In a nutshell, the all new HTC One is no longer a mystery, so long as the controversial leak from earlier this week is to be believed.
A preproduction model found its way into the hands of 14-year-old Roshan Jamkatel, who created a lengthy (and rather shaky) walkthrough video of the M8. While Jamkatel didn’t necessarily talk specs, he did confirm quite a few of the most recent rumors, such as the introduction of on-screen navigation buttons, the dual-camera setup, and a new face for BlinkFeed. The video also unveiled unexpected details, like a microSD card slot.
What we didn’t need the video to tell us was that this so-called all new HTC One will come with comparable build quality to its predecessor, a similar – yet refined – design, and some of the best specifications on the market.
It’s HTC’s flagship, and the company is fighting tooth and nail to make up lost ground and time. Like last year, HTC’s flagship will come as a machined slab of hefty aluminum, with front-facing speakers, and other components which aid it in being a substantial slab of smartphone.
For many, build quality and design were the most impressive qualities of the HTC One. The original One was a killer smartphone, which garnered a handful of distinctions in the last 12 months. It received the most votes in our Readers’ Choice 2013 poll, grabbing over 21 percent of the total votes; it also won the designation of the best smartphone in the 2014 Global Mobile Awards from the GSM Association; best new mobile handset from the GSM Association just over one year ago; Phone of the Year in the T3 Gadget Awards 2013; and handfuls of other awards and distinctions since it was announced last February.
There is much to be said for the level of quality and finish found in the original HTC One, and we all are waiting with bated breath to see how the company has built upon those successes, as well as how it has improved the design of the forthcoming One.
If we’re to take what was shown in Jamkatel’s video as fact, the all new HTC One will also be a spectacle. The phone looks svelte and … as solid as a phone can look in a noisy, shaky hands-on video shot over a 14-year-old’s messy bed.
In its hunt to scalp some profits off Samsung’s penchant for plastic, however, it’s possible HTC will be missing out on some potential customers. Those machined aluminum unibody chassis aren’t cheap, and the effects of that are passed down to the consumer.
The HTC One was always a premium product with a premium price tag, on and off-contract. It’s still being sold unlocked on Google Play for $599, $199.99 on AT&T with a two-year agreement (or $599.99 sans contract), and $499.99 through Verizon without an agreement.
Sure, those sort of prices have been par for the course for ultra high-end smartphones for the past decade or so. But some manufacturers have started trying to drive the prices of smartphones down with a fair amount of success in the second half of 2013.
Namely, Motorola released the entry-level Moto G for a staggeringly low $179, sans contract. And Motorola’s 2013 flagship, the Moto X, may have started at $499 unlocked, but Moto responded to the desires of consumers and dropped the asking price after consumer interest peaked during the $150 off promotional price. The Moto X’s price tag was permanently dropped to $399 unlocked. At that price, I’m hard pressed to not recommend the Moto X to anyone in the market for a new unlocked smartphone.
With the all new HTC One, though, we can expect it to launch at approximately the same price as its predecessor – right around the $600 mark, if not more.
HTC isn’t ignoring the budget market, howver. Quite the contrary. HTC is actually dedicating a lot of its resources to catering to emerging markets with budget smartphones. At Mobile World Congress 2014 last week in Barcelona, Spain, HTC announced two additions to its well-respected Desire lineup: the Desire 816 and Desire 610.
The larger Desire 816 is fitted with specs comparable to Motorola’s Moto G. It comes with a 5.5-inch 720p display, Snapdragon 400 SoC with a 1.6GHz CPU, 1.5GB RAM, 8GB fixed storage with a microSD card slot for expansion, a 13-megapixel rear shooter, a surprisingly high-res 5-megapixel front camera, BoomSound front-facing speakers, and a 2,600mAh battery. The 610 has a 4.7-inch qHD display, Snapdragon 400 SoC with a 1.2GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage with microSD, 8-megapixel rear shooter, and a 2,040mAh battery.
What we don’t know about the Desire lineup is pricing, but we’re pleased to see, despite their internals, that they look fantastic – the same great design we’ve come to expect from HTC.
But these new Desire handsets and the purposed new HTC One create a distinct gap in HTC’s offerings, a gap that Motorola seemingly created just months ago: a more affordable, high-end smartphone with great specifications and excellent user experience.
Samsung captures this part of the market by way of saturation – releasing dozens of phones each year, all of which appeal to even the most specific parts of the market. Motorola has created the Moto X and Moto G, both of which are highly respected in their respective tiers. HTC only comes close with the HTC One mini, but its nearly the price of the Moto X, with specifications more in line with the Moto G.
What if HTC were to fill that gap, though? What if HTC made a One while retaining its stellar build quality and design, but used materials found in the Desire lineup?
It’s not often we ask why a company is using metal instead of plastic. It’s usually the opposite. But HTC limits its customers to two core choices: a very high-end handset or an entry level budget phone, both for comparatively premium prices.
Just imagine version of the HTC One, new or old – the same specs and design, yet made out of the old One X’s matte polycarbonate material – priced competitively with the Moto X. I’d be in line for that in a heartbeat. The One X and One are among my favorite smartphone designs to date, some middle ground between those two models and the Desire lineup – high-quality plastic without sacrificing specifications – with buyers’ wallets in mind would be a near insta-sell to me.
Of all the mobile OEMs making compelling products, HTC is in the best position to take the heat to Motorola.
Let’s make this happen, HTC.