Before we get started, I should mention that this post may end up a considerable wall of text if you're using one of the mobile apps. I'd recommend the desktop for this one.
I picked up a silver HTC One the other day. It's running on a $70 monthly prepaid T-Mobile line, which, at that price, comes with the always-helpful 'unlimited everything'. I'm in Seattle, which has 1900MHz refarmed HSPA+ as well as the new LTE in quite a few areas. I've used the One before for a couple days at a time, but wasn't able to set it up for personal use and really settle in with the 'daily-driver device' feel. The Ambassadors were asking me how I felt about it so far, and I figured I might as well put up my thoughts. To save those the time that just want the overview, here's the TL;DR: this phone is awesome. That's about it. For those who want more detail, or enjoy reading about other people using smartphones, continue on.
I'll start with the screen, because it's what you interact with the most when getting a new device and it tends to be one of the first elements of said device to make an impression.
It's all about the pixel density.. except when it's not.
The screen is, as I expected, fantastic. It's sharp and bright. It's smooth, responsive, and accurate. Typing feels effortless, whether you're tapping individual keys or gliding between the characters. I've been going back and forth between the built-in Sense keyboard and the AOSP keyboard. I can't imagine the AOSP keyboard could be much more responsive and 'instant' than this. It's solid. I frequently use voice control (via Google Search/Now) and speech-to-text dictation, and I've found both to be both as accurate and as fast as I would expect.
This screen is sharp. Reading and writing on this — especially for activities such as Android Central work which require frequently alternating between the two — is a very pleasant experience thanks to crisp and sharp text and the aforementioned great typing experience. Above this, however, I find the color replication, saturation, contrast, and viewing angles to make for a media consumption (read: pictures, videos, more videos) experience that is second-to-none (at least as far as smartphones are concerned). The official Android Central review of the One
said the display was "one of the best-looking screens we've ever seen." I would tend to agree.
I've used 1080p displays before. I know what to expect, and so while the clarity and detail in this display is exceptional, I would say the winning attribute here is the combination of accurately vivid colors and deep contrast.
Build it, and they will come. Rather, build it well and they will come.
Stepping back from the display for a second, I find myself looking at the One for a few seconds longer than what's necessary to check notifications or change the current All Access song. It's a very good-looking phone, whether the screen is on or not. The silver bezel complements the black glass screen very nicely, and the dotted, almost perforated look of the BoomSound speakers works well in both form and function.
Devices that pull off beautiful form with useful function tend to be awesome. This design is awesome. I've had few issues using it one-handed, and watching videos, taking pictures, and web browsing are all great. The great screen really helps out in that respect. Though it feels thin, I don't get the feeling that it's too narrow at the edges when I'm using it. The power and volume buttons are wide enough to be easy to use, and the somewhat subtle texture of the volume keys' spun finish is a nice touch. The chamfered edges of the front and rear plates offer a very visually attractive border for the device.
This phone looks and feels modern, classy, and very high-end. Here's my setup, for reference:
I should mention that there's one caveat here, however. A few times I've found the metal back of the phone to be almost slippery in my hands when trying to move my thumb to portions of the screen that are harder to reach. I'm sure that would be alleviated by a case or bumper, but for now I prefer to run without any such accessories.
I've always liked HTC's approach to Android navigation elements, in spite of my typical strong preference for on-screen controls over capacitive ones. It also doesn't hurt to be able to change them if necessary or desired (see: minimalistic homescreen designs, custom navbars). The white glow and simpler geometric shapes work very well on the One, though I've found that I have to be more accurate when hitting the home button than was required when using the Nexus 4 or Galaxy Nexus. The button is simply smaller than the AOSP on-screen buttons. Moving from a centered home button to one on the right side was something I was concerned about before getting the phone, though I've adjusted to it easily enough. Google Now is brought forth by long-pressing the home button, but so far this doesn't seem to happen consistently. Perhaps it's just a side-effect of me not being fully adjusted to the smaller, right-side capacitive button.
I'm not going to touch the 'black bar' issue. It hasn't shown itself to me more than once, and I'm happy to continue that trend.
