the HTC One; however, they are extremely close, as close as possible. It’s not necessarily a compromise at all, especially if you consider that contrast ratio is almost (if not) on par with AMOLED screens! Natural colors with evenly saturated colors will wow you. All this on top of extremely good, wide, viewing angles. Regardless of how you look at the HTC One’s screen, it will offer the same natural colors, without being washed out or dull.
The Phone Is Fast
It is a perfect combination of hardware specifications and software which makes the HTC one extremely fluid. The quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor clocking at 1.7GHz — and helped by 2GB of RAM — is nicely complemented by Project Butter on Android Jelly Bean. However, there’s Sense 5 on top of it; HTC rethought Sense completely and for the first time I have the perception of Sense not holding Android back.
The Audio Is Unmatched
Boom Sound meant nothing to me and it will probably mean nothing to you either until you hear it in action. It was just marketing talk at the beginning but when I started playing my favorite tunes the volume level, and quality, blew me away. Don’t expect audio system speaker-like performance but as far as smartphones go, nothing beats it.
It’s not just for music though; Boom Sound will make sure you will not miss a call or notification due to not hearing the alert. Chances are you’ll be turning the volume down a couple of notches from what you’re used to using on your current device.
The Battery Life Is Surprisingly Good
Your mileage can vary, depending on your day-to-day usage scenario and whether you turn the phone off over night. I’m not going to tell you figures, hours, and alike, but I’ll tell you this much: it won’t disappoint you. After the newness wears off and you finally start using the phone as you’d normally would — because in the first three days, believe me, you’ll constantly use it — it should give you enough juice to at least get you through one day, if not more.
The Cons are Negligible
Nobody has built the perfect phone yet and I’m sorry to state that the One isn’t the perfect phone either. However, in the world we’re living in, the perfect phone is a compromise: it’s the phone that gets as close to perfection as possible (or which has the less or less important cons).
You’ll have no way of swapping batteries. The One has a built-in, non-user-accessible, battery. Is it a deal breaker? It’s definitely not for me, or the majority of users out there. You have to be a hardcore user that needs to have access to the battery in order to pass on the One because of this.
You’ll have no way of expanding the built-in storage, as the One doesn’t feature a microSD expansion slot. However, you’ll have to remember that because of the four-megapixel camera, images produced by the phone are smaller. You’ll rarely go beyond 1 MB and almost never beyond 1.5 MB per picture; most of your stills will weigh in at about 700-850 KB. That means you can have more pictures stored on your phone without dramatically affecting your storage. 32GB should be enough for almost everyone, but it will definitely not suffice for all. There’s also a 64GB flavor; if even that is not enough chances are you’re making up reasons not to buy it (respect to the exceptions).
The camera is not necessarily a con but it’s definitely topic for debate, and we’re not talking imaging quality here. Four-megapixel (err, ultrapixels) images are, without a doubt, usable for printing, as long as you’re not aiming to print billboards. 4×6- and even 4×8-inch prints will not be affected by the four-megapixel size. According to some charts, 4MP should be enough for prints as big as 8×10 inches.
However, you’ll have to get used to not zooming in too much, because there’s not too much info to zoom into. I’ll give you that, if you’d like to crop images, you’d better shoot another one and get closer to the subject as with the HTC One what you see is kind of what you get.
If you have a monitor with higher-than QXGA (2048×1536) resolution — or a Nexus 10 with 2560 x 1600 resolution as well as an iPad with Retina Display and 2048 x 1536 resolution — chances are that the full size of the image will not fill your screen. Is that a deal-breaker? Probably for some, most definitely not for all.
If you want a beautiful phone that is built from top-notch materials that feels great in the hand, which also happens to be fast and pack a killer display, then you should get the HTC One.
If, however, you don’t find yourself attracted to metals, prefer AMOLED displays, removable battery and expandable storage in addition to more megapixels on the tech spec sheets, then you should probably pass because this phone just begs to be loved.
Brandon Miniman contributed to this article