HTC is in an interesting position as a result of this last product cycle. While the previous HTC One series’ industrial design and performance was top notch, other OEMs still managed to eclipse the One series in terms of market adoption and consumer perception. Getting back to being a solid performer and cementing a place as at least the dominant number three player in the smartphone space is HTC’s mission for 2013, and the flagship device it’s starting that out with is the device previously known as M7, now known simply as the HTC One.

Design and Construction

The choice of the HTC One name really emphasizes how much this launch means to HTC — this is the canonical One. This is the fullest expression of HTC’s view for what the One lineup should mean, this is their flagship. The One is a clear evolution of the industrial design first begun with the Butterfly and DNA, except instead of plastic the One is machined from a single solid block of aluminum. There are over 200 minutes of CNC machine cuts per device, which is a unibody construction. Plastic is injected into the aluminum block after certain cuts are made for the back case, which then gets machined into the final form. The One uses the top and bottom aluminum strips for antennas, both of which are actively tuned to mitigate unintended attenuation from being held. There’s a plastic insulative strip in-between the two antennas and the main body. In spite of being aluminum, the One also includes NFC, whose active area surrounds the camera region. There’s no wireless charging from Qi or WPC, however.

In the hands the HTC One has the kind of fit and finish that I’d expect from a high end device. I thought that the One S was perhaps the best industrial design of 2012 in part thanks to the metal backside, unique concave shape, and size. The truth is that the HTC One feels even better than that. There’s something inescapable about metal — HTC described it as expensive and luxurious feeling, like a well crafted tool. Other OEMs with metal phones like to evoke imagery of watches or high end jewelry. I think at some fundamental level metal does imply value, and as a result it conveys a much higher end in-hand feel than other entirely polycarbonate plastic designs. There’s a thin strip of plastic which runs around the edge of the device, and it’s here that the microSIM tray, ejection port, primary microphone, microUSB port, power/lock button (which doubles as IR transmit and receive), earphone jack, and volume rocker sit. The front has two aluminum pieces which serve as the speaker, microphone, and earpiece grilles. The HTC One will come in both an uncolored silver version, and anodized black.

The One is topped with a 4.7-inch 1080p Super LCD 3 display. We’ve said that 2013 is going to be the year of 5-inch phones, and 4.7 is just shy. I think there’s something almost optimal about the device size that results with a 16:9 display size just short of 5-inches diagonal. It’s still possible to one hand if you have medium sized hands, easy to pocket, and still not laughably huge.

The HTC One at first glance might seem reminescent of another big metal unibody device, but in the hand couldn’t feel any more different. The convex rounded back side gives the One an entirely different in-hand feel, and the edges have a slight negative angle to them in addition to two chamfers.

Rather than place the primary speaker on the backside of the One, HTC has placed a set of speakers on the front of the device, one at top, one at bottom, behind the two grilles. These two provide stereo sound, and placing them on the front instead of the bottom or back makes a lot of sense for things like watching video, Google Navigation, and listening to music. The One also has dual microphones for noise rejection on calls, and also two different microphone pairs for accommodating low volume and high volume environments when recording audio. For example the commodity microphones generally included in a smartphone saturate around 70 dBA, HTC claims the dual microphone system on the One can accommodate up to 120 dBA SPL (Sound Pressure Level) without saturating.

Abandoning the Megapixel Race and Shooting for Quality
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  • Tarwin - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Well, like you said, they only SEEM hijacked from the iPhone and anyone with experience with HTC phones knows that's completely exaggerated. They have been using aluminum and unibody designs (even "unibodies" that weren't truly that like with the sensation) and more than anything broke away from that last year. They have also been using curved backs for years (ones that come to mind are the sensation, butterfly, 8x, and to a lesser degree the touch pro 2). As for the camera, it would break up the design with the speakers as you mentioned and with their focus that wouldn't work all that well, that or place the camera above the speaker making the phone noticeably larger (and there are those who consider it too big or pushing the limits as is). Personally i prefer thenproper speakers to a centered camera as I tend to use the speakers a lot more than the camera for videochatting. Plus, the only way for someone to give the impression that they are trying to make jeye contact is for them to look directly at the camera means they're not really looking at the screen, take some self-portraits if you don't believe me. The integrated antennas are two strips along top and bottom but of the same material (with the iphone 5 they look different and top and bottom antennas have been used before).

