HTC is in a difficult position. Last year, the company completely rebooted its Android range with the One series, an initial trio of handsets that looked beautiful, offered impressive hardware specs and hit the low, middle and high-end markets respectively.
It wasn’t successful though. HTC’s flagship device, the One X, went head-to-head with the Samsung Galaxy S III and lost. The smartphone was lovely to look at, had fantastic build quality and a more bearable version of its custom Android skin, HTC Sense. It couldn’t compete with Samsung’s collossal marketing budget though. Backed by an almost endless deluge of TV, magazine and billboard advertisements, the Galaxy S III persevered as the dominant handset.
The launch of the HTC One represents round two. The stakes couldn’t be higher; earlier this month, the company reported revenue of just $384 million, a frightening 44 percent drop on the year before. Last night, Samsung unveiled the new Galaxy S4. There’s no room for error.
The game plan this year appears to be the same as last time though. The new HTC One has a gorgeous industrial design, coupled with competitive specs and a new iteration of its Sense skin. Fearing that a spec bump won’t be enough to topple the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC has opted to differentiate itself with two peculiar design decisions too; a new 4-megapixel camera and a home screen resembling Flipboard.
It’s a looker
HTC has an impressive track record of building smartphones with impeccable hardware aesthetics. The HTC One is no different, sporting two slick aluminium plates and a white plastic ridge running around the side. The 4.7-inch display has a noticeably thin black border which stretches to either side of the device, imitating an edge-to-edge screen when it’s asleep or turned off.
Two speaker grills sit at the top and bottom of the device, giving the HTC One a unique but somehow familiar look. In the run-up to its reveal, plenty of people were comparing HTC’s device to the iPhone 5, and although those thoughts aren’t unfounded, it does feel markedly different.
HTC’s own design cues are accentuated on the back, for example, where the body arcs ever-so slightly. Two white strips of plastic top and tail the device, with the higher one trailing down to the new camera. The HTC and Beats Audio logos are ever present, but they feel subtle and not at all overbearing.
As with the One X, the HTC One is a fairly large smartphone. Anyone with small hands will struggle to tap the top-right corner of the screen without readjusting their grip or switching to a two-handed setup. Having said that, the device is astoundingly comfortable to hold. The curved back and aluminium materials give it a near-perfect feel that has been missing from recent handsets.
The power button is a little too flush with the top of the devices; there’s very little feedback and if you’re not looking at it directly, it can be difficult to know if the handset has actually switched on. Likewise, the volume rocker on the right-hand side feels too inconspicuous and can be difficult to locate by feel.
Better screen, better sound
The One X had a brilliant display but the One surpasses it in almost every way. The 4.7-inch, 1920