I want to start off this review saying that I have been an HTC owner since 2007, starting with my HTC Mogul on Verizon (XV6800). Back then, HTC ran their phones on Microsoft’s functional but horribly designed Windows Mobile platform. Now, HTC is running their phones on Google’s Android and their own skin named ‘Sense’ (formerly referred to as Sense UI) running atop the Android OS. I’ve personally experienced the evolution of HTC’s Sense user interface from the very beginning and seen them make improvements and mistakes. HTC’s latest iteration of Sense is called Sense 5 and features a social media feed that they like to call “Blinkfeed”. Some find Blinkfeed obtuse and others like it. The same could be said about their hardware design decisions with their devices, they are continually evolving.My personal device history with HTC starts with the HTC Titan, back when they were referred to as Pocket PCs when they ran on Windows Mobile. After that, I went to the HTC Touch Pro (aka XV6850) as I was still on Verizon, which already had Sense UI even though it was on Windows Mobile 6.1. After that phone, I switched to T-Mobile and got myself an HTC G2 (Desire Z), which ran on Stock Android 2.2 Froyo that was upgraded to 2.3 and did not have the Sense experience at all. I then upgraded to the HTC One X, I had the Global Version that had a Tegra 3 (US version had a Snapdragon S4 MSM8960) which featured Android 4.0 and Sense 4.0, and eventually it was upgraded to 4.1.1 . However, the phone was not originally compatible with T-Mobile’s 3G bands at the time until they refarmed spectrum for LTE. Last but not least, I had the HTC Droid DNA (Butterfly) ,which featured Sense 4+ and shipped with Android 4.1.1.
Now, looking at the hardware table (above) from those devices, we can see that HTC has had a pretty strong partnership with Qualcomm over the years, at one point, being one of the biggest if not the biggest customer Qualcomm had. The HTC Mogul had a 400MHz Qualcomm MSM7500, 64MB of RAM, and 256MB of ROM and sported a 1500 mAh battery, a 2MP camera, as well as Bluetooth 2.0, WiFi, and IR with a monstrous resolution of 240x320 on a 2.8” display which had an awful habit of getting hot spots from too much use. After 5 replacements, this was followed by the HTC Touch Pro, which featured a 528 MHz MSM7201A processor with 288 MB of RAM and 512 MB of ROM. Unfortunately the battery actually got a downgrade to 1340 mAh while the camera got upgraded to 3.2 MP and the phone gained a front-facing camera as well. This was all in addition to having an incredibly detailed 2.8” high resolution 480x640 display. Next was the Desire Z, with a zippy 800 MHz Qualcomm MSM7230 chip that had an Adreno 205 GPU and featured 512MB of RAM and 1.5GB of NAND Flash storage. The battery once again got another downgrade, to 1300 MHz (what the hell HTC?) and the screen got upgraded to a 3.7” SuperLCD running at the even greater resolution of 800x 480. The camera once again got another upgrade to 5 MP but lost the front-facing camera for some bizarre reason. This was followed by last year’s HTC One X, which featured Nvidia’s 5 core Tegra 3 chip running at 1.5GHz with an Nvidia ULP GeForce 520MHz GPU and 1GB of RAM accompanied by 16GB of NAND Flash storage. They also upped the battery capacity and added an 1,800 mAh battery which powered a 1280x720 (720P) 4.7” display, it also included an 8 MP rear camera and 1.3 MP front-facing camera. This phone also brought about a lot of new wireless technologies which weren’t really marketed well by HTC, such as NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, and dual-band WiFi.