    I am not saying thatit is the best phone. The front does remind me of the BB Z10 (but nicer in my imo). The camera does sound promising and the detail of the shots I've seen (on gsmarena) do seem quite nice do I do miss the larger of detail, but they are only three pics so we won't know the true quality and whether the trade off was worth it until we get moresamples. Also I would have liked for itnto use a snapdragon 800 but due to thenrelease time I knew that was impossible. I'll likely upgrade come summer or autumn so it might be this phone or something else depending on what else has been announced/released.
  • larockus - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Who are these people that continue to complain about non-removable batteries? If I bought a spare battery for every phone I have acquired recently they'd be lying around everywhere. Are people that incredibly stupid ? Buy 1 LiOn battery pack that is easily pocketable and it charges EVERY usb cable charged device on the planet. If you seriously need that much direction in life you shouldnt even be researching android phones.
  • nerd1 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Spare battery costs $10 and weighs nothing, You can just swap and go.
    Battery pack costs $100ish, weighs a ton, and you actually need to plug in your phone for hours.

    I think non-removable battery is the worst sin of apple devices - too bad other OEMs are copying them without thinking.
  • flyingpants - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    No, given the dismal battery life of every single phone on the market, removable batteries are 100% essential.

    Support for microSD cards are also 100% essential, for doing things like recording 10 hours of 1080p video on your vacation.
  • Tarwin - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Well, you have to remember the two reasons of using removable batteries:
    The first is that the phone does not last all day or the time away from a charger that one spends. A portable power pack is a viable solution but definitely more expensive than the replacement battery and requires connecting a cable for a prolonged period of time while a spare battery doesn't.
    The second reason for replacement batteries is my mian concern for one, the valid lifespan of the battery as measured in recharge cycles. Normal batteries have 500 recharge cycles before they start to significantly lose their max charge held (and in my experience when they start hold less of ancharge it dimishes ever so quickly). A portable battery pack doesnt help with this, it itself is subject to the same degradation. Supposedly the new bbatteries from LG have a lifespan of 800 charges versus 500 but how do we know if a phone has it or not? I also assume that other battery makers will have similar advancements but I have not heard of them, making it even more difficult to make an informed decision.
  • repoman27 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    OK, so either you regularly cycle your battery more than once a day or you carry the same phone for more than 18 months. Both are foreign concepts to me. Seriously, who does that?

    I've replaced nearly every part of an iPhone for various folks over the past few years, but never had to replace a battery. It's never come up once. Which is odd, because I've seen plenty of iPod batteries crap out, but then again people tend to keep those in use far longer than most phones. I much prefer not having a battery door that becomes loose over time.
  • Tarwin - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Both should be concepts easy enough to grab. I've had vatious friends and acquaintances who charge their phone more than once a day (it SEEMS to be more prevalent with iphones but is definitely not limitednto them.) It also depends on just how much you do with your phone. I spend anywhere between two to six hours in public transport on a given day, plus time waiting for people, meetings, friends. During that time I either read on an ebook reader, or on days which I don't feel like reading a book I listen to music and browse the internet, MAYBE play a game. So yeah, it is easy for me to kill the battery in under a day and therefore need to charge it kore than once a day. Plus other uses I give it.

    And I don't buy a new phone every year nor every six months. I buy high end phones off contract sothey are not exactly cheap. So yeah, I like them to last, I dont like being wasteful. Plus I like there to be real advancements before upgrading. Recently there are BIG advancements in phones, be it screens, SoC's, Cameras (not as much recently but they keep improving). I didn't upgrade my second smartphone for four years (the first only lasted a year but because it wasnstolen) because I didn't see the point, they were still using ARM11 based SoC's with comparable speeds, and other factors...I went through seven batteries with it (in part because they never lasted a whole day) My next smartphone lasted two years...and the antenna died, plus everything but the screen had greatly advanced. Now my current ohone is ALMOST a year and anhalf old, its battery has been in dire need of replacement for a couple of months but I haven't gotten around to it.

