HTC's 'One' phone to rule them all: Meet its latest flagship

HTC opts for a radical redesign of its trademark Sense UI and simplicity with the One.

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NEW YORK -- HTC gets another shot at a turnaround with its One smartphone.

The company unveiled its latest Android smartphone today in a global launch that included simultaneous events in New York and London.

HTC is getting even more serious about its push to streamline. Following up on last year's vow to trim its product lineup, the company unveiled one device, simply called One. There will be no variation in which carriers get which phones: 150 wireless service providers will sell it, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile USA in the U.S.

HTC President Jason MacKenzie, who kicked off the New York event, said the company saw a massive opportunity to bring some excitement back to phones. He added that the One isn't a set of incremental improvements but is about taking a bold step forward for something new and fresh.

The 32 gigabyte version of the One will retail for $199.99 with a two-year contract, and the 64GB version should sell for $299.99 -- though HTC is still hashing out the final details with its carrier partners. HTC would only say that the phone will hit stores in March.

Simplicity dominates the look and feel of the phone. On the software side, HTC completed revamped its trademark Sense user interface, getting rid of the retro flip-clock and other widgets for a cleaner, more modern look. Rather than focus on a screen full of apps, the One's home page is dominated by "BlinkFeed," a Flipboard-like collection of news stories, social status updates, pictures, and other information that a person can scroll through.

On the hardware side, the phone is constructed entirely of aluminum in a process it calls "zero-gap construction." The antenna employs part of the metal back to send and receive signals. The company hopes the premium feel of the phone will turn some heads.

Few of the specifications are surprising because of the numerous leaked pictures and stories, which spilled many of the details. The phone, codenamed M7, comes with a high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.7 gigahertz quad-core process, 2GB of RAM, a 2,300 mAh embedded battery, and a 2.1 megapixel front-facing wide-angle camera. It will run Android 4.1,2, also known as Jelly Bean, and the latest version of the Sense UI (which dropped the numbering scheme but is technically the fifth iteration).

HTC President Jason MacKenzie talks up BlinkFeed, a constantly updating stream of news, images, and social updates from friends. Sarah Tew/CNET
HTC has also packed a unique rear camera. Its "UltraPixel" sensor actually has only four megapixels, but the company said the camera will better pick up light and will work better in the dark than rival smartphone cameras such as the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III. Powering the camera is the next-generation ImageChip. The camera also has optical image stabilization for less blurry photos and can shoot 1080p videos through both its rear and front cameras.

One of the key new features of the camera is the ability to take a "Zoe" shot, which is actually a short video clip. The camera begins one second before the user presses the button (through buffering) and continues for three more seconds to create a short video like the ones found on Twitter's Vine. By scrolling through the photo gallery, shots come alive like something out of "Harry Potter." In addition, collections of photos from a specific event are automatically collected and joined with music to create "Zoe Highlight" videos.

The One's display is 4.7 inches large and is also a full 1080p HD display. It is packed with 446 pixels per inch, giving it more pixel density that the iPhone 5's Retina Display and its own recently released Droid DNA.

HTC's new flagship phone, One. HTC

HTC is again adding Beats audio technology to the smartphone and has added dual front-facing speakers with a dedicated amplifier. It dubbed the front-facing speakers "BoomSound," with Jonah Becker, HTC design lead, noting during the New York event that such speakers make sense and are designed for when people are watching videos on the phone.

The One should again win critical praise for its advances and the new look. However, last year's One X also saw positive feedback from the media yet failed to capture the attention of the consumer.

HTC said it will kick off a marketing campaign to promote the One and said it would rely less on support from the carriers.

Updated at 7:45 a.m. PT: with information about BoomSound.

CNET's Shara Tibken contributed to this report.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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