Goondu review: HTC One will wow users

March 24th, 2013 | by Alfred Siew
Goondu review: HTC One will wow users
Cellphones
22

HTC One_01

By now, you’ve probably read a lot about the HTC One, the phone that every geek is telling you to check out.

Solidly built with a sleek metal frame and endowed with a great camera, it has not failed to impress reviewers who have tried it out, as I did during a recent hands-on test.

Now, after using the phone for more than a week, I can say it’s surely one of the best phones out there, if not the best. It’s got issues, for example, with the pretty finish chipping off, but I’m been very impressed in other areas like battery life and camera.

I should start by recapping what makes the HTC One so hot now.

Sexy one-piece suit
The first thing that greets you is the aluminium one-piece frame that rivals even Apple for its sex appeal. If you’ve always held back from switching from an iPhone because you feel Samsung is too plasticky, well, just have a look at the HTC One.

Like the iPhone, the 143-gram HTC One feels heavy in the hand. But it feels solid. The cool metallic finish will make a lot of people feel they have paid for a premium phone.

Like Apple’s iPhone, however, you will find chinks in the armour – literally. After a week of sharing the space inside my trouser pocket with keys and coins, the phone has suffered from scratching. Parts of the top side of the phone have chipped off, revealing the metal underneath.

HTC One_23

I’m not sure if this is down to my particularly rough handling, but there are two things to note here. One: avoid placing the phone with your keys if you can help it. Two: get the silver version of the phone. It’s better-looking anyway and should not show the chipping as obviously as the black one.

That aside, I have to say I really like the HTC One. That promise I saw a few weeks ago, when I first encountered the phone, has mostly been delivered.

Great camera
I’m not changing my opinion of the UltraPixel camera. Though offering only four megapixels, it shoots well, especially for macro shots, which you’d employ, say, for food pictures or snapshots of yourself on your holidays.

I won’t dwell too much on this, as I’ve covered this previously in the hands-on test. What I can say is that in natural light, the camera captures a great amount of detail and pictures are always sharp even if your hands are not perfectly stable.

IMAG0083

Even in dimly-lit settings, the camera manages to capture enough light to ensure you’re not shooting a shadow. There’s no magic, however.

Despite the UltraPixel technology, which claims to let in more light for low-light settings, pictures can become grainy, much as what you’d get on a regular camera that has its ISO setting dialed up. Still, that’s better than having no picture at all, or a black shadow.

IMAG0088

Here are a few pictures I snapped randomly with the HTC One. Click to pop up the large, full-sized versions.

I’ll admit, I’m no photographer. But as everyday shots go, the HTC One is a great companion to keep records of your fantastic meals, your pet dog and yourself on holiday, for example.

What I also like about the camera is the zero shutter lag. It’s not just a tagline, because it really works. Indeed, the HTC One is sometimes faster to fire away than my Panasonic Lumix because it writes faster to memory than my camera does to its SD card.

Battery life is not bad
I’m also happy with the battery life on the HTC One. Perhaps my benchmark has been low since I used the Samsung Galaxy S II, but I can happily say the HTC One gets me through a day on a full charge… most of the time.

There was one day when I turned on the portable hotspot feature during a two-hour meeting. Two users were logged on to wirelessly tether to my phone’s 3G connection.

Screenshot_2013-03-24-11-41-04

I also had a few phone calls in the day, along with the usual Facebook updates and surfing the Web, and I still got through to after office hours without re-charging the phone. That’s not too bad from the 2,300mAh battery.

Set your 4G off if not using
Your mileage may vary, of course. One thing that the phone has set by default is this “sleep mode”, which automatically turns off your data connection when the phone is idle for a short while.

While this saves battery, it may or may not have caused another issue I had during this one week. When I first popped in my M1 3G microSIM into the HTC One, the phone kept dropping the data connection, because it was frantically switching back and forth between 3G and 3.5G.

HTC One_19

Fortunately, this was solved when I set the phone to avoid looking for 4G networks. As a friend advised, this prevents the phone from getting into a funk, looking for a fast network when you only have a 3G subscription, as I did.

I’m hopeful that M1 – and other telecom operators here in Singapore – will have worked out the kinks at launch. Another disclaimer: the HTC One I have is not the final retail version, so it may not have been optimised for use in Singapore.

There’s another issue you have to take note of. The HTC One doesn’t come with a microSD card slot, so you have to stick to the 32GB or 64GB onboard for your apps and songs.