Finally, the speakers. What good would a write-up of the One be without proper mention for the speakers? It's all been said before, but I'll say it again: the speakers are very nice. To pull a snippet from the official review again, the One has "the loudest and bassiest sound experience we've heard on any smartphone, without sacrificing clarity." I'm going to leave it at that, because I agree completely. Notifications come across smoothly, and though they're loud, they aren't disruptive if you pick the right sounds or turn down the ringtone volume a few notches. That said, if you have a reason to want unusually-loud notifications, the One will let you have them. I got a Hangouts message from Kevin O'Quinn the other day while in the local Microsoft store during a special event. The only reason I heard the notification was because I had just picked up the One and the volume was set to full. #BoomSound.
Play Music All Access with the One's speakers is a winning combo. Just saying.
Unfortunately, in the end there is one aspect of the build that I do take issue with. That would be the headphone jack on the top
of the device. I find it far easier to use a phone when the headphone jack is on the bottom, especially when it's sitting in a pocket, cupholder, or similar space. The phone sits upside down, and pulling it out results in the phone sitting normally in your hand; no flipping or rotating required. I hope to pick up some Bluetooth audio equipment soon which should make this less of an annoyance.
Hey, this HDR mode is great. Actually... forget that.
"To HTC's credit, though, its HDR mode is among the best out there — extremely quick and ghost-free, and capable of producing seriously impressive images."
Except.. not anymore.
(Yes, the HDR mode will be reappearing.
I figured the best way to convey my experiences with the One's camera was through, you know, photos
. I picked a few places around Seattle to take some shots the other day, and found the HDR mode helpful for some of them. Unfortunately, as a result of the T-Mobile OTA yesterday addressing cellular connectivity, the HDR option is no longer present in the camera. Oh well. Back to standard UltraPixel photography. Here's the gist of it: on one hand, you get sharp detail, great color, and generally low noise. On the other, you get noticeable sharpening and noise reduction artifacts, and low dynamic range. I'm a photographer by hobby, though, so I may be noticing these to a greater (or lesser) extent than others may. My thoughts are more or less echoed in the official AC One review.
I haven't started digging into highlights, videos, and Zoes, so I'll leave those for another time. I will, however, throw in some of the photos I took. Please note that Google+ Auto Enhance has been turned off for this album; the photos appear just as they were taken by the camera.
4G here, 4G there, some sort of 4G (almost) everywhere.
As said before, there's both HSPA+ and LTE here through T-Mobile. That's twice the 4G to play with, right? Right. Sort of. As a result of the OTA yesterday, I now have considerably stronger LTE reception and more noteworthy speeds (10's, 20's, 30's down, and 10's, 20's up). I was planning to include actual speed test numbers alongside signal strength data, but I've decided to wait on that while I see how the OTA affects things.
The LTE is fast, though before the OTA it would occasionally drop the connection and find some HSPA+. The jury is still out on whether that's been addressed by the update, but based on the half-day since the update, I'm leaning towards 'yes'. There's a few seconds' delay while initiating the HSPA+ connection for web browsing, video loading, etc. I've seen worse, but I've also seen better. We'll see how it plays out. It's certainly not the end of the world, so to speak.
The fifth Sense actually makes a lot of sense.
Sense 5 on the One is fast. Very fast. It's smooth, it looks good, and as with the device's hardware, it offers a great combination of form and function. I'm not going to review it, because video walkthroughs and the official AC review do a good job of examining Sense and what it has to offer on the One. I'm still switching back and forth between Sense and Nova/Apex Launcher, but for now I'll probably take the more AOSP-like setup over HTC's offering.
HTC has done a very nice job of matching excellent hardware with excellent software, that's for sure. Combined with the built-in features and functions of Jelly Bean, it works very, very well. Multitasking presents its own card-style multitasking interface, and I don't have any complaints. It's different, it works well, and even if you aren't using the Sense launcher it still feels like it suits the device well. The same can be said about the notification shade, Settings application, etc.
The other TL;DR.
In terms of hardware, HTC did a fantastic job. In terms of software, HTC did a fantastic job (though I would likely critique Sense more in-depth if I didn't have the option of changing the launcher). I'll be using Sense more heavily as I start doing more Android development work in the next few weeks, so I'm sure I'll have thoughts to share. I usually do. BlinkFeed feels like it could use some more development as far as content availability and content control.
I'll be sure to add additional comments as I continue using the phone, but in the meantime if there's something that you think I should share my thoughts on, let me know.