Dude(tte)s. The HTC One is killing it right now.

I qualify this up front by saying the phone isn’t released yet, and in fact will likely see significant delays reaching the market in significant numbers. Also, despite our review units arriving in retail packaging with near-final or final hardware and software, we should toss out a little CYA here saying that yes, it’s possible that the units reaching customer hands will have some kind of widespread problem that spells doom for the brand.

We don’t think that’s likely, though. By all accounts, from Pocketnow and elsewhere, it looks like the One might be one of the biggest hits in HTC’s history. And no matter how you feel about HTC, about Android, or about smartphones in general, that’s exciting. Not just because of what it says about the manufacturer, the platform, or even the product category – but because of what it says about tablets.

Potential tablets. Imaginary tablets. The unicorn beauties of the slate-computing world. The big what-if in Android. That is: what if HTC made a tablet as awesome as it’s made the One?

Just in case you need a refresher on the hotness.

Some folks have accused us of fawning a little too often over HTC in venues like the *** Pocketnow Weekly podcast and the Pocketnow Live hangouts, but it’s hard to deny that HTC is doing some of the most interesting work in Android today, in terms of material selection and build quality. The company only showed a tiny fraction of its imaginative potential with its one and only Android tablet, 2011’s disappointing Flyer; imagine a 2013 iteration that ported the HTC One’s beveled-edge bezel and aluminum unibody construction to a seven- or eight-inch form factor. Some of that’s already been done in another ecosystem, but HTC probably stands the greatest chance of giving that competitor a run for its money in terms of build quality.

Plus, there’s the screen to think about. The One isn’t the first example of HTC’s ability to crank out incredible displays; last year’s One X impressed us just as much. Even without using AMOLED-based panels, the company is able to offer screens with excellent color saturation and deep blacks, with the increasingly common glass lamination that gives a user the impression that his or her finger is directly in contact with the displayed graphics.

This screen is so good, not even a crappy camera can make it look bad.

Then there’s software. For -literally- years, the tech press has been hounding HTC to tone down or eliminate its custom Android skin, HTC Sense. The heavy, laggy, ugly UI layer detracted from the Android experience and even its newer, “lighter” iteration aged incredibly quickly, as we mentioned in our After The Buzz episode featuring the Droid DNA.

HTC declined the invitation to tone down Sense, instead taking the road less traveled by: rather than modifying the skin and calling it better, the company actually made it better by revising the aesthetics and adding unique features, while maintaining excellent responsiveness. Regardless of your feelings about BlinkFeed or Zoe, it’s hard to argue that HTC didn’t add value in Sense 5.

Translating that to the tablet landscape could mean any number of things: we might see improvements to the UI that make using Android on large screens more intuitive, probably building on old HTC favorites like card-based multitasking and maybe a rethought homescreen carousel. Based on the need to keep pace with Samsung in terms of home-theater integration, we’d very likely be treated to features of mild or questionable usefulness like TV remote control apps. But we might also see innovation in more mainstream sectors, like -finally- a realistic and compelling S Pen competitor, or a software build that interacts with a keyboard dock for added functionality.

Like this, except not at all like this.

It wouldn’t all be martinis and marimbas, though; HTC isn’t exactly known for promoting expansion or adaptability in terms of hardware these days, so we’d probably be treated to yet another Android tablet without a memory card slot or a swappable battery. The latter is common enough these days that it’s almost a non-issue, but the lack of a memory card is still a frustrating omission in the eyes of many would-be buyers. While it’s not totally unrealistic to think that HTC would retain the original Flyer’s Micro SD card slot, we’re not holding our breath for it, either.

Despite that, we’re still talking about a tablet from a company who’s finally gotten Android almost entirely right after years of almosts and nearly-theres. A tablet with outstanding build quality, a beautiful display, and unique hardware and software features that make it stand out as a premium Android tablet experience. Sure, it’s still imaginary, and maybe it’ll never see the light of day – but that just makes conjuring up its supposed specs all the sweeter.

Speaking of specs: there’s stuff I didn’t get to in this fantasy piece, mainly because things like clock speeds and gigabyte counts don’t exactly ring my bell. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to hear from you. If you’re looking for a place to sound off about how many cores you want in your HTC Flyer 2, OneTab, or whatever you want to call it – or you just want to tell me how wrong I am – you know where to find the comments section. Keep it civil, and happy speculating!

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