The HTC One so far has been the kind of phone HTC was hoping it would be. It isn’t outselling the rival, the Samsung Galaxy S4, but it’s doing a lot better comparatively than HTC was doing at this point last year. At last glance, the sales numbers were 10 million Galaxy S4 to 5 million HTC One. Since no one really talked about HTC sales at all last year, that’s already a fantastic improvement. Of course, those are older numbers so both devices have sold a lot more since then.
Before we get started, it’s important to note that this really isn’t a review. Our own Kristofer Wouk already took care of that. If you’d like to see his written and video reviews, you can find them here. This is simply my personal experience with the HTC One over the course of the 4-6 weeks since I received the phone to give people an idea of what it’s like to own this beastly device. So without further adieu, let’s get started.
My HTC One Set Up
Let’s start with the basics. Despite what the reviews may have shown you, there are actually a couple of ways to set up the HTC One. HTC attempts to push Blinkfeed on you as your main home screen, but you can actually set any of the five possible screens as your main one. I opted for the traditional Android layout. So I use five home screens, with the third being marked as my main home screen. Blinkfeed is on the far left which means I can use it or ignore it as I choose.
A quick rundown of how I do things. Far left is Blinkfeed, near left is folders that hold all my frequently used apps, and the center is my main page with a clock and weather widget, a flashlight widget, and a battery widget. The near right holds my Gmail widget and some of my more functional apps, and the far right houses my most played games. Despite being limited to just four panels
–with the 5th always being Blinkfeed– I was able to put everything on my home screens that I wanted to. The only sad part is you cannot delete the Blinkfeed panel. Thankfully, I found it useful and fun so I don’t really mind.
I was able to put everything on my home screens that I wanted to.
One more thing I’d like to mention in this category is that I love Boom Sound. Before the HTC One I didn’t think I’d be using it that much since about all I do with my phones is listen to podcasts. Now that I have a phone where the sound isn’t coming out of a tiny little speaker in the back, I’ve found that I enjoy listening to music on the device without headphones. My Spotify account hasn’t seen this much use since 2011, my Google Music is swallowing up as much of my unlimited data as it can, and yeah even my podcasts sound better. There simply no arguing it, the HTC One produces the best sound of any smartphone speaker that I’m aware of.
Moving around the OS
Once you get everything set up, moving around the operating system is just like every other Android phone. You unlock the lock screen, move around home screens, and access the menu via the notification drop down. That’s all there really is to it. So I haven’t really thought about it as I’ve used the device at all. Everything is as it’s supposed to be. The key, though, is getting the HTC One set up. As I mentioned previously, adding panels and selecting your main home screen is just one of way of doing so.
In the app drawer, you can change the grid from three by three to four by five if you so choose. You can also change it to alphabetical to get the old school paginated app drawer we saw in earlier iterations of HTC Sense. This is what I do, since I actually liked the old HTC Sense app drawers. For my lock screen, I use the Productivity set up, which you can change in the Personalization menu in Settings.
This is where things get screwy, though. Unlike stock Android (and even Touchwiz), you can’t long press an icon in the app drawer and add it to the home screen. You can only add icons to the dock this way. You have to long press (or pinch out) on the home screens to add icons. This was, admittedly, the most difficult thing to get used to on the HTC One, having moved over from a Nexus 4. Also, long pressing home screens doesn’t give you the option to change your wallpaper. You now must use the Personalization menu in Settings for that. Also a drag. Thankfully, adding icons and changing wallpapers isn’t a common practice for me.
So there are some quirks with the HTC One you wouldn’t find in a stock Android device. This isn’t a knock on Sense 5 or even praise for vanilla Android. I’m only pointing out the differences.
As you can see from the image above, I’m actually on Android 4.2.2. As is tradition at this point, I root every device I own the first day I get it. So when the Android 4.2.2 ROMs started leaking and ROM cooks started adding them to ROMs is around the time I got my Android 4.2.2 update. There are a few changes from 4.1.2, but the biggest and most noticeable change is the vanilla Android style quick settings, Daydream is now included, and you can now opt to show your battery level in the status bar.
HTC One Battery Life
I’m not going to say that the HTC One battery life sucks. Okay, yes I am. The HTC One battery life sucks. With some proper management and some self control, you can actually get more than a full day of charge out of it. However, I am what is called a power user. I average about 4 hours of screen on time a day.
So on average I get about 10-12 hours of battery life before the phone dies. I do work at a desk, though, which means I can keep it charged pretty much all day long. As you can see from the screenshot above, my HTC One was one the charger five times total in two days.
I'm not going to say that the HTC One battery life sucks. Okay, yes I am. The HTC One battery life sucks.
Now, for the sake of trying it out, I spent a whole day using my phone as a phone. Answering texts and Hangouts messages, phone calls, and some light browsing. When I removed the gaming, the obscene amount of time I spend on social media, and reading 5 page articles all at once, I was able to keep it going for about 20 hours before it needed a charge. So it is capable of lasting a long time, but you have to keep an eye on what you use it for. As you can see from the screen shots above, I played Final Fantasy IV for 20 minutes this morning and spent a good amount of time in Hangouts and my battery was down 20% in just under an hour and a half.