HTC Sense interface
I’d also add that, contrary to what the Taiwanese phone maker says, you can “get rid” of the HTC Sense interface and its Blinkfeed main page that displays updates from your friends and other news sources.

You can simply install Nova Launcher from the Google Play store and replace the home screen with a neat, stock Android interface that is close to what you get on Nexus phones.

HTC One_22

This also replaces the three-column icon drawer view from HTC, which I’m not a fan of. So, if you’re worried about HTC Sense being a deal breaker, don’t fret.

Will running a separate launcher slow things down? Not that I noticed, despite installing my dozens of apps on the phone over the week.

The quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chip, plus the 2GB RAM onboard, must have taken care of things to ensure a smooth experience.

What you can’t get rid of though is the way HTC displays your photos in the Gallery app. This is no issue, really. Much like on a Windows Phone, the more eye-catching tile-like interface is a welcome change to the thumbnails you’ve got so familiar with on Android.

Little nagging issues
The HTC One does come with its quirks though. The power button, for example, is flushed so closely to the body of the phone that some users will struggle to find it the first time round. It’s also not that easy to press at first, because it’s rather flat to the surface of the phone.

But you get used to it. As you do with one fewer button on the HTC One than other Android phones. The Home button is on the right now and it doubles up as a task manager when you double tap on that. Again, it’s unusual at first, but you get used to it.

One iconic phone
All these issues I’ve raised are not deal breakers, I feel. The most serious of them is perhaps the finishing chipping off – you may consider a silver HTC One for that, or remove sharp objects from your pockets.

You find out a lot about a phone after actually using it, and I’m sticking to my original assessment that the Taiwanese phone maker has made an excellent device in the HTC One.

HTC One_08

This is one iconic phone that rivals Apple’s excellent camera and solid build, while providing the flexibility and modern features that fellow Android competitors like Samsung provide.

Is this the best phone out there? I’d say very close to it.

Don’t forget Samsung’s Galaxy S4 has a bigger 5-inch screen that sports its really bright Super AMOLED screens. Sony’s Xperia Z, another top-end contender, also has a 5-inch screen and a great-looking glass finish. Plus, it’s water-resistant, making it practical as well as pretty.

Bottomline: go check out the HTC One if you’re in the market for a new phone. It’s not cheap – at S$968 for the 32GB version – but it’s competitive. It’s one phone I’d pay for if I hadn’t bought my Nexus 4 recently.

 

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22 Comments

  1. LeoVainio says:

    Agreed with Michael Noel. Only a complete moron would put a premium smartphone like this in a pocket with keys and coins. What an idiot. But good to know for future reference that the silver One will maintain its looks for slightly longer than the black One.

    • hohopig says:

      However, I won’t be surprised if lots of people do, cause of all the fake hype about the supposedly “premium” material, making them think that it is actually really made of tough metal.

  2. Carl says:

    Hey Guys, A little help please! i live in thailand and just had my friend bring me “The One” from russia, everything is working great, love the phone, however i cannot connect to the 3G network here. Data Plan is set but i can only pick up “edge network” Have contacted HTC & My provider to no prevail. anyone have any ideas/suggestions.
    Thanks in advance

    • hohopig says:

      I am not in thailand so I am not sure how I can help. But have you tried to looked for the network manually. And is the phone lock to a specific telcom, like they do in USA? Did you make sure that your friend bought an unlocked phone?

    • avi says:

      yes…am in thailand…and i have got the same issues…it doent connect to 3g..i only get edge…its so horrible.. did u find any soltion for that..???

  3. Michael Noel says:

    Only an idiot would put any phone like this in their pocket along with keys and coins.

    • Tai Nguyen says:

      i wouldn’t be that harsh. but i would agree with you completely. i mean with any phone, you shouldn’t put key/coin in the same pocket as they would scratch the screen let alone the body. LOL

      • hohopig says:

        True, but to be honest, all of us make that mistake once in a while. I know I still do with my S2 (I know .. I know, but I let my wife use my phone upgrade and have to wait till oct to get mine). Thing is … my S2’s casing is not scratched (and am not too worried about my glass as it has a screen protector which I have not bothered changing and it lasted me for one and a half year. A little worse for the wear but still very serviceable) nor damaged.

  4. hohopig says:

    O and one more thing – noticed all the photos are closed up. But

    Ps – your definition of “Macro” is wrong … macro setting is used for closed up shot but NOT personal shot that is a distance away. So how is the pic quality for a photo where the person is around 4 – 5 meter away?

