It’s judgement day for HTC. Since the end of 2012, rumors of the Taiwanese manufacturer’s newest flagship have snowballed. Peter Chou was even filmed on stage leading HTC in a chant at a company party, “HTC! HTC! HTC! M7! M7! M7! HTC One!”

And virtually every inch of what is assumed to be HTC One has been inspected by way of hardware leaks, renders, software screen shots and even camera samples. It’s safe to say Chou and Co. weren’t terribly worried about the surprise factor this time around.

Earlier this morning, HTC President Jason Mackenzie took the stage at a one-off press event in New York City – at the same time CEO Peter Chou made the announcement from London – to unveil the HTC One. Just as the rumors suggested, HTC pulled no punches this time around. (Okay, maybe just one.)

The HTC One has some of the best specifications to date and implements some new technologies. It features: a 4.7-inch 1080p S-LCD3 display for roughly 468 pixels per inch (the highest density to date), a 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 CPU, 2GB RAM, 32 or 64GB of internal storage, dual front-facing speakers with BoomSound, 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera, UltraPixel camera (two a 4-megapixel sensor), HTC Zoe for capturing full-res photos and videos together and a zero-gap aluminum body.

The HTC One has a fairly unique design and interface.

On the software side, HTC has made some major changes to the UI. The new version of Sense is referred to as Sense 5, just like some rumors suggested. The interface looks a lot more clean and simple now, versus the convoluted, overbearing Sense from years past. Pictured above is BlinkFeed, real time, updating information on your home screen.

The device is set to launch late March. U.S. availability is set to follow thereafter for T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint. Verizon is the only major U.S. carrier that will not get the HTC One initially – it’s safe to assume that’s due to the recent launch of the DROID DNA. That’s rather unfortunate for Big Red customers.

Pricing is a big variable. Some sources suggest the pricing will be in the range of about £500 (or about $776 USD). Other sources point to a less budget-friendly price tier of £599 (or roughly $929 USD). Here’s to hoping for the former.

It appears as if HTC took last year’s attempt to rebrand and refocus its efforts on more simple and straightforward marketing tactics to the extreme, and we’re really loving it. However, old habits die hard.

Specifically in terms of the HTC One, the hardware looks great, most the specifications are fantastic and the software is improved (or so it seems). There is little to complain about with this device’s horsepower, the quality of the display and storage. Those will undoubtedly be the most praised features of the One.

But the HTC One may be susceptible to the very same issues almost every HTC phone to date has suffered from: poor battery life. Under the hood, the HTC One has a seemingly meager 2,300mAh battery powering what will – for the time being, at least – one of the most powerful phones on the market once it launches.

One could argue that the extra thin chassis is to blame for skimping on an excessively large battery. At its thickest point, the One is 9.3mm and tapers down to less than 4mm. That’s an incredible feat, no doubt. But HTC’s counterparts have proven that large batteries can be crammed into tiny places. At its thickest point, the DROID RAZR MAXX HD by Motorola is also 9.3mm thick, yet it hosts a monstrous 3,300mAh, a full 1,000mAh more. The taper on the HTC One is for an illusion that makes the device feel smaller and thinner in the hand than it actually is. No, the RAZR MAXX HD doesn’t taper to less than 4mm on its edges, but it doesn’t feel too terribly large in the hand either.

HTC unveiled the UltraPixel camera, a 4MP sensor that will capture more light and detail.

The real question, one that many want the answer to, is: how will the UltraPixel camera perform?

HTC gambled big on ImageSense last year, boasting it would provide one of the best smartphone camera experiences to date. The fact that ImageSense was not even mentioned today should serve as a testament to how hard that marketing tanked. The One X camera was far from the best smartphone camera I’ve ever used.

This year, HTC is once again putting a lot behind its image sensing with its UltraPixel camera, or a 4-megapixel sensor that will output an image approximately the size of a standard 8-megapixel camera. Images are supposedly more crisp, detailed and capture “300 percent more light” than other smartphone camera sensors for better low-light performance.

If the One camera performs as advertised, it should give Samsung some pause. With the exception of battery capacity, HTC has addressed all the issues of its previous devices: it has ample storage, a gorgeous display, a powerful CPU and one of the best designs we’ve seen on an Android phone to date. It reeks of quality and I can’t wait to get my hands on … One. (Pun most definitely intended.)

The one major takeaway here is that HTC pulled all the stops and has raised the bar for Samsung. Not only did it beat Sammy to the punch by three weeks, but it did so in style with simultaneous events, a seemingly great product and unified branding. The fact that the One will launch at approximately the same time on three major U.S. carriers is a huge move by HTC, one that should pique the interests of Samsung.

We only have a few weeks to wait before Samsung unveils the Galaxy S IV – March 14, allegedly. One thing is certain: Samsung better bring its A game.

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