I will note. Since I’ve updated to Android 4.2.2 with Sense 5, battery life seems to be a lot better. I’ve been leaving it off the charger all day and usually hit around 20% when I lay down to go to bed. So for you stock people who don’t root, the Android 4.2.2 update (when it does arrive) should help bring some better battery life as well. For root users who want to try this out on their own, I run either TrickDroid or Android Revolution HD. You can find both of those in the international HTC One forum on XDA-Developers.
Gaming and Performance
One of the things I use my HTC One for the most is gaming. I have a host of console emulators along with some native Android games. To put it bluntly, they all perform swimmingly. In most cases, I don’t even see so much as a hiccup. There are only two times when I can make performance drop below perfect. One is in the game Ice Age Village. During a mini game called Kung Fu Scrat, every now and then there will be a moment of lag. The only other time is playing PlayStation games using the FPse PlayStation emulator and I have OpenGL enabled with high quality video mode enabled. Sometimes it’ll drop to 40fps.
The gaming and performance is so good that I actually recorded all the raw footage for Brad Ward’s and my Final Fantasy IV review with it earlier this week. It’s the first review that wasn’t done with my trusty Nexus 4. Don’t worry friends, the Nexus 4 will still be doing the reviews, but it was nice to see the HTC One handle it like a champ if need be. In FPse, the PlayStation emulator, I get a solid 60-70fps. As stated earlier, if I put all the highest settings on, it will drop to 40 on occasion. I usually play on medium settings so I can turn off the frame limiter and skip long, boring scenes in the games I play. Emulators for older consoles like SNES or Game Boy Advance don’t lag. Ever.
The UI and almost all apps are fluid and wonderful. I really never experience lag with this phone unless I really try to make it happen. The thing is that I’d love to go more in depth with stuff like performance and list off more quirks and other places where it may lag. The problem it I can’t! Usually devices have some specific parts that lag and it’s worthy of a discussion. The HTC One just doesn’t do that. Outside of the lags I reported above, I simply don’t see it lag. I’m sure it hangs on scrolling super long lists for a fraction of a second, but it’s not something I notice. I just use it and it just works. There really isn’t much to explain or discuss there.
What I did and did not like about the HTC One
So in the interest of time and space, I’m going to put what I specifically liked and didn’t like about the device in list form. Here we go.
- I can count exactly two places where it noticeably lags. That’s way less than every other device I’ve ever owned.
- The build quality is phenomenal. I still take the HTC One out of its case just to look at it sometimes.
- Boom Sound. ‘Nuff said.
- The screen is gorgeous.
- Blinkfeed has replaced my RSS app entirely.
- HTC Sense 5 is not the bloated monster its predecessors were. I can now use the iconic Sense Clock without shame.
- HDMI output through a 5-pin MHL adapter works perfectly fine.
- Quick settings included on Android 4.2.2. Sorry non-rooted people, you’ll have to wait a little longer for it!
- I thought coming from the Note 2 to the 4.7″ screen of the HTC One would cause problems. Now 4.7″ seems great to me.
- I can count exactly two places where it noticeably lags. It’s always those same two places (PlayStation emulator on highest settings, Kung Fu Scrat mini game) and it’s annoying.
- The battery life is not where it should be. 10-12 hours is okay if you’re like me and sitting at a desk working all day. For people with lives, 10-12 hours means it’s going down in the middle of the evening, which is not very convenient.
I think the worst part of the HTC One is trying to objectively come up with things that are bad about the HTC One.
- You cannot get rid of Blinkfeed.
- No expandable storage means I can’t put all my PlayStation ROMs on there at once.
- No removable battery means when something goes wrong during a ROM or kernel flash, it’s twice as annoying.
- CyanogenMod is not fully optimized for the One yet. When it is, it’ll be epic. The last two times I tried it, it just didn’t feel quite right yet. Also, I actually use the TV Remote function in the HTC One.
- I think the worst part of the HTC One is trying to objectively come up with things that are bad about the HTC One.
One Month With the HTC One Wrap Up
Overall, my experience with the HTC One has been amazing. There is really so little wrong with this device that it actually surprised me. Coming from last year’s flagships, I expected it to be quick and zippy most of the time, but really start to buckle when I put the pressure on. This has not been the case so far and I can’t rave enough about how great the performance has been. Now if HTC would’ve only spent a little more time on the battery and made things like Blinkfeed optional, I’d have no problem calling this the greatest Android phone of all time. However, because some features are forced and the battery can’t take a whole lot of strain, I’m forced to demote it to simply being one of the best out there.
When asked whether or not I would recommend this over the Galaxy S4, I never know what to say. Different people have different needs. The HTC One suffers from a lack of expandable storage and removable battery. So people who keep 50GB of music on their device will obviously need something extra in the storage department. If their uses and preferences are anything like mine, then the HTC One is the superior device. If you like all that Samsung bloatware and need the extra storage, then it’s pretty obvious which one you should go with.
I’d love to hear from some fellow HTC One owners. Do you find the phone satisfactory so far and what stuff do you like and dislike about it?