    I'll kost likely upgrade this year, but because I see real benefit in doing so. My point is that people who buy off contract, for whatever reason, are more likely to upgrade because of need or real tangible benefits.
  • peevee - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    " for dramatically better sensitivity in low light "

    How you figured that? If you downsize (on the camera, computer or simply through output device like display or paper) 8 (or 12) mpix image to the same final resolution as 4 mpix sensor, each final combined pixel will have as much light as on the 4 mpix sensor of the same physical size and efficiency (and nothing indicates that the 4 mpix sensor is made on more efficient technology, in fact, low res allows it to be produced on older, cheaper tech, like 500 nm). Moreover, if you display/print 8 (or 12) mpix image vs 4 mpix image on the media able to take every pixel (for example UltraHD screens or 300 dpi paper bigger than 6in x 8in, the noise from higher-resolution sensor will appear finer-grained, which is better.

    And of course lower-res sensor loses when digitally zooming (i.e. using just central portion of the sensor where the lens is also sharper, when even 2x zoom loses 3/4 of pixels). And smartphones don't have any other zoom but digital, so it is important. Zoom 2x, and 4mpix become 1mpix, which is not even enough to fill desktop background.

    Where 4 mpix sensor wins over higher res sensors (assuming the same technology) is speed of continuous shooting, amount of memory and power spent per shot, time to downscale the photos for display resolution and display them on the screen, time to e-mail or upload to the services taking full-res photos, consumes less bandwidth - all very valid advantages of lower resolution on a smartphone, all outweighing the (dubious due to super-small sensor and lens limitations) advantages of printing in better quality bigger than 6in x 8in. But just don't say lower res magically provides higher quality, because it does not. Especially on a BSI-CMOS sensor where all per-pixel electronics is on the other side of the chip.

    The best approach is the one used in Nokia 808, with much bigger and high-res sensor, where pixels are automatically banded together when all the sensor is used (for low res advantages), but when "zoomed in", they start working individually to maintain resolution high enough.
  • flyingpants - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    This comment is directed at the people who say (or believe) things like:
    "The phone should at least last ALL DAY"
    "My phone lasts 1.5 days with AVERAGE USE"
    Or my personal favourite:
    "The battery is great, I can talk for 2 hours, send about 15-30 texts, play about an hour of Temple Run and have 26% left by the end of the day"

    No. There is no such thing as "it lasts all day". Unless you literally have your screen on all day, your phone goes to sleep and (assuming decent signal, and no dumb apps/widgets are running) uses only about 1% every few hours. This does not count as the phone battery lasting "all day". There is no such thing as "average use". Everyone's use case is different. Your personal anecdotal usage is irrelevant. And it's unreliable anyway because you probably did not measure your usage properly.

    The proper way to measure smartphone battery life is with benchmarks. Anandtech doesn't innovate much in this area and I expect a lot more from my favourite tech website. Even ultra-nerd smartphone editor Brian Klug is guilty of the "It lasts me allll day!" blunder.

    Until smartphone battery life during ACTUAL usage at least DOUBLES (let's say 16 hours, to allow for human sleep/phone charging for the other 8 hours of the day), there will be LOTS room for improvement. I look forward to that day.

    And by 16 hours of "actual usage", I mean a 16-hour phone call, COMBINED WITH 8-10 hours of simultaneous constant light web-browsing/e-book reading/texting/data messaging, 3 hours of 3D gaming thrown in, an hour or two of 1080p HD video recording, while uploading/downloading a few gigs of data over LTE in the background, along with all the stuff (Bluetooth/NFC/GPS/LTE) enabled. That would virtually guarantee an end to battery anxiety.

    All it would take is a larger battery. The DROID RAZR MAXX has a 3300mAh battery and is about 9mm thick, the EB40 battery thickness around 3.8mm. Double it and you get a 6600mAh phone which is 12.8mm thick. (The HTC Evo was 12.7mm when it first came out) It wouldn't add much to the cost of the phone. If no manufacturer does this within the year, I will modify them myself and sell them on ebay for $900.
  • Tarwin - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Most of your post seems logical and reasinable...until where you define 16 hours as a 16 hour phone call PLUS 8-10 hours of web/etc., PLUS 3 hours PLUS 1-2 hours.

    I understand that people tend to multi-task but the amount of simultaneous activity whilst on the phone is unreasonable and unrealistic. Personally I'd feel bad for anyone on the otther side of a phone call where the caller is doing all that. I understand you're trying to make a point, but your portrayal, despite the detail is just as unscientific as "it lasts all day" or "average use" (I am not trying to flame nor offend but just point out that we are all subject to the same vagaries and hyperbole)

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