We have been introduced to some of the most impressive mobile hardware ever this year. Samsung’s Galaxy S 4 and Galaxy Note 3 are impressive, complete packages. Motorola reminded us that specifications aren’t everything. Sony continues to build phones with stellar build quality. The iPhone 5S, as expected, was only an improvement of the already great iPhone 5. And HTC … HTC brought us one of the best looking and feeling smartphones ever built.
The HTC One.
The One wasn’t just a successor to previous HTC smartphones. Instead, it was a complete refresh, a change of direction from the company, a much-needed focus on quality over sheer quantity.
Everything from how the phone feels in your hands to the way the phone operates is polished and well-rounded. Its weight is perfect. Performance is off the charts. The display is gorgeous. And even HTC’s Sense software was changed for the better; it’s lighter, more simple, and just unique enough to give it that HTC flare.
The 9.2 score the One received in our initial review was well-deserved, and in hindsight, I don’t think it would change, even if we were to do it over again today. It was – and still is, by many– regarded as one of the best Android phones … ever.
But the HTC One isn’t perfect. Its battery life is hit or miss. It takes forever to charge. It’s susceptible to getting very hot (and the metal chassis makes holding an overheating HTC One quite uncomfortable). And the camera, well … it could be much better. In other words, there’s room for improvement. So we asked ourselves: how can HTC improve the One with the upcoming M8 refresh?
Frankly, as difficult as that question seemed to answer at first, after some thought, the answers starting flooding in.
Snapdragon 800 and a larger battery
As I stated above, performance has been a non-issue on the HTC One. The Snapdragon 600 chip is one of the best chipsets around, capable of providing smooth gameplay, very respectable benchmark scores, and faster-than-average charging.
The Snapdragon 800 is only better; it provides even better all-around performance. But if the Snapdragon 600 is ample for the needs of the majority and the Snapdragon 800 will likely only produce more heat, why bother?
Two reasons. One, simply because. Two, charging speed.
The battery performance on the HTC One is far from the worst. The Power Saver mode helped my achieve nearly a full day of heavy usage, which is fairly impressive. However, the HTC One is painfully slow at charging, often taking upwards of two and a half hours for a full charge.
So the Snapdragon 800 with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 paired with roughly a 3,000mAh battery could provide one of the best battery life experiences around.
UltraPixel, meet 4K
We have to hand it to HTC. The UltraPixel camera proved a valid point: megapixels are overrated. Take Tony’s comparison of the Lumia 925 and Xperia Z1, for example. The Z1’s 20-megapixel camera offers no real benefit – aside from output resolution – over the 8-megapixel camera on the Lumia 925. It creates more noise and artifacts without providing a significant boost in quality.
That’s exactly what HTC wanted to point out with the 4-megapixel camera on the HTC One. It kept the same sensor size as most other 8 and 13 megapixel cameras while dropping the resolution to 4-megapixels and adding optical image stabilization. The result was a camera capable of capturing significantly more light. The problem, however, was that the max output was only 4-megapixels. The camera simply wasn’t capable of capturing a ton of detail.
When the Lumia 1020 came around, a smartphone bearing a 41-megapixel sensor, Nokia was vetting for the other side of HTC’s argument – pixels do matter, if you know what to do with them. The 1020 offers lossless digital zoom and offers far more detail than any other high-end smartphone camera could hope to provide.
It was a valiant effort, HTC, but 4-megapixels simply doesn’t cut it anymore. If the HTC One successor bears UltraPixel technology, we hope it comes with at least an 8-megapixel sensor, if not larger. Either way, we have high hopes for the next-gen camera from HTC.
To date, HTC has reserved 5-inch displays for its Butterfly brand and the DROID DNA. The HTC One, like the One X, came with a 4.7-inch display. The SLCD-3 panel is something we have no complaints with, but a little extra display real estate could be nice.
These days, 5-inch panels are commonplace in the Android realm, and it would only make sense for HTC to bring its flagship brand up to speed with the competition. What would be even better is if HTC could pull a Samsung – fitting a larger display in the same (or smaller) chassis. The One does have quite a bit of bezel.
Same design, fingerprint scanner, change the plastic trim
HTC has always had at least one thing going for it: fantastic design and build quality. The HTC One is no exception. And save for the Nexus 1, the HTC One may be our favorite HTC smartphone build to date.
There are only a few changes we would request, such as better placement of the power button. If the One Max, the rumored larger version of the HTC One, is to come with a fingerprint scanner, there’s reason to believe the next version of the HTC One will, too. The location – just below the camera on the backside – seems to be a logical spot, as the divot on the rear of the Moto X is a natural place for your index finger to rest.
Another possible change, at least to the white/silver model, is a different material for the white trim along the edges of the phone. Being a matte finished white, the trim is susceptible to getting (and staying) rather dirty. The right edge of our HTC One has a brownish tint to it. There is always grime around the SIM tray, and it never looked particularly neat to begin with.
Replacing this with a less course material – possibly the same consistency as the HTC One X body – would dramatically increase the appearance of the phone in the long term.
Now it’s your turn, folks. If you had your pick, how would you choose for HTC to follow-up the HTC One? How do you think the M8 (HTC Two? HTC One 2?) turn out? Sound off with your thoughts below!