I have been a fan of the iPhone ever since the iPhone 3G, but find that after around 12 to 18 months of using a phone I get very bored. The issue with iOS is that it looks and feels the same no matter which device you’re using, so from time to time I like to stray over to Android. I have been a user of the iPhone 5 since launch day and I am starting to look for my next move, so I jumped at the chance to try out one of the highest rated Android devices of the past 12 months – The HTC One.
Yes, I know I am late to the party on this one, but this review is mainly for iPhone users looking to move over to the Android ecosystem.
There isn’t much to be said regarding the packaging a device arrives in. Not anything that would affect my choice to buy the phone, so I’m happy as long as it protects the phone in transit. That said, it is nice to see HTC move away from the traditional shape boxes of the iPhone and Samsung, so kudos to HTC for taking Apple’s advice and trying to “think different”.
Notice I use the term “materials” rather than “build quality”?
This is because I am a strong believer in the fact that using aluminium to make a phone does not make it well made and therefore have good build quality. Both the One and the iPhone feel slippery in the hand when not used with a case, with the One feeling slightly more slippery in my opinion. As this is the case, I would recommend buying a case for both devices which really undermines the point of the aluminium feel. Many people hate the plastic used on phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 but at least the back panel is replaceable should you scratch it. Overall in this category though I have to admit that HTC seem to have trumped the iPhone in the finish of the device. My iPhone 5 has been in a very large number of cases since it arrived with me and never once has it been used without a case. That being said, HOW have I managed to chip the paint on the bottom chauffeured edge?? The finish on the iPhone feels thin and fragile where the HTC One feels scratch resistant and thick in comparison. Remember though that both handsets WILL scratch and chip if not treated with care and dropped onto hard surfaces when not protected.
This is where the HTC One comes into its own. The stereo FRONT FACING speakers make a massive difference when compared to the single bottom mounted speaker on all iPhone models to date. The sound is LOUD, clear and well defined. However, it took me a while to get used to not having to cup my hand to channel the sound when watching videos. I really hope other manufacturers copy this idea!
The 4.7 inch screen on the “One” obviously beats the iPhone in the size war but that isn’t the whole story. The HTC screen is bright and so clear when viewing high def video that it is hard to believe this is on a phone. The issues I found were when using the phone as a sat nav mounted to the windscreen of my car. Compared to the iPhone 5 screen it feels like the HTC is more reflective and less visible in sunlight.
Under low light conditions there is a slight improvement over the iPhone 5 but overall both handsets are limited when compared to a cheap point and shoot camera, or even a phone with Xenon flash and in normal daylight the One is no comparison to the iPhone. I do like how HTC have tried to be different in going for the 4 megapixel camera to provide larger “ultrapixels” but in all honesty I don’t think the gamble paid off. The phone takes average shots overall and it would depend when you want to take your shots as to how useful the “ultrapixels” are. I would be interested though if their next handset features a similar idea with higher pixel count.
There is a volume button there somewhere
The button layout takes some getting used to. The power button on the top is hard to reach and on the other side to the iPhone so it did take a day or so to adjust. The volume buttons are beautifully crafted and blend into the side of the phone so well that the are hard to find during a call and again are on the opposite side to the iPhone that I am used to. That said, I have always thought Apple put the volume buttons on the wrong side as the natural orientation for video viewing for a right handed person puts the home button on the right leaving the volume buttons below the screen.
The iPhone’s simplicity of a single home button is not copied at all on the HTC device with the capacitive buttons having number of functions depending on whether you single tap, double tap, tap and hold or tap whilst scratching your nose. Although the same can be said for the iPhone, the shear number of combinations I found annoying and not very intuitive to the end user as well as easy to activate in error.
Android 4.3 update
During my testing I received the 4.3 (sense 5.5) update to the device. The update process was easy to follow and quick. Overall I did not see any major difference with the update other than the flexibility of the lock screen was REDUCED. Before the update you could have photo galleries scrolling or productivity notifications, music controls and a whole host of other choices found under the personalise menu. After the update you are restricted to adding widgets which mean you need to swipe to the right to view the information whereas it was right there on the first screen before. HTC claim this is from customer feedback but unless I am missing something I cannot imagine any consumer saying “please make my information harder to see at a glance”. Overall I found the Android implementation to be smooth and mature and I personally welcomed the option to disable blinkfeed.
My understanding of Beats Audio is that is simply an EQ setting to make music sound fuller. During my testing I found it to sound good on quality headphones but muddy and awful on my car speakers. HTC have ended their relationship with Beats and that isn’t any real loss as far as I can see.
App store/Play store
For day to day apps, both application stores have most bases covered but the Google Play store excels in customisation options from launcher replacements to custom keyboards. I also loved the fact that you can trial an app for 15 minutes and remove it for a refund if you don’t like it. This is far better than the bigger Apple App store.
My first annoyance with the Android device was ENTIRELY Apple’s fault and is something to be aware of when moving from iPhone to any other platform. When you enable iMessage on the iPhone this registers your number on Apple’s servers so that, when other iOS users open a new message to you, Apple can instruct the device to default to iMessage to send the message. When you move to another platform you must disable iMessage on your old device before removing the SIM. I did this but still experienced 24 hours where people were having issues sending me messages as their handset still thought I was on iMessage. This did resolve itself but don’t forget to disable iMessage first.
The HTC One does not allow you (currently) to turn off screen timeouts! This is very annoying when listening to music on a treadmill and needing to skip or pause the track. This also proved an issue when listening to music in the car although I found a workaround for this in the “car” app which overrides the timeout settings. People rave about Android being more customisable so this seems a massive oversight on HTC’s part to not allow this simple option.
When this phone launched HTC pushed the gapless design of the aluminium and polycarbonate construction so I was shocked to find that the top right of the screen had a lip where the top left did not. Obviously this is a review handset and I do not know what life it has had but there does seem to be plenty of other quality control issues being reported on forums. (I haven’t forgotten about the iPhone 5 Scratchgate fiasco).
When looking to recommend a phone to the average user I use what I call the Mum test. If I gave this phone to my mum, could she use it with little help. My mum recently went from a Sony Ericsson slider to an iPhone without any major drama. Honestly I do not think the same would have been said for this handset. To some this could be seen as a positive but it completely depends on the purchaser.
I have really enjoyed my short time with the HTC One and it has reminded me how much I love both platforms. The HTC One does show the industry many good ideas (mainly the speakers) but overall I’m not sure it is the “One” for me. My next handset is more than likely going to be an Android device so lets wait and see what HTC, Samsung and LG can offer early next year.