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First Look: HTC’s new flagship smartphone – the HTC One

Allan Swann
February 19, 2013

At a launch event today – and ahead of Mobile World Congress – HTC unveiled its new flagship smartphone, the HTC One.

Formerly codenamed the ‘M7’, the HTC One  is not to be confused with the company’s current product line, the HTC One X, The One V and the One S.

The HTC One will be released on March 15, at a price comparable to the original HTC One X, which cost £380. All the major UK networks and retailers will be carrying the device at launch.

HTC would not confirm to What Mobile what the mid-range and budget versions of the phone would be called, but that they would be released later in 2013.

The HTC One boasts a 4.7-inch screen at an impressive full 1080P resolution (1080×1920) and a whopping 468 pixels per inch – which should make reading websites, emails and text messages a breeze. For comparison, the iPhone 5 is just 326 PPI.

The processor is the latest Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 600 system on a chip, which will run at 1.7GHz and boast 2GB of RAM, and the phone is fully 4G LTE compatible for the UK (at 800Mhz, 1900 and 2600).

To power that screen and processor combo, HTC have included a 2300mAh battery (most current phones use 2100mAh).  HTC is only releasing the One in 32 and 64GB versions, but 25GB of free Dropbox cloud storage will be included.

But perhaps the most impressive new feature is the HTC One’s nice industrial design. It has been encased in a nice metallic body, which will come in black or silver, with four antennas incorporated into the casing. After a short hands on test, it is a massive improvement on the HTC One X’s plasticky body and odd shaping. The HTC One has a nice weight, feels solid, and is well built – comparable to Apple and Nokia’s high end designs.

The HTC One will launch with what appears to be a below par 4MP camera, but this is misleading – the megapixel race has indeed reached ridiculous proportions. Sony’s latest Xperia boasts 13 megapixels – but no one is suggesting for a minute that this matches up to any top flight DSLR.

HTC have taken the approach of reducing the MP count, which takes up less space on the sensor, and leaves less gaps between pixels where noise can ‘grow’. The camera still uses the same optics as Apple’s iPhone, but with a superior aperture of f/2.0 (the Samsung Galaxy S3 is 2.6, the iPhone 5 is 2.4). What does this mean? A larger aperture (smaller f/stop) means more light can get into the camera and hit the sensor, producing better images.

HTC estimates that this combination of better glass and its ‘ultrapixels’ on the sensor (rather than cramming more megapixels into the phone) means 200% more light hits its sensor. It also has mechanical image stabilisation (to stop handshake blur in photos), HDR, and HTC’s own ‘Zoe capture’ – which like Nokia and BlackBerry – takes a sequence of photos which can be selected from (in case someone shuts their eyes, etc.).

Unfortunately we were unable to have much of a play with the camera, as What Mobile has been locked under embargo, and we weren’t able to use the camera in any real world tests.

One of the HTC One’s best feature is its TV integration – it has an infrared laser built in, so you can program your TV into the phone and use it as a remote, a second screen (with program guides) and will pop up with reminders in your Blinkfeed – one of the new additions to HTC’s Sense software.

HTC One will launch with the new version of its Sense 5 theme for Android. The key change is that it reduces the app grid to 3 x 3 (and 3 x 4 off the home app grid), and uses the homescreen as a news, Facebook and Twitter rolling feed – similar to Flipbook. While useful for some, it does not cache and is unavailable offline. Otherwise it will run the latest version of Android, 4.1.2, and is nice and user friendly.

HTC has placed a big emphasis on the camera’s hardware (as discussed above) and its software, while Zoe capture may be helpful for still images; it also allows users to create video/image montages and upload them live – think of it as a 21st century multimedia gift card. Looks relatively interesting, but hardly a killer app (BlackBerry StoryMaker tried to do the same thing). It has all the usual Instagram-esque filters built in.

The audio/video player however does get a few cool new bells and whistles – when playing music, it will display a graphic equaliser (optional) and/or connect to the internet and download the lyrics – which will play on screen. Again, not killer, but nice touches.

Thanks to @evleaks for the photo. HTC wouldn’t let us take any photos at the brief, and then refused to supply any press images.

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