Review – Living with the HTC One

The Android platform has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but if there’s one area were it lags behind iOS, and even Windows Phone, it’s that the premium handsets often don’t feel all that…premium.

Samsung devices may dominate the landscape, but they are hardly ever regarded as beautifully designed or manufactured, often the opposite.

It was a big deal then when HTC unveiled the One, and in doing so raised the stakes for all Android devices that will have to follow in its, rather large, footsteps.

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‘Be gone plastic!’ Cried the HTC designers. ‘Welcome aluminium!’ and thus it was.

There’s no denying the workmanship and quality that the One represents. From the gorgeously bright and detailed 4.7″ 1080p display, to the surprisingly effective twin, front facing, Boomsound speakers, you can see how much thought has gone into the design of this flagship handset. The camera boasts ultrapixels rather than mega ones (fancy), and produces pleasing results, especially when using the Zoe mode which shoots short videos from which you can select the best frames to make still images. All very clever.

It is an utter mystery to me then why I just never really fell for the One.

Build quality? No. This is a series piece of kit

Performance? Not at all. The phone is very speedy.

Feel? Well…maybe this is where it begins to fall away for me.

A few months back I wrote about how the Nexus 4 had initially felt too big and cumbersome, until one morning it just clicked. This never happened with the One. In fact I think the Nexus 4 is partly to blame.  In the hand the Nexus 4 was slightly shorter and possibly wider, albeit by a very tiny margin. The One though seems just too tall. Possibly the speaker at the top is the culprit, but the sound really is terrific (I’d say this is one of the best devices I’ve ever encountered for listening to podcasts on) so you wouldn’t want to take one away. But the real problem for me was that after spending time with stock Android on the Nexus, anything else seems a bit…clumsy.

The navigation on the HTC One is via a back button on the left and a home button on the right of the front panel. In the middle is a large HTC logo that does nothing except hamper the neat three button system that stock Android employs. This shouldn’t matter too much, but it does, it really does.

On a big handset you don’t want to be moving the device around in your hand any more than you already have to, but the arrangement of buttons made this inevitable. Plus I kept hitting the HTC logo by accident, which no doubt illustrates my inability to learn new tricks (old dog and all that) but i’m sure won’t make me unique.

HTC Sense also complicates things by proving less intuitive than stock and offering not much in the way of advantages for the perceived obfuscation.

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Now I realise that I am almost certainly in the minority with these qualms. The One has garnered very impressive reviews all across the tech press, and certainly the quality of the handset is worthy of the accolades. But for me I just can’t get excited. I really wanted to love this device. I’m a fan of HTC, Android is growing on me at a frightening rate, and my old iPhone is beginning to lurch, so a replacement is in order. After using the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 I was left cold, so the One was my great hope. Now, although there is nothing wrong with this phone, it just doesn’t seem to suit my particular (possibly odd) tastes either.

Maybe I’m just cheap. The Nexus 4 was reduced to £200 the other day and my eyes are definitely turning back to it, with only the prospect of a lower cost iPhone causing me to pause.

For many the One will be exactly the thing they’re looking for. Indeed if you want a larger screen, quality materials, and excellent sound then it ticks all the boxes. Those of us with a hankering for something smaller, or purer in the Android stakes, can also take heart that there are other offerings out in the world to meet our more diminutive needs.

 

 

 

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