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HTC One SV review: A gorgeous, no-contract number from HTC

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The Good The HTC One SV flaunts a thin, stylish look, a fast processor, and free Muve Music service.

The Bad The One SV’s screen and camera resolution aren’t sharp, its call quality is disappointing, and though its camera is full-featured, it takes mediocre photos.

The Bottom Line The HTC One SV’s sleek design and fast processor are impressive, but not its call quality or the pictures it takes.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

The HTC One SV proves stunningly attractive smartphones that can find a home on prepaid carriers. Available on Cricket Wireless for $349.99, the slim, colorfully seductive One SV certainly adds spice to the provider's no-contract lineup. With its fiery red highlights and compact yet premium feel, it's one of the best-designed HTC handsets to come along in quite some time. But while this Android ICS phone is easy on the eyes and powered by a fast processor, its camera doesn't provide pleasing image quality.

HTC certainly has a knack for crafting striking smartphones and this skill shows in the One SV. With its gentle curves and rounded edges, not to mention vibrant red highlights, the One SV isn't your typical black-slab handset. Instead, the crimson metallic trim that runs around the phone is reminiscent of HTC's other premium gadgets such as the Droid DNA and Evo 4G LTE.

Measuring a wafer-thin 0.36 of an inch deep and 5 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide, the device is practically petite by today's gargantuan smartphone standards. The phone manages to tip the scales at a featherweight 4.3 ounces, too, making it a breeze to carry or slip into pockets.

Of course the tradeoff is the One SV's smaller 4.3-inch (800x400-pixel) LCD display. It has a lower pixel count than the HD-resolution screens you'll find on many high-end handsets. As a result text and images appear less sharp than I prefer and viewing angles are shallow. Even so, the display does get pretty bright.

Above the screen is a long earpiece grille with five red dashes embedded within it that push the One SV's futuristic look even further. Here too is a 1.6 megapixel front-facing camera, while below the display are three capacitive and backlit keys, yes, red as well, for main Android operations.

The HTC One SV's slim, metallic-red edges are striking. Brian Bennett/CNET

HTC kept ports and buttons at a minimum with just a Micro-USB connection on the handset's bottom lip, a thin volume bar on the right, and a 3.5mm headphone jack and power key up top. Around back live the One SV's 5-megapixel main camera, LED flash, and neon-red battery cover. The cover is thin but sports a soft-touch surface that's easy to grip and repels fingerprints. Underneath you'll find an 1,800mAh removable battery, plus slots for SIM and microSD cards.

On back of the HTC One SV is its 5MP camera with LED flash. Sarah Tew/CNET

Software and UI
Running the Android 4.04 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, the HTC One SV offers a modern software experience. Sure, it's not the latest and most advanced operating system that has rolled off Google's assembly line, that being Android version 4.1/4.2 Jelly Bean. HTC has layered its own Sense 4.1 user interface on top of the OS, though. It boasts plenty of useful enhancements such as a lock screen with customizable quick-launch icons, special gesture controls, and browser tools.

To unlock the device and jump to the home screen simply flick a virtual ring from the bottom of the screen upward. You can also choose from four icons (phone, e-mail, messages, and camera by default) to drag into the ring's center, launching its associated function straight away.

Pull quick-launch icons into the unlock ring. Brian Bennett/CNET

There are seven home screens at your disposal, too, which you can fill and tweak with widgets and shortcuts to applications. Dragging items on top of each other automatically creates folders to keep your screen layout tidy.

HTC's gesture controls adds another twist. For example, instead of clumsily dragging application icons to the edge of the screen to place them on the next available home screen, just hold your finger down on a shortcut while swiping left or right. Doing so will cycle through screens until you locate an ideal spot to drop your favorite app or widget onto.

Sense also natively supports multiple social-media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The upside of this integration is that the phone will scan your contacts list and suggest possible links among these services. You can view photos your friends have shared as well and see any recent updates they've made within the People app.

The HTC One SV is a true Android smartphone and with this pedigree comes support for all of Google's popular services such as Gmail, Google+, the Chrome browser, and the Google Play storefront. There you'll find a wide selection of books, movies, music, and over 700,000 apps for download. The device supports corporate and personal e-mail accounts too, and the previously mentioned social networks.

Useful third-party applications preloaded include the Dropbox file-sharing app and TuneIn's Internet radio player. Like all conscientious wireless carriers, Cricket has thrown in its own grab bag of software, most of it of little value, such as a mobile Web app, Cricket Browser, and MyBackup, a contact-saving tool.

Muve Music, however, is another story. The free Muve service essentially lets you search for and stream or download audio tracks right to your Cricket handset. In fact, the One SV comes with a special 4GB Muve microSD Card, 3GB of which is reserved for storing Muve tunes. Don't get any ideas, though; Muve music you download is encrypted and only playable on the phone.

Muve Music comes free with a Cricket subscription. Brian Bennett/CNET

The HTC One SV's 5-megapixel camera has a lot going for it. First, it uses HTC's ImageSense electronics, which the company says will speed up time between shots and help the phone capture images quickly. My experience with the One SV confirmed that its camera indeed fires off pictures in no time, almost instantly in fact. I was also able to cycle between shots just as fast since the autofocus locks onto subjects in a fraction of a second.

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