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HTC One deep-dive review: A smartphone that flirts with perfection

JR Raphael | April 15, 2013
With its high-quality hardware and stunning design, the HTC One is one of the best smartphones you can buy today -- but it isn't without its drawbacks.

That configuration is a deviation from even the standard physical-key Android setup, in which the Home key lives in the bottom-center of a device. That standard exists for a reason: The Home key is one that's probably accessed most frequently during use. With a centered position, the button is easy to reach with your thumb while holding the phone with one hand. With the far-right placement HTC has opted to use, single-handed access to the button is either incredibly awkward or downright impossible.

HTC's two-button approach also omits the Android app-switching key, which typically exists alongside the Home and Back commands. That key allows you to multitask and quickly switch from one app to another. To access it on the One, you have to double-tap the Home key -- a hidden and less convenient process that many users may not even realize exists.

On top of that, the phone's physical-button approach results in some apps -- including Facebook -- placing an obtrusive black bar at the bottom of the screen in order to display a single legacy Menu icon. (On a button-free phone, that icon would appear discretely alongside the on-screen buttons when needed.)

And finally, the One's capacitive buttons don't consistently light up during use, even when the phone is in a dimly lit room. Because of that, it's often impossible to see the buttons and know where to press in dark lighting conditions.

Under the hood

The HTC One runs on a 1.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor equipped with 2GB of RAM. The result is a phone that's lightning fast: Apps load instantly, Web browsing is smooth and snappy (even with multiple tabs open) and swiping between home screen panels is swift and lag-free. The One has handled everything I've thrown at it with ease and shown no signs of stutters or slowdowns.

Most U.S. models of the One will ship with 32GB of internal storage. AT&T will also offer a higher-capacity 64GB model. The One does not have an SD card slot for external storage expansion.

The HTC One packs a 2300mAh nonremovable battery. In my experience, the battery has been good but not bulletproof. On days where I had low to moderate levels of usage -- what typical smartphone users would probably consider normal -- I made it through with plenty of charge to spare.

On days with heavier use, though -- 30 minutes of video streaming, an hour of audio streaming and a couple hours of scattered Web browsing and social media activity, for example -- I started seeing low battery warnings toward the end of the evening.

What about data connectivity? The One supports both LTE and HSPA+ networks. For AT&T and T-Mobile users, that means the phone will connect to LTE by default,then automatically drop down to HSPA+ if you're in an area where LTE isn't available.


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