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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  • hstukenborg - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    BlinkFeed sounds too much like the old Blipverts from Max Headroom:

    We'll know soon enough if anyone's head explodes while looking at their BlinkFeed!
  • mjj122 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    I have an HTC One S, and I have spent the last nine months telling everyone and sundry just how good it is. HTC has been in the strange position for the last little while in which their sales are down and their reputation is somewhat battered in a lot of circles, but their current range of products are superb. I hope they can reverse the sales decline before long - I want them to continue to have the resources to be able to compete with Samsung.

    I would be interested in seeing what the various international variants of this product are and which LTE bands are supported. Hopefully this information will be available soon.
  • Sunday Afternoon - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Judging by the picture on the first page, the word you are looking for is "convex".
  • apertotes - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    It's ok having a non-removable battery if the trade off is water resistance, like the sony Z. But loosing on being able to switch batteries, loosing the micro-sd slot, and getting instead... what? premium feeling? that is too subjective.
  • amdwilliam1985 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Yep, totally agree about subjective feeling of premium.
    Also, most of the time these "premium feels" got covered up with a cheap $5 plastic casing.
  • Arbie - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    It's idiotic to produce a device optimized for media and then cripple the user's ability to load that media. Google, sadly, does this on purpose for some marketing reason. But HTC? Maybe they're trying to limit sales, so they won't run out of stock.
  • fteoath64 - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Yeah, HTC just does not learn from Samsung. Copying Apple is NOT the way!. Innovating forward and give users useful features are things consumers want. How hard is it to add the microSD slot ?. Not that there is no space left, plenty of space for a tiny thing yet, it was left out ON PURPOSE ?. Pity ....
  • aeolist - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Android 4.1.2 in 2013? If OEMs insist on layering software on top of the OS they really need to start engineering it for portability between versions from the start. Getting a phone that's outdated on day 1 and will probably wait for months if not years for updates is unacceptable.
  • ssnova - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Crap I can't find the exact one that I was thinking of.... and I know the second photo is a mock image of the GS4, but either way, what makes it stand out is the extremely thin bezel on the sides of the phones.

    Looks great, sleek, professional, stylish regardless...

    Unfortunately I think HTC missed it again by not making this have expandable memory....

    Some people wonder why the GS3 sold so much better than the competitors when SoC-wise it was not hard to compete with it(for what's inside), but they were pretty much one of the only options out there with user replacable battery+ expandable memory, that a lone makes the deal for me when considering others...

    ...Yes, even the replaceable battery, I know most users don't care about it, or plan to not keep it longer than 2 years max(contract), but having that flexibility to swap out, and also if/when the battery wears out/damaged, it's easy to replace. Whereas with my ipod touch 3rd gen can barely hold a charge, I know there are walk through's to change the soldered battery, but I'm just not motivated to do it.
  • A5 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    The GS3 outsold the other phones because Samsung is the only big Android company that bothers with marketing. "The market" doesn't care about removable batteries and expandable storage.

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