  5. Mike Lim says:

    iPhone 5 black premium aluminium body also suffer from the same chipping problem as well. Hey the iPad body is also aluminium.
    With 2GB RAM (vs 1GB in One X), task management should be better. If they follow One X+ and Butterfly, HTC One will have a single partition for apps and data.
    HTC One is not perfect, but it is the arguably the best Android phone available at the moment.

    • hohopig says:

      😛 well let’s hope.

      About the iPhone 5 … that is not much of a confidence booster. Bottom line is, Aluminium is NOT better. But let’s hope they go for single partition and they get rid of and refrain from introducing more insane and overly “useful” features.

      • Mike Lim says:

        From http://www.androidcentral.com/htc-one-review,
        ” Storage is arranged in a single partition for both apps and media”.

        FWIW, S4 has a lot more software features; AirView, Smart Pause, Multi-View, Dual Camera Mode, Smart Scroll, S Health….

        • hohopig says:

          Great to hear. At least HTC finally managed to come up with a top grade phone without an achilles heel. Anything that helps to provide more choice in Android is a win in my eye.

          And definitely agreed about S4. It sounds much better to me, as I am one who is more concerned about functions than form. I mean aesthetic is nice and all and I won’t mind having a nice looking phone (although my opinion about HTC One’s choice of material is Not great) but when push comes to shove, I will pick function over mere aesthetics.

  6. hohopig says:

    The reason why it chaff so easily is because Aluminium is one of the cheaper and softer metal and is not worth the premium. So please stop with calling these “metal” casing premium until they start using high grade stainless steel for casing. Bottom line – if you get a phone with weak casing such as aluminium, get a cover, but that sort of defeat the purpose isn’t it?

    But for me, the more immediate concern is whether if HTC has finall recanted and ditched their overly aggressive task killing setting they used in HTC One X. And also have they moved on and allow unlimited storage space for apps (up to the max storage of the phone), instead of restricting us to 2GB/4GB or whatever arbitrary setting again. If so, then they are worth considering despite their lack of removable battery AND lack of SD card

    • Tai Nguyen says:

      yes steel case with a 300g phone? you carry that brick? LOL

      • hohopig says:

        Well, I am not the one calling the phone “Premium”. And btw, while stainless steel is heavier, it is NOT that much heavier and it does not need to be as thick as aluminium to achieve a superior strength. 😛

        What I am saying is, if they want to call it a “premium” material, then actually use it.

        As for me, if they can perfect the plastic composites that they use for the phone to make it even tougher, stronger. more scratch proof, shock proof, I will be a happy puppy. Just don’t come and boost to me about your “premium” material when you can’t deliver.

    • LeoVainio says:

      32GB is already way much… I’ve got literally like 100 apps installed on my One X+, as well as all my music…. and I’m at like 20GB. Gonna buy the 64GB One in the coming weeks, only an idiot would need an SD card on top of even 32GB.

      • hohopig says:

        mmm I do agree that this depends on one’s usage pattern. But if you have a small library of CDs (and you do mind the audio quality), not to mention videos, it is going to take up your 32GB easily.

        And given the fact that more and more apps are growing in size, to even 1 or 2 GB, it won’t take long to fill up the space if you care about quality apps.

        So actually, it will be an idiot who don’t buy an SD card on top of the 32 GB storage (though it is more like 28 – 30 GB), unless he is someone who only uses the phone for calling .. but then why even buy a smartphone then.

        • LeoVainio says:

          I have the One-X+… I have a LOT of big games on there, in fact I have over 100 downloaded apps. In addition to that I have my large music library on there. I’m barely scratching 20GB used storage. If you put videos/movies on there, a few movies would only take a couple GB… then replace the ones you’ve seen with new ones. I would find it exceptionally hard to use 32GB. Let alone 64GB.

          • hohopig says:

            I can only say that your usage pattern from me and quite a few others than. Do big is your Music Library and what format do you rip your music to? to have a large music library that is about 10 GB (I am assuming that your 100+ apps is only 10GB, although to be frank, with some of the apps, it can get much bigger), I suppose it is either only about 15 album? Else you rip it to a very compact format. But for others like me who like keep the file in the higher format, it can easily takes up 20 – 30GB, together with the photos and what not.

            So, since I don’t know your actual usage I can’t say much about that, but suffice to say that there ARE people like me who NEEDS the space. So this phone is definitely NOT for me.

          • LeoVainio says:

            Okay so let’s say your music library is 30GB, which is crazy by the way :p … get the 64GB One and even with a ton of apps and a couple movies you’ll have over a dozen gigabytes left.

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