Since HTC had to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S3, they were easily out-marketed and outspent in almost every single way. Nevertheless, the One X was a great phone for its time. The last phone released prior to the HTC One was the HTC Butterfly, which I still currently have. This phone takes HTC back to Qualcomm with a 1.5GHz quad core processor in the APQ8064, which features an Adreno 320 GPU coupled with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal NAND Flash storage. HTC one-upped themselves once again by implementing a 2020 mAh battery, mostly due to the fact that this device had a separate chip to enable LTE, which likely sucked more power. This device came with an absolutely stunning 5” display that ran at 1920x1080 (1080P) and was the second phone in the world, and the first from a global phone manufacturer, to launch a 1080P display on a phone. It also featured an 8 MP camera which was paired with a 2.1 MP front-facing camera which enabled 720P video chat. Much like the One X, it also had many of the same wireless technologies, but HTC added the ability to wirelessly charge the phone as well. This was the last phone HTC introduced leading up to today’s phone, the HTC One.Specs Compared to the Droid DNA/Butterfly
The HTC One is not wildly different from the Droid DNA (HTC Butterfly) when it comes to the internal components. They both have 1080P displays, albeit not the same display, and they both have almost identical Qualcomm quad core SoCs with LTE. The primary difference is that the HTC Butterfly has an APQ8064 and an MDM9215 while the HTC One has a Snapdragon 600, which essentially integrates those two into one chip with some speed improvements and power savings. For simplicity’s sake, the Snapdragon 600 is also known as the APQ8064T, which already tells you that they two are basically identical. Moving on, the HTC One has 2GB of RAM just like the HTC Butterfly, but comes standard with 32GB of NAND Flash, unlike the HTC Butterfly (and basically every other smartphone out there) that comes standard with 16GB. Moving along, we see that the HTC One actually ups the battery capacity to 2,300 mAh, an increase of more than 10% over the HTC Butterfly, even though the Snapdragon 600 integrates the LTE modem into the chip, potentially allowing for more power savings. The HTC One also sports a 4.7” 1080P SuperLCD 3 display, which is the same type as the HTC Butterfly, except the HTC Butterfly is a 5” display, meaning that the HTC One has an even higher pixel density (468 ppi) than the already ridiculous 441 ppi on the Droid DNA. Finally, the HTC One has a new type of camera sensor which HTC dubs the 'Ultrapixel'
sensor, which means that each of the pixels on HTC’s camera sensor is 4 nanometers square, while their competitors’ are mostly 2 nanometers square, or half the surface area and half the light sensitivity. What this means is that HTC’s camera ends up being 4MP instead of 8MP+ and looks like it would be worse on paper.
(Left to right, HTC One, Droid DNA, HTC One X)
HTC has paired this sensor
with a front-facing 2.1 MP camera sensor, which enables 1080P video, an upgrade from the 720P from the Droid DNA. The HTC One also adds support for 802.11ac WiFi, which means that it has the ability to transfer lots of data over the network incredibly quickly if you have the right router (which most people don’t). As a result of the fully aluminum unibody design, HTC had to drop wireless charging from the HTC One. You win some, you lose some. That long list pretty much sums up the difference between HTC’s two latest devices in terms of internal components and hardware features.HTC One Design and Build Quality
It appears as though HTC has spent quite a bit of time thinking about the HTC One’s design. In fact, one could argue that years have been spent. The HTC One is probably the best designed phone that HTC has ever made in terms of both form and function. The One’s unibody is made up of a combination of milled and polished aluminum and tough industrial plastic which helps bring the phone together.
HTC actually gives a detailed explanation of how they put so much effort into building the aluminum unibody of the HTC One in a very well made marketing video. It simply breaks down the amount of engineering and manufacturing that went into designing such a unique phone.
HTC has utilized their many years of building phones and constantly improving them and changing them in order to arrive at the HTC One. As we compared all of the previous HTC flagship phones, we also want to talk about the evolution of the company's design principles and how they've made gradual improvements with each device to eventually arrive at the One.
