With Samsung currently dominating the Android market for phones, it can be easy to forget that not so long ago HTC were the big kids on the block. With models like the Legend and Desire the Taiwanese manufacturer quickly made fans of UK Android users, including myself who toted a Desire for couple of years. That phone was lovely to hold, had a great screen, but quickly succumbed to the paltry amount of internal memory. This left me having to avoid updates to large apps such as Facebook and Google Maps, while always having to juggle which app I could consider using in case it filled up the usable storage. Subsequent Android system updates that allowed some apps to be moved to the SD card was a welcome relief, but of course all the big ones didn’t offer this convenience. By the end of my contract I was glad to jump ship to iOS where the memory/storage issues didn’t cause the same headaches.
During my absence Android has quietly continued to refine its innards, becoming the dominant operating system on the mobile platform. It’s also resolved many of the issues that caused me anguish in the earlier days, so much so that I find my eyes wandering back to the greener side of the fence. It was with interest then that I took delivery of the new HTC One SV, a mid-range Android phone that seems a cut above some of the cheap and nasty devices I’ve come across in this area.
In the hand, a rather important aspect for a device you’ll be holding all the time, the SV is a slim, light and comfortable handset to use. Its gently contoured back and grippy plastic casing means you don’t have the constant subliminal tension that your handset is going to leap from your grasp at any given moment, which is always nice. Perhaps one of the things that aids this sensation of inertia is that HTC has eschewed the current trend of hilariously large screens and instead fitted a 4.3” one to the SV. I must admit that I’ve yet to use a 5” screen that I didn’t find cumbersome, but this size seems almost like the perfect compromise between pocket and eye friendly design. It’s big enough to make me look at my iPhone 4S with a sense of inadequacy, but small enough to mostly navigate with one hand. Downloading the new Google keyboard helped in this fashion as the swipe feature (entering text by dragging your finger from key to key rather than hitting individual letters) meant that typing was also accurate and felt like a little game every time I wrote a text message.
The screen itself is also a respectable effort. It’s not quite up there with the retina displays of the world, and you can see jagged edges to text, but its perfectly usable and the size means apps look clean and clear, with bright colours. The HTC Sense 4+ skin is still one of the better adaptations available, but as usual I dropped it quickly in favour of the Go Launcher which I used to customise my layout. This really is something you forget about on iOS, just how easy it is to completely change the look and feel of your device on Android. Within ten minutes I’d personalised the entire UI, and I could change it back again with a couple of quick swipes. Brilliant. All this fiddling didn’t seem to bog down the SV, as the handset was snappy and responsive throughout the time I spent with it. One regret is that the version of Android running on here is 4.1.2, but that’s not surprising when previously premium models like the Samsung Galaxy S3 are still awaiting their upgrade to 4.2.2. The SV does have a standout feature though, that of 4G compatibility. For those lucky enough to live in the rarified areas of the UK that offer this provision of fast mobile data this will be a tempting offer. Of course the handset can do nothing about the prices that EE charge for access to the mobile superway, the monthly payments for which I imagine they must be collect via a masked man on horseback waving a loaded flintlock pistol at the terrified customer.
Sadly the camera is nothing more than average on the SV. Images are lacking definition, somewhat washed out, and not always properly focussed. I say sadly because otherwise this is a very alluring handset. Many times I had my iPhone 4S and the SV sitting on the table and I’d find myself reaching for the HTC, and not just because I was reviewing it. I’m in love with the screen size, the light weight, and the possibilities that Android offer for tuning a UI to your particular preference.
The SV delivers on many levels as a workhorse handset, and if you only occasionally use the camera on your phone then I can’t see why you’d need to spend a lot more on a device. Those who want all the newest features that Android have to offer will be better suited with the Nexus 4, HTC One, or Samsung GS4, but if you just want a really good handset that’s pleasing to use and offers you a micro SD slot to store all your music on, then you wouldn’t go far wrong with the HTC SV.