Choice is good, and HTC is offering three of them for those wanting to take home one of their new One series of devices. HTC’s One line represents a refreshed focus on the software experience and build quality. Essentially, HTC wants to reclaim the ground it lost in 2011 to Samsung and others, and its One series is its strategy for doing so. Its flagship One X is one of the most beautiful pieces of technology to come to market in a long time, but it’s not inexpensive. For the budget-minded, HTC also has the One V, which incorporates the keystone features of the flagship, but at a much lower price. Is the One V a good value? Read on to find out!
The HTC One V ships with Android 4.0.3 and has a 1.0GHz, single-core Qualcomm S2 MSM8255 Snapdragon CPU with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of onboard storage (with microSD expansion). There is no front-facing camera, and the rear camera is a 5MP shooter with flash which can record 720p video. The display is 3.70 inches at 800×480 resolution (making for a respectable DPI of 252), and is of the Super LCD 2 variety (which has a preferred RGB sub-pixel configuration versus pentile on the Galaxy Nexus). The phone is triband UMTS (850/900/2100) allowing it to work on AT&T in the US. You also get Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and aGPS. The phone weighs 115 grams, and is just 9.24mm in depth. Powering everything is a 1500mAh battery.
The HTC One V is a good-looking device and is cast from a solid block of aluminum. It’s available in both brown (shown here) and gray. It reminds us very much of the HTC Legend, thanks to the “chin”, which is a design element that HTC has utilized on multiple devices.
The chin has no functional value except to make the device feel more like a phone in-hand when you’re holding it against your head while on a call. As you can see from this shot, the border of the screen has a sharp edge, providing a ledge that you can feel for if you want to interact with the three Android buttons.
The display, a Super LCD 2 panel at 800×480 resolution, is a huge improvement over the low-res HVGA 480×320 screen found on the HTC Legend. That said, it’s a far cry from the incredible quality of the One X’s display. With a pixel density of 252 dots per inch, text and images appear sharp on the One V’s display, and color saturation and contrast is very good. Outdoor visibility is also very good. The only downside is that the screen is just 3.7 inches.
The One V lacks a front-facing camera, which is unfortunate.
The back is aluminum, which provides a pleasantly cool-touch if you haven’t had the phone in your pocket or in your hand. The metal backing makes the One V have a very high quality feel. What’s more, the brown metallic finish of the One V has almost a “pearly” quality to it in sunlight, allowing it to glisten. Back here we can see the 5MP camera, plus the removable panel on the bottom.
Removing the back panel we reveal the SIM slot (which can fit a microSIM if you’re willing to poke it around with a paperclip to just the right spot), and a microSD slot which can take up to a 32GB card.
And here on the top we have the 3.5mm headphone jack, an LED notification light, and the power button.
At 9.24mm, the One V isn’t the thinnest handset around, but it sure feels it, thanks to a sharp edge along the perimeter of the device.
HTC has made a lot of changes to Sense in version 4.0. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about its merits and its problems, and we encourage you to read Dear HTC: Here’s How to Fix Sense for background. That said, HTC has tuned down certain elements of Sense to compensate for the slower CPU found on the One V. Here’s a look at what has changed.
Many will rejoice at the sight of the stock Android Ice Cream Sandwich task switcher, because on the One X, HTC replaced it with a webOS-like-panel-switcher-3D-thing that adds too much weight to something that should be light and simple.
Another change in Sense is the keyboard: it’s lacking the directional buttons on the bottom, which is good because with only 800 lines of vertical resolution, we need all the screen space we can get to see content.
One place where we wish HTC had toned Sense down for the One V is in the widget-adding screen. The One V sputters at this task, often showing strange artifacts on the screen as you try to add widgets to your various homescreens. And speaking of homescreens, HTC has removed the helpful Leap feature that lets you pinch to see a zoomed-out view of all of your panels. Even the Legend, with its 600MHz CPU, had this feature.
