HTC One – in a class of its own for design


With its stunning design, amazing screen and respectable camera, HTC’s new flagship handset should bring it back into the smartphone A-list and scare both its Android rivals and Apple

The HTC One is a stunning-looking phone and an excellent performer – but will that be enough to topple Samsung, Sony and Apple?

The HTC One represents the company’s all-in powerplay to pull itself back to the top tier of the smartphone market – and with a product this good they might just do it.

One of the former giants of the Android smartphone market (HTC was the biggest seller before Samsung got into gear), the last generation saw HTC slip on a banana peel and it tumbled out of the top five.

The company’s previous flagship, the HTC One X, was a rather bland but high-powered smartphone with a big screen that suffered from poor battery life and a shocking camera – it also had a plasticky body. It did not sell as well as the company had hoped, and CEO Peter Chou recently blamed the company’s poor showing in 2012 on marketing.

Exceptional design
This is how a phone should be designed. The machined aluminium unibody is without a doubt the best piece of industrial design on a smartphone since the original iPhone 4. It is much superior to Apple’s dull iPhone 5 design and is one of the most comfortable phones I’ve ever held.

What HTC’s designers have done that is quite smart is what they call ‘pyramid stacking’, which means the rear of the phone doesn’t have a set thickness – more of a raised curve. This means they can stack more battery and electronics in (presumably), but more importantly it makes for an incredibly comfortable phone to hold. Being metal it also feels far more durable than its rivals – and its curved corners get away from the ‘boring, black rectangle’ design problem that has plagued the industry in the past few years.

The front of the phone has a nice double set of speaker/microphone grills, which not only make for clear phone calls (which to be fair, isn’t really a problem for most smartphones) but produce vastly superior sound if you’re using the speakers for music or video playing.

Handy, since some retailers are offering a case that folds to sit the phone in a TV-style position – I found watching TV on it very doable, even without headphones.

The size of the phone helps – it manages to cram a 4.7-inch screen into a 137.4mm x 68.2mm frame. It helps that the screen is a more sensible size – rather than the default five inches the market appears to be chasing. Five-inchers usually feel like you’re holding a brick to your head when making phone calls. HTC One doesn’t have that problem and like the iPhone 5, is a pleasure to hold and make calls on.

It weighs 143g, which is essentially the same weight as the Sony Xperia Z, and it is thicker, at 9.3mm. But this isn’t really a fair comparison – the Xperia Z has a flat back, the HTC One has a curved back. Either way, the difference isn’t noticeable. It just feels like a solid-quality build.

HTC reps told us that the phone has four antennas incorporated into the casing of the phone (via proprietary technology they wouldn’t discuss with us), but there were no problems with reception – needless to say it’s a full 4G phone. The front speaker placement also means that your hands don’t get in the way – a solid industrial design that says HTC have put some thought into this phone.

The only problem I found here was the same one seen on the HTC One X – the phone really starts to heat up if you’re using Wi-Fi heavily, or during a serious gaming session. While not dangerously hot (it will still give you sweaty hands), it was more so than the Xperia Z or the iPhone 5. It did cool down quickly, but what is strange is how quickly it happens – your phone will start super-heating after just five minutes in a game. That quad-core processor is certainly working hard.

Full article in Mobile News issue 537 (April 22, 2013).

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