The first phone we'll talk about is HTC's first real attempt at challenging Apple, the HTC One X. This phone was designed from the ground up to be competitive with both Apple and Samsung and in terms of specs and design, and it really did hit the mark. However, HTC failed to market the unique software and hardware features that they offered, namely in their camera, physical design, and styling. There were still some issues with the One X that prevented it from competing with the iPhone 4S and Galaxy S3, like the device's microUSB port placement and the sunken-in front-facing camera that would collect dust and eventually become useless, as it was impossible to clean. Later on, some users (myself included) noticed that the camera would take a beating and get scratched and dented due to it protruding outside of the body of the phone.
HTC quickly followed up the One X with the One X+. This left some consumers who purchased a One X unsure of their purchase. This phone was visually almost identical to the One X. The main difference between the One X and One X+ was the higher clocked Tegra 3 SoC and doubled storage capacity. It also had updated software that fixed some software bugs that the One X had, and in traditional phone manufacturer fashion, that update took quite a while to hit the One X (I had an international HTC unlocked version).
(Top to bottom, HTC One X, HTC Droid DNA, HTC One)
While the HTC One X+ addressed some concerns and probably released what the HTC One X should have been, it was clear that HTC was learning. They showed this again with the following phone they released, the HTC Butterfly, also known as the Droid DNA in the United States. This phone fixed the location of the USB port by placing it directly in the bottom of the device making using the device while it charged or synced significantly easier. HTC also introduced a new shape to their phones, which they borrowed from the HTC 8X. This gave the back of the phone a nice, comfortable curvature which made the device feel more comfortable in the hand and simultaneously enabled HTC to fit more inside of the device.
(Left to right, HTC One, Droid DNA, HTC One X)
They also fixed the front-facing camera issue by not only implementing a larger wide-angle camera (similar to the 8X), but also by integrating it behind the front piece of the phone, making it flush with the glass on the front of the device. This resolved the dust collection issue and made the front-facing camera of the HTC Butterfly a great front-facing camera. They also integrated the whole rear camera into the body of the device and left a nice little protective metal ring around the lens to prevent it from getting scratched. Once again, HTC made lots of improvements, but they still made a few mistakes. The first mistake was with the power button: they put it at the top of the phone, which by itself wasn't the problem. The problem was that the button was almost entirely flush with the top of the phone which made it difficult to find and press quickly. Even now, I find myself searching for the power button when locking and unlocking the device.
(Left to right, HTC One X, Droid DNA, HTC One)
(Top to bottom, HTC One X, HTC Droid DNA, HTC One)
Now, looking at the HTC One, we see that HTC finally fixed all of the mistakes made with their previous phones and illustrated an interesting evolution of their design. Essentially, the HTC One is an aluminum version of the HTC One X and HTC Butterfly without all of the mistakes. If you compare all of the hardware decisions made on those devices and simply pick the best ones, you get the One. You can even see how HTC moved the power button from the right-hand side of the top, to the middle, to the left-hand side. You can also see how HTC moved the front-facing camera from the right, to the left, and then back to the right again. Looking at the movement of the USB port you can see how it moved from the left side of the phone, to the dead center bottom, to the bottom right, off center.
The features that are unique to the One are things like the aluminum unibody, a departure from HTC's traditional polycarbonate designs. HTC also opted to move the speaker away from the back of the phone and to instead install two speakers on the front of the phone to give it stereo audio and theoretically better overall sound. They also gave the HTC One a unique camera sensor that was combined with HTC's image sensor chip which is designed to result in impressively sharp and quick photos.
I've been using the HTC One for a little over two months now since I got it directly from HTC. Mine is the 64GB unlocked developer edition. This device comes standard with 64GB while all over versions come standard with 32GB, though the AT&T version can be purchased as a 64GB as well. No other carrier has the 64GB version, unfortunately. This is disappointing because HTC's One already has a leg up on the iPhone and Galaxy S4 since both come standard with 16GB. The 64GB version of the One, if made available on all carriers would enable people to get double the capacity out of an HTC One for $200 less than the price that they'd pay for a 32GB iPhone.Performance, User Experience and Conclusion are found on the next page...
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