There’s little question that “HTC wishes 2012 had gone just a little better” — the beleaguered smartphone company posted awfully disappointing results quarter after quarter, while rivals like Samsung and Apple continued to hit milestone after milestone.
CEO Peter Chou firmly believes that the worst is over though, and that the company he helms can truly turn its fortunes around. Now, here in New York (as well as at a parallel event in London), HTC has just introduced the device it hopes will help do all that — the HTC One.
Frankly, there’s not a lot here that hasn’t already been spoiled by an insane number of leaks over the past few weeks, but the Jelly Bean-powered One is still a terribly pretty handset. The One sports a 4.7-inch 1080p display (pixel density: 468ppi) flanked on either side by white or black trim not entirely unlike the BlackBerry Z10. Naturally, the internals are nothing to scoff at either — inside its sleek, gently curved aluminum unibody chassis, are one of Qualcomm’s new quad-core Snapdragon 600 chipsets clocked at 1.6GHz, 2GB of RAM, and 32 or 64 GB of internal flash storage.
Here’s the thing about the One hardware though — it almost seems like an exercise in restraint. Its 4.7-inch 1080p display isn’t the largest they’ve put out (that distinction goes to the Droid DNA and its ilk), nor is the chipset powering the show the fastest that Qualcomm has to offer. These days companies like HTC and Samsung are downplaying the perceived strength of their devices’ spec sheets in favor of pushing differentiating features, and the One has no shortage of those.
The company’s focus on improving mobile sound quality has led it to add a pair of front-facing speakers complete with their own amplifiers and obnoxious name (really? “BoomSound”?). As you’d expect, HTC has also gone to town with the One’s camera — with its so-called “Ultrapixel” sensor HTC is trying to transcend the megapixel race entirely. An f/2.0 lens helps the cause here, but the company insists that its newfangled sensor collects “300 percent more light” than those of its rivals. Through in a living room play in the form of an IR blaster and a HTC-branded remote control/guide app powered by Peel and you’ve got yourself a neat little package.
Of course, the hardware is but part of HTC’s vision for the One — just as those leaked screenshots indicated, the new and improved Sense 5 UI is Sense 5 is easily the cleanest, least obtrusive version of HTC’s custom UI to date. It’s a drastic step away from the sorts of overly gaudy, overwrought interfaces the company used to be so fond of.
Google’s Roboto typeface is featured prominently throughout and Sense’s icons and widgets are flatter and more in line with Jelly Bean’s cold digital aesthetic. The biggest addition though is a new feature called BlinkFeed, which pulls in content from thousands of sources (think ESPN, AOL’s media properties, The Verge, Reuters, and more), and dumps them into an activity stream that acts as the device’s homescreen.
Meanwhile, a series of four (that’s a hard limit) more standard homescreens can be accessed by swiping to the left from BlinkFeed. For better or worse, there’s no way to turn the feature off — rather, users can pop into the settings and trim down the list of sources that BlinkFeed pulls its content from.
HTC has said that the One will ultimately be available from 185+ wireless carriers the world over starting in March, but here in the States, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile will be the ones to carry HTC’s latest flagship. Sorry, Verizon fans — there’s no official word on why Verizon turned down the One, but it’s not a huge shock considering that the Droid DNA is still relatively new to their lineup.
The big launch event is still underway here, so stay tuned — we’ll be hustling to get our hands on a One in short order for more detailed impressions of HTC’s would-be savior.
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By Silhoutte James