Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Review of the HTC One Android Phone

I recently acquired an HTC One Android phone, and here's my review of it.

I do mobile development across four different platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 8), and accordingly I have a nice collection of devices. One thing prominently missing from my collection was an Android phone. Although I do have a Nexus 7 Android mini-tablet, not having an Android phone, with a service plan, left me guessing as how to well my Android apps played on an actual phone in the real world.

After surveying the options, I decided I should either get the new HTC One or a Samsung Galaxy S4, the leading choices in the U.S. After spending some time reviewing each of them online, I concluded that both were very good phones and the only way I was going to be able to choose between them was to physically compare them. So, off I went to my local AT&T store where I could get hands-on time with each. The aluminum HTC One has a nice solid feel over the plastic Samsung S4, and that's what ultimately drove me to get the HTC One. In addition, I'd already owned some Samsung phones previously and wanted to see what HTC had to offer.

Here are the specs on the phone:

Size 137.4 x 68.x x 9.3mm
Weight 143g
Display 4.7 inch, Full HD 1080p, 468 PPI
CPU Speed Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, quad core, 1.7GHz
Platform Android 4.1+
SIM Card Type microSIM
Memory 2GB DDR2, 32GB/64GB total storage
GPS Internal GPS antenna, digital compass
Sensors Gyro, Accelerometer, Proximity, Ambient light
Camera HTC UltraPixel, 1080p Full HD video
Battery Embedded rechargeable Li-polymer, 2380 mAh

Be sure not to confuse the HTC One with its predecessor, the HTC One X. The HTC One has some notable improvements over the HTC One X, including higher resolution and  a more powerful battery.

The display is the star of the HTC One, so let's begin there. It has an impeccable and brilliant 4.7 inch, 1080p display screen. It's something you will appreciate every single time you use your phone.

Reading a Kindle e-book on the HTC One

Viewing a vacation photo on the HTC One

The display may be the star of the HTC One, but audio is a co-star also worth mentioning. It has good front-facing speakers that do your music justice, and Beats Audio which is basically an equalizer profile.

Beats Audio in Settings

There's also a built in FM radio, which you can only use when your earbuds/headphones are in. I find myself using the radio feature quite a bit as I work.

FM Radio

Feel of the Device
The large screen is great for viewing, but at what cost does this come? Unlike some other large-screen phones, the HTC One is not overly heavy or thick. For example, my similar-size Nokia Lumia 20 Windows Phone weighs in at 185 grams and is also quite thick. The HTC One is lighter, at 143 grams, and not nearly as thick (137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3mm). The chamfered back fits in your hand easily. All in all, it's a nice compromise, in the best sense of the word, of screen size vs. weight and thickness. I don't tire of holding it.

HTC One: Nice Large Screen, But Fits Comfortably In Your Hand

At the time I ordered my phone, the only choices were black or silver. Since every other phone I have is black, I went with silver even though I wasn't wild about it. However, it has since grown on me. Naturally, only a week or two after my purchase, HTC has announced new color choices--including red and a beautiful blue. I am fairly despondent about missing out on the blue... :(

Color Choices will Soon Be Red, Blue, Black, or Silver

Android Version and Customization
The HTC One came with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and an Android 4.3 update is supposed to be right around the corner.

With any SmartPhone, you're going to need to spend some time "making it yours". That includes customizing your wallpaper, your lock screen, your ringtone, and installing your favorite apps. In the case of Android phones, you also often have to deal with what the handset maker and carrier have done to it. My phone came littered with the very unnecessary HTC Sense home screen and widgets, and a large set of AT&T applications that I am unlikely to ever use. I should mention I had the option of getting this phone directly from the Google Play store, which would have bypassed the carrier customizations, but I was genuinely interested in what the typical consumer experience is.

To make my phone experience better, I installed the free Nova Launcher from the Google Play store and rearranged my desktop to my liking, with my apps neatly organized across several application folder screens. I also installed Google Chrome to replace the stock browser named "Internet". With these changes, I am a happy camper.

My Phone Customized with Nova Launcher

Performance and Battery Life
It's early yet, but so far, I've been pleased with both the performance and battery life of my HTC One. It largely runs my apps speedily and happily, and it hasn't run out of juice before the day is out. The quad core 1.7GHz processor and 2380 mAh battery are largely to thank for that.

The HTC One is a premier Android phone whose fit and finish stand out. If you can afford a high-end Android phone, this is definitely one worth considering. If like me you develop for the Android platform, you might consider getting one of these, along with some "lesser" devices, in order to have a spectrum to test against.

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