On the One V you get five homescreens; no more, no less. On the One X, you’re able to add or remove homescreens, which is nice. Too bad the One V didn’t get this helpful capability.
Like the other HTC One devices, the One V has Beats audio, which is essentially a third-party audio equalizer. It becomes available when you plug in headphones. While it does improve the quality of the audio, it doesn’t do it to a dramatic degree.
The One V has just 4GB of storage space, while is hardly enough once you add a bunch of apps and especially multimedia. You can expand it with up to a 32GB microSD card or you can take advantage of cloud storage and get 25GB of Dropbox free for two years. Like iCloud, Dropbox will automatically upload your images (and videos too!) to the cloud, making them available across all devices that have the Dropbox app (which is available for literally every platform now). The catch here is that after the two years is up, if you’re using the space, you’ll have to pay Dropbox for the storage.
As another test note, the omission of a digital compass is a real issue. Many rely on the digital compass in Google Maps to help navigate, and the One V lacks this important feature.
The HTC One V is a budget phone, and as such, we have to keep our expectations in check. With a single-core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU and 512MB of RAM, we didn’t expect the One V to be great with gaming or even fervent multi-tasking. But, at the minimum, we expected it to be an all-around capable smartphone. We were wrong.
The One V seems to have trouble with even the simplest of tasks. At times, emails, settings, and even basic applications can take 2-3 seconds to load. In the browser, the story gets worse: panning, zooming, and navigating desktop websites on the One V is a frustrating experience. Since people use their smartphones more for the web than probably anything else, it’s just not acceptable that this phone has such trouble browsing.
Here’s a look at benchmarks, which are unsurprisingly on the weak side:
Smartbench 2012: Productivity 722, Games 1202
LinPack Pro: 24.656 MFLOP, 5.76 Seconds
HTC describes the One V as having an “amazing camera”, and we think that’s false advertising. The camera on the One V is mediocre at best: colors tend to be oversaturated when you photograph scenes with a lot of color, and macro shots are fuzzy around all edges.
HTC has done some cool things with the camera software, though. You can take photos while you’re recording video, there’s a great burst mode that lets you choose the “best shot” out of many, and there are on-the-fly video effects.
We wish that the One V could do 1080p video, but in most cases, 720p is enough resolution. In this video, we can see that the camera, at times, has trouble focusing, which can be a problem when you’re trying to capture a special moment.
CALL QUALITY/NETWORK SPEED
We tested the HTC One V on AT&T in the US, even though the One V is intended for Europe. Over HSDPA we were able to clock download speeds of about 2mpbs and upload speeds a bit over 1mbps. Not amazing, but again, this phone was not intended to work on AT&T.
In terms of call quality, the One V fairs especially well as a phone thanks to its phone-like shape. Calls were clear. That said, we wish the volume on the earpiece and speakerphone was louder.
The HTC One V has above-average battery life thanks to the smaller screen and power-sipping CPU. It also helps that the battery size is 1500mAh. It’ll last a day and a half with moderate use. With light use, you’ll get through two days before needing a recharge.
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
+ Aluminum unibody feels fantastic in-hand
+ Good battery life
+ Camera software is innovative
+ Relatively inexpensive
– Performance is sub-part, especially in the browser
– Camera is mediocre
– No digital compass, NFC
The HTC One V has wonderful hardware. It’s made from real aluminum, it feels wonderful in-hand, and it looks high quality. We hoped that with the power of the tried-and-true 1GHz Snapdragon chip plus Ice Cream Sandwich underpinnings, the One V would be a capable smartphone. Sadly, that is not the case.
With major performance issues in the browser and in other areas of the operating system, we can’t help but to not recommend the One V until HTC offers a software update to fix these issues. Alternatively, keep an eye on the Android development communities where we might see better-optimized software for HTC’s One V. Maybe stock ICS would fare well on this device. We’ll keep an eye out.
We rate the HTC One V a 3/5.