HTC One review: HTC One

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent

Average User Rating

4.5 stars 186 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good 1080p display; Metal frame is sturdy and luxurious; Extremely powerful; Attractive interface.

The Bad Black paintwork picks up scuffs incredibly easily; BlinkFeed can't be removed; No immediate way to customise menus; No expandable storage or removable battery; Camera doesn't impress.

The Bottom Line HTC's latest flagship smart phone brings new software, neat camera tricks and a Full HD display. The super-charged processor and metal construction are more reasons to be excited, but the lack of any standout feature means we'd hold off buying it until we've reviewed the rest of the year's high-end Android phones.

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The HTC One strides mightily ahead of the rest of the Taiwanese phone maker's range, confidently surveying its foes on the smart phone battlefield. With a 4.7-inch Full HD screen, a blisteringly powerful quad-core chip, a metal chassis and the latest version of its Sense interface, it's not a misplaced sense of confidence.

Those are some impressive specs, but with all the top-end phones packing similarly potent components, is it going to be enough to keep HTC's head above the water? With Samsung's Galaxy S4 imminent, it's likely to have a fight on its hands.

The One was due to go on sale in the next couple of weeks, but HTC has already confirmed it's having supply issues , so we may have to wait a while longer. It also hasn't officially named its price yet, but we're strongly expecting it to be around the £500 mark -- Three is pre-emptively offering it for £480 on pay as you go, for example.

Should I buy the HTC One?

The HTC One has a stonking lineup of specs. Its quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM makes it phenomenally powerful. Its 4.7-inch, Full HD display is incredibly crisp, but Google's Nexus 4 is an absolute powerhouse too and although its screen has a lower resolution, I'd bet money you can't tell much difference in normal use.

The problem, then, is that the Nexus 4 starts at £260, whereas the HTC One is expected to land for upwards of £500 -- almost twice as much. The One is undeniably a much classier phone. It's made of metal for one, which makes it look and feel vastly more sturdy and luxurious.

It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (not quite the latest version), which HTC has given some cool tweaks. Its Flipboard lookalike software Blinkfeed won't appeal to everyone -- especially as you can't get rid of it -- but it's handy for checking up on what your mates are up to on Facebook. Elsewhere, the Android experience is sleek, attractive and easy to use.

With an expected price of half a grand, it's not going to appeal to the casual smart phone fans among you, but if you're willing to splash out on a superbly powerful phone, packed with top-end features, wrapped in a cool metal jacket, you could do much worse than the HTC One.

I think the Sony Xperia Z has the edge with its waterproof chassis, and the iPhone 5 has a better camera. Nevertheless, Samsung will certainly have to go some distance to make a much better phone than this.

Design and build quality

Rather than the plastic of the older One X and One S phones, HTC has given the new One an entirely metal body. HTC championed the use of metal in some of its much older phones, so it's refreshing to see a return to this classier construction.

It certainly feels particularly firm and will definitely appeal if you don't like the plasticky designs of phones like the Galaxy S3 . Google's ever-popular Nexus 4 has glass on its front and back, but with plastic making up the chassis, it doesn't feel anything like as solid.

HTC One top holes
There are speakers at the top and bottom: great for you, less fun for the other people on your bus.

Outwardly, its looks haven't deviated much from HTC's usual design schemes. Above and below the screen you'll spy extra metal, perforated with holes for the speakers. That extra space at either end means it looks rather like BlackBerry's new Z10 and a smidge like the back of the iPhone 5 -- I'll let you decide if that's a sign of good taste or mere copying.

The back is a wide expanse of grey metal (the only other colour option is black), broken up by the HTC and beats logos.

I don't think it's the prettiest phone around, but it's far from horrific and doesn't do anything too drastic -- it's unlikely to turn anyone off completely. If you're already a fan of HTC's blowers, you'll have no problems with the One.

It measures 137mm long and 68mm wide, which is certainly quite hefty. As a Nexus 4 and Galaxy S3 user, I'm used to bigger blowers, so I wasn't put off by the size -- but if you're more used to the iPhone, prepare to stretch out your palms. Its 9.3mm thickness means it isn't the slimmest thing around, but you'd have to be in a particularly bad mood to call it chubby.

HTC One back
You can see the back picks up smears and scuffs -- this was as clean as I could get it, honest.

Although the metal feels enjoyably solid, I worry that it'll be susceptible to scratches, particularly the black version. The black is only paint over the top of silver metal, so if it gets scratched, the silver will show through. Many owners of the black iPhone 5 have reported exactly that, so if you want your phone to look pristine forever, you might stand a better chance with the silver one. I'd recommend using a case, too.

You might be able to keep it free of deep scratches, but you'll definitely struggle to avoid scuffs and dirty marks. When I pulled my black model out of my pocket, I was horrified at the amount of marks on it from my gold house keys. It was so easy to mark with metal objects that it basically became a pocket blackboard. The marks do come off with a bit of a spit and polish, but you really shouldn't have to do that.

HTC has stripped out the multi-tasking button at the bottom of the screen. Instead, you'll see just a home and back button. To bring up the multi-tasking toolbar, you'll need to double tap the home button. Holding it down brings up a Google search. It's easy to do once you know how, but if you're used to having a range of buttons on your phone it might take a few hours to get used to the switch.

Around the edges you'll spy a micro USB port for charging and data transfer as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. The battery is sealed into the metal frame, so you won't be able to replace it. Storage options come in 32 or 64GB varieties. There's no microSD card slot to expand it, so if you have hundreds of albums and take dozens of photos every day, you might want to consider the higher capacity model.

The only buttons on the edges are the power button on the top and the volume rocker on the side. The latter sits so flush with the body, however, that it's difficult to find the buttons with your finger without looking. You'll probably be able to get used to the very subtle differences in texture, but I'd certainly appreciate it being raised slightly.

Software

The HTC One uses Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean software. Many companies add their own tweaks to the core Android experience, but HTC has done a huge amount with its Sense 5 interface. It immediately sets it apart from the other Jelly Bean phones knocking around.

The most noticeable addition is something HTC calls BlinkFeed. This takes data from various news websites and your social networks to show randomly sized tiles of info for you to scroll through. Tapping on a tile will show you the article in full-screen mode.

HTC One
Blinkfeed shows you select articles from a number of news or social sources, but you can't get rid of it.

You can select from categories including News, Technology, Entertainment and so forth, as well as connecting it to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr accounts. Once everything is connected, all the latest posts from the various sources will be shown in a scrolling grid, or you can select to view only one category at a time.

Pulling down on the list refreshes the feeds to bring you new articles, while clicking on a tile will show you the article in full screen. If you've ever used a news aggregator like Flipboard then it'll be instantly familiar to you.

HTC One
You can see an overview of all channels, or select an individual site for a more focused view.

It's not perfect though. For one, you can't get rid of it -- it sits permanently on your homescreen. If you don't use Flipboard, you probably won't find yourself using BlinkFeed much either. You can set a different home screen as the default panel to return to, but BlinkFeed will always be lurking away to the left.

You also only get to choose from the news partners HTC has approved and there's no way to add your own using RSS feeds. Very keen on updates from a particular music or cooking site? You'll have to visit it in the browser.

Only one homescreen is available by default, but you can add extra screens to swipe through in the same way you would on other Android phones. You can slap down your favourite weather, news or Facebook widgets anywhere you want, or keep things simple with just the one screen if you'd rather.

HTC One
You can add three extra homescreens to the default one.

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HTC One

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