Over the last three years Taiwanese company HTC has been slowly chipping away at the Indian Market with a steady stream of smartphones covering a pretty wide range of price points. Even mid-range smartphones by the company carry HTC’s traits mostly in the form of distinctive back panels like the ones on the Mozart.

Over time, not only has the popularity of the smartphone maker increased, but importantly, it has also been along with a marked improvement in the quality of the brand’s smartphones - both in terms of performance and aesthetics. However, there had been little that would give the company’s best pitched products an edge over the obvious favourites, the iPhones and the Galaxys. That’s until now.

Last week the company released the brand new and extremely promising flagship smartphone, simply called, the HTC One. Invited by the company for the One’s Sydney launch, we got to spend time with the smartphone to see if it lives up to all the hype that preceded its launch.

Bigger is better?

When we reviewed the HTC Butterfly the first thing that impressed us was how lightweight the handset was despite a big screen. You could say the same about the One as well. The smartphone sports a 4.7-inch screen and still manages to stay trim at a thickness of about 9 mm. The default homescreen on the HTC one displays an interactive screen that HTC has dubbed BlinkFeed. Basically it’s like a mashup of Pulse and Flipboard. You have access to news stories, features and updates based on your topics of interest or what social networking service you use. When connected to a wi-fi network BlinkFeed automatically updates every thirty minutes, and every hour if you are using a mobile network. You can choose what highlights are to be displayed from a long list of topics or content providers such as ESPN, AFP and many others HTC has tied up with. Although you can swipe right to access the usual Android homescreen, there’s no way to completely disable BlinkFeed to make use of that homescreen. In a very iOSesque way, you can drag and drop apps on to one another to make a homogeneous cluster of apps or functions. A long press on any of the apps lets you resize the entire matrix to give you a lot more breathing space on the smartphone’s display.

Picture perfect

In a market driven by everything big, be it screen size or megapixels, HTC’s an unusual departure from the norm by making it amply clear that it will no more be participating in the megapixel war. The HTC One comes with a 4-megapixel camera. Yes, you read that right and you probably have never come across a high-end smartphone associated with that kind of numbers. However, this is an honest attempt to focus on what’s more important than megapixels in a smartphone camera – the sensor. The company has worked on a sensor which gathers 300 per cent more light than traditional smartphone camera sensors. Dubbed as an ultrapixel camera, the camera is not only designed to capture regular pictures sharply but also works to capture images in low ambient light, fairly well. What’s more interesting though is the introduction of the feature called HTC Zoe. When you select Zoe before clicking a picture, it basically gives you a motion picture instead of a still one. You can playback Zoe Highlights that contain both stills as well as Zoe shots and apply effects such as Vintage.

Feature-rich

The smartphone predictably comes equipped with Beats Audio. But apart from that it also features HTC BoomSound which includes front-facing stereo speakers with a dedicated amplifier. The HTC One is powered by a 1.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm processor and comes with a 2300 mAh battery. As far as aesthetics are concerned, the HTC one has a more seamless body than most of the company’s other handsets. The full metal finish does lend a sturdy, yet classy look to the HTC One. Features wise, the One packs in just enough new tricks in the book (including the ability to double-up and be your TV remote) to give it a slight headstart over its competitors – probably even the iPhone will face the heat from this One. Expect India prices for the HTC One to be north of Rs 45,000.

mahananda.bohidar@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 24, 2013)
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