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The Almost Perfect HTC One

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The Almost Perfect HTC One

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I've been searching for the Perfect Phone for many years. As previously noted, I have become a fan of the HTC devices which I've been using for the past few years (most recently the HTC One X and One X+).

The newest HTC phone is the One which I have been traveling with and using extensivley since it shipped just over a week ago. So how has this one held up to real world scrutiny? Here are some thoughts:

  • The HTC One boasts an impressive industrial design that is beautiful, elegant, and oh so enjoyable to ogle.
  • I was initially skeptical of the aluminum body, worrying that it would not be as easy to grip as the rubberized One X. But a week in, that's proven to be a non-issue. The device is easy to hold, and the thin non-aluminum strip along the side prevents it from sliding.
  • The screen is gorgeous, clear and bright, easy to read, and utterly smooth to touch and slide your fingers over (important for us Swypeusers).
  • The device is fast, everything is snappy and responsive.
  • The camera (well, both cameras) is superb.
  • Battery life is great.
  • The front facing stereo speakers offer the best sound I have heard from a device this size.
  • The One includes the latest iteration of Sense, HTC's Android skin. The updated Sense is clean and lightweight, it feels natural and true to Android 4, and boasts incredibly readable fonts (that are crisp and narrow, allowing for more text on the screen).

In short, the HTC One has raised the bar for me, and is about as close to perfect a smartphone as I have ever used. But, unfortunately, it's not quite perfect, yet.

As I previously noted, HTC Sense is the only Android skin that I find usable. It's non-intrusive, flexible, and highly customizable, truly adding value without detracting from the pure Android experience.

But with this latest version HTC seems to be starting to fall into the trap of trying to control the experience. Consider BlinkFeed, their new UI that creates (Windows Phone like) live tiles and blocks on the home screen, providing real-time access to mail, social feeds, pictures, news, and more. I really tried to like BlinkFeed, but found the sheer volume of content that it bubbles up to be incredibly distracting, even annoying. What I wanted was a way to control the volume of data, but nope, it's all or nothing. So I opted (for now) not to use BlinkFeed at all, but there is no way to not display it, so one of my home screens has been lost (and the One only has 5, unlike the 7 in earlier devices).

The same thing happens in the Gallery app. Without asking you, the device will suck in pictures from accounts you connect to, making you have to jump through extra steps to get to your own camera shots, and there is no good way to stop this behavior.

They also removed some really important apps, like App Associations (good luck trying to figure out how to change your default browser to Chrome now).

In general, it feels like HTC has started forcing a specific user experience and workflow, and that gets in the way of what would otherwise be a perfect device. Fortunately, all of these annoyances are easily fixable. Let's hope HTC does just that in future updates.

That said, the HTC One truly is the best smartphone I have used to date, and really is almost perfect.

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