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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  • ssnova - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Yes only marketing, nothing else, has nothing to do with the actual product, features, performance, battery life, none of that matters one tiny bit.

    HTC and their marketing deal with BEATS audio, because people only care about marketing and that's why all the HTC BEATS audio products are awesome sellers.

  • steven75 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Seems like you don't understand the scale of Samsung's marketing. For instance: they spend 3x more in marketing than Apple. They outspend Coke, fer crissakes!
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Of course it's a mixture of marketing and actual usability.

    Most devices are good enough. The GS3 is definitely at least a good enough device. Then the marketing takes that good enough device and sells it to customers.

    The difference between a device that's an "8/10" and a "9/10" really isn't anything that most users will notice. So if you can convince your customers that your device is at least an 8/10, then they might get it. A competing device might be a 9/10, but it might as well be garbage for all the customer knows.

    And even if that superior device was marketed properly, customers likely are only convinced that the superior device is an "8/10" device. It's really difficult to convince a customer that your device is truly great with marketing alone.

    Everyone always says that Apple only sells products because they can market worth a damn. Apple products are definitely good enough, but even they can't convince customers that their products are truly great with just marketing. A customer's friend will buy an Apple device, use it and THEN convince the customer that Apple devices deserve to be thought of as great and not just good.

    Fun Fact: Old people get shitty tech (or no tech at all) because tech marketing isn't targeted to them and they are less likely to have friends with tech products. So not only do they not hold any devices as "great," they aren't even convinced about which ones are "good enough."
  • nerd1 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    HTC simply shot themselves in the foot by non-removable battery and non-expandable memory.

    One X and GS3 are both good phones, and one X had better build and subjectively better screen, but with those two MAJOR deal brakers it's perfectly clear why they didn't do very well.
  • darwinosx - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Hilarious. A tiny percentage of users care about sd cards and removable batteries. Very few to no phones will have either going forward.
  • darwinosx - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    You must own a GS 3.
  • Gunbuster - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Is the screen and digitizer glued down? I have had to repair my HTC radar and getting the screen and digitizer separated from the chassis is brutal. I wish they would do something similar to Nokia and have a mechanism that locks the screen into the chassis so you can remove it.

    I get the feeling a HTC engineer helped make the Microsoft Surface Pro with its glued down screen.
  • kezeka - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Honestly surprised that no one has commented on how impractical it is to have a 4.7" screen in one's pocket. I had trouble walking up stairs with a 4.3" screen in the front pocket of my jeans, I can't even begin to imagine the pain and chaffing from a phone this large. And that is assuming it will fit in one's front pocket in the first place (this wont fit in shallow pockets without risking a drop).

    I am sure these phones are great to use with their massive screens but in no way is it worth the sacrifice in portability. I have a tablet when I need the resolution or to consume media on the go. My phone should be comfortable to walk/run/jump around with in my pocket. These are not.

    I also have a massive bone to pick with HTC. I have bought two of their phones and broken my contract early to upgrade from both of them after a year and a half. They fall apart, chip, and are damaged just from day to day wear in a case. The reception sucked with both. The earpiece audio quality sucked. The fidelity of the calls sucked. The mic sucked. Both ended up enjoying high velocity aerodynamics testing after they had been replaced. Never falling for their marketing and joyous reviews of their products again.
  • neutralizer - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    You must have small pockets. Stop wearing skinny jeans. I have a Nexus 4 which fits just fine in my pocket. I know people who fit Notes and Nexus 7s in the pockets for no problem.
  • aranyagag - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    I fit a galaxy tab 7

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