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'HTC One' brand, Sense 4.0 hearken new phone strategy

After some growing pains, HTC is ready to concentrate on family values. The family in question? Its new "HTC One" line of Android Ice Cream Sandwich smartphones.

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BARCELONA, Spain--What do HTC's three Mobile World Congress smartphones have in common? Quite a lot, actually.

Besides sharing similar names, the HTC One X, HTC One S, and HTC One V are all Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) smartphones that also include the toned-down Sense 4.0 interface, HTC's Beats Audio enhancement software, and a new image-processing chip that takes over camera and video tasks.

At a meeting in San Francisco before Mobile World Congress, HTC described to CNET its goals for the "One" brand. HTC wants smartphones falling under this umbrella to shine in the camera, music, and interface categories.

Physically, the HTC One X and HTC One S are similar--both are fairly large-screen phones that share 8-megapixel and 1.3-megapixel cameras. The smaller HTC One V, however, with its chin bump and stepped-down specs, appears to be the black sheep in terms of features and looks.

Sense 4.0 toes the Android line
With the Ice Cream Sandwich OS comes our first glimpse of Sense 4.0, the custom skin that HTC lays on top. Just as CNET's Roger Cheng guessed, this iteration is a more toned-down version than the previous Sense, which users complained was becoming too aggressive a look and bogged down system resources besides.

The updated Sense borrows more from Google's ICS aesthetic without losing certain HTC features like that retro clock widget, the "leap" home page overview screen, and hubs. Yet those familiar with Ice Cream Sandwich will notice a home screen navigation dock that's more in keeping with ICS, and horizontal, rather than vertical, scrolling through the app tray.

Among the other visuals, a few stand out. There's the music hub for one, which aggregates your music apps and brings them within the Beats Audio fold. The driving dock is another bright point. HTC has also paid special attention to making the camera app its own. Some new icons lead the way to filters and scene modes. Behind the scenes, HTC said that it improved panorama and HDR shots.

Family matters
The Taiwanese phone maker is taking a cue from rivals Samsung and LG in creating an overarching line of phones that will set consumer expectations across various markets. Samsung's Galaxy S and Galaxy S II variations have boosted Samsung's bottom line, and LG's new L-Style series is a second series alongside the ongoing Optimus track.

HTC took a dip in the fourth quarter, and warned that analysts should curb their first-quarter expectations as well.

Meanwhile, HTC is hoping its new Ice Cream Sandwich handsets and strategies like the HTC One family will bolster worldwide sales enough to replicate its best-ever third-quarter profits.