I’ve learned that there are two things about being a smartphone-and-tablet reviewer.
The first thing: you get to handle awesome gadgetry days or weeks ahead of its official release date, and you’re not just allowed to use the heck out of it; you need to, in order to do your job. That’s the awesome thing.
The other, less-awesome thing: you eventually have to give it all back.
Empty Nest is a recurring column discussing what I miss -and what I don’t- about the devices I’ve had to return.
Normally, I have a bit longer to say my goodbyes. The device-of-the-month and I usually spend a goodly amount of time together before parting ways. I get a sense of its character over the course of a few weeks, a feel for its high and low points – hopefully enough to write a review that helps buyers decide whether it’s worth their money.
But not this time. When it arrived in my Boston office, the HTC One was such a hot item, so pivotal to the success or failure of a longtime Android manufacturer and so notable as a counterpoint to the Galaxy S 4, that it needed an in-depth exploration by a person with an eye for resolution, for extreme detail. It needed the editor-in-chief treatment. And so, following a podcast discussion, a couple camera comparisons, a “premium” unboxing …
… and a comparison video co-starring its immediate predecessor …
… our HTC One review unit was quickly packaged up and sent to Pocketnow’s Philadelphia offices, where our own Brandon Miniman put it to the test and cranked out a ton of content for your eyes and ears – including our full review. That left Brandon and Managing Editor Anton D. Nagy as the two team members with the HTC One – and the latter certainly didn’t waste his time with the device, either.
Spoiled editor that I am, it’s not often that I’m deprived of a halo device after only two days’ hands-on time, and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the sudden lack of the HTC One in my life. In brief, then, here’s what I miss, and what I don’t.
It’s Good to See You
The things I miss about carrying the HTC One are predictable, and have been beaten to death so completely over the past few weeks that they’re essentially clichés. But if you’ve somehow avoided the ceaseless praising of the One’s hardware across all of tech media, allow me to edify you: this phone is beautiful. Yes, it’s beautiful in photos, and it’s even quite nice when handled in person at an HTC event. But take it off the tether, get it in your palm with your Google account synced up and BlinkFeed tuned in to your Facebook and your Twitter account, and it really comes alive in a way that’s difficult to describe. I didn’t have long to fall in love with the resulting confluence of user-centric aesthetic win, but I didn’t need it: the One won me over very quickly.
But more so than any of that: I appreciated its novelty. Not just in the sense that every new phone is a pleasure, either. Sure, that’s a part of it, but I also found the One’s sense of “newness” more immersive, more complete. Its fresh take on Android didn’t stop at the hardware, but continued into HTC’s new software skin, Sense 5. There are things I’d change about the company’s new UI overlay, but it was certainly a welcome reprieve from the earlier version, and even from Samsung’s increasingly-stale TouchWiz Nature UX. Some of it was new-for-newness’-sake, but much of it was functional as well. I appreciated that, and I started missing it as soon as the door closed behind me at the FedEx shipping office.
It’s Good To See You Go
You know what I don’t miss, especially after two weeks with the tough-as-titanium Kyocera Torque? Treating my phones with kid gloves. Cradling them carefully to protect them against falls. Making sure I don’t put them in a zippered pocket, lest I scratch their delicate displays or lens covers. Wiping tabletops before laying them down, lest they encounter a rogue grain of Mohs-loving quartz. I did all that during my time with the One. I babied the hell out of that sucker, and I don’t miss it one bit.
Granted, part of the reason for my excessive caution was to keep the device pristine for Brandon’s review photos and video. But those who deride the One as impractical because of its metal body may well have a point. I’m speaking in terms of hardware longevity: when subjected to impacts, HTC’s aluminum will probably scratch more easily -and more grotesquely- than Nokia’s exposed polycarbonate, and while Samsung’s plastics are pretty soft as well, at least its “hyper-glaze” coating does a fair job of covering those scratches up. We won’t know how the One’s aluminum fares long-term until its time in the After The Buzz and durability report spotlights in a few months’ time, but experience with metal phones has taught me to be slightly wary about them. I don’t miss worrying about that.
Till Next Time
There are other little details I’m relieved not to be harping on anymore, like the absence of wireless charging and the camera quality (or lack thereof). But to be completely honest, what I’m most glad to be rid of is the responsibility attached to toting the One and reporting on its highs and lows. Granted, that’s my job -and it’s one I’m insanely happy to have- but covering the One is a high-pressure situation. It may not be as bad as reporting on Windows Phone, but you’ve got the small-but-vocal HTC fan base on one side, the massive -and even more vocal- Samsung collective on the other, and the occasional Nokia PureView hardcore types filtering in to talk UltraPixels. All of them square off in the comments, everyone rabidly defends his or her turf, and all the while, we’re wondering how well or poorly the One will do on behalf of HTC in 2013.
That’s a pretty normal situation in smartphones, but right now the stakes are so high for the Taiwanese manufacturer that if the One doesn’t perform, HTC’s CEO has declared that he’ll resign. That’s intense. While I’m glad the One has won the hearts and minds of most of the technology press -because I think it deserves it- I’m glad to have been given a reprieve from the war zone. For a few weeks, at least.
Peter Chou resignation statement source: Business Insider