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HTC One : First Impressions [This could be the One]

HTC-one-cover

Even though the HTC One does not go on sale till sometime in April, we got a chance to take a look at HTC’s latest flagship phone at a special preview event. Here are some of our impressions of the device in the very brief time that we got to spend with it.

HTC is probably the company that has been making the best looking Android devices, but with the HTC One they have taken a giant leap forward. We can honestly say that this is the best looking device that we have had the opportunity to get our hands on. The device feels premium and is a joy to hold in the hand.

The full metal body has been chiseled out of a single block of a new metal alloy that HTC came up especially for this phone. The phone has zero gap construction. The front has two speakers with really fine holes. HTC claims that each metal body takes 150 minutes to produce.

The phone has a 4.7-inch Super LCD screen which packs in 1920×1080 pixels for a 468 PPI. Forgetting the specifications, the screen size is just about right and does not feel big at all. Color reproduction and viewing angles are excellent.

HTC has called the set of speakers, BoomSound. This pair of dual-stereo speakers is located on the front of the phone, so that you don’t end up covering them with your hand while watching something or when you place it down on a table. It comes with an internal Beats driver which produced clear and vivid sounds with absolutely no distortion, even in a crowded outdoor venue.

Even though the phone runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, HTC has gone in for a bold new approach in Sense 5. They have incorporated HTC BlinkFeed into the home screen of the phone. What BlinkFeed basically does is a mash-up of content providers, social networks and built in services like your calendar, messages and calls. It then provides all this in a live and personalized manner in a visual fashion that can be best described as something that looks like FlipBoard. If you find something that interests you, you can click on it and it will take you directly to the full article.

The feed can be customized and even disabled in case you do not find it necessary. For those that want to regular Android home screens you can just swipe right. HTC says they have 1,300 global partners as well as quite a few Indian content providers like NDTV and India Today. For those wondering what this will do to your battery, HTC says they have done both battery and data optimization on the HTC One so that the performance will not be affected.

In our brief time with the HTC One we were not too impressed with BlinkFeed. Though one can choose which feeds to add, we were disappointed that one could not customize the look or even the animations and transitions on it. Also the number of items that appeared were very less and one had to swipe down to view more items.

The camera and software updates of the camera are the highlight of the HTC One. Like other manufacturers, HTC has concentrated mainly on two focus areas – improve night shots and optical image stabilization. Video can now be recorded in HDR at 60 fps.

The back camera is now an ultra pixel camera, which HTC says allows the capture of 300% more light. We did test this out and can say that the camera does take better pictures in the dark when compared to even the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3.

HTC Zoe is the software upgrades to its camera. What HTC Zoe basically does is it allows a user to capture full resolution pictures and video with sound together. Each Zoe is about three seconds along. After capturing a Zoe, which is similar to the time shift feature in BlackBerry 10, one can then edit various aspects of the photo like create a sequence shot, or remove an unwanted object like people walking in the background. You can also use a Zoe to make sure all the people in a group shot are smiling. We tested this out and can say that the features actually worked great! What worried us a bit is that each Zoe is about 30 MB in size. But the phone does come in both 32 GB as well as 64GB options.

The photo gallery is now a living gallery with each Zoe playing automatically in the thumbnails. The gallery also creates 30 second video highlights with 6 themes and adds music automatically for each event you click pictures at.

HTC also has included HTC Share in which a user can easily share collages of videos, photos and Zoes with friends and families.

The gallery also pulls and displays a Facebook friend’s albums automatically so a user need not open the Facebook app. A user can also like and comment on a picture directly.

Another feature that caught our eyes was the See Your Music. This is a visualizer for music, complete with lyrics, artist photos and album art which the phone pulls automatically.

There are supposedly over 300 new features that are added in the HTC One, but unfortunately we had time just to try out only this limited set. We hopefully will be able to have a full review up in a month when the phone is closer to launch.

While we definitely came away impressed with the phone, pricing is going to be key. It will almost certainly be priced above Rs 40,000 when it launches in April and will go up against heavyweights like the iPhone 5 and the Sony Xperia Z. Also the Samsung Galaxy S4 will be announced on March 14th. Considering that the HTC Butterfly, which was launched just last month, is priced above Rs 45,000, it will be interesting to see what strategy HTC uses with the HTC One.

We also think that marketing will be key especially with Samsung, Nokia and even Apple pulling out all the stops to make sure that customers are reaching into their deep pockets and choosing their phones. If you are thinking of picking up a high-end phone, we think this one might just be worth waiting for.

 

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