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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.

The same applies to paper. I tried printing a handful of images captured with the One in different conditions (using a professional photo printing service). At 4 x 6 and even 5 x 7, prints looked sharp and no different from shots taken with a standalone camera. When I reached the 8 x 10 size, I could see some subtle quality loss if I looked carefully in the right places -- but even that was relatively minor.

(Still not sure what to think? Check out my HTC One camera sample gallery to view a collection of images I captured with the phone and judge for yourself.)

The smaller image size also allows for some interesting and innovative camera features. One of them is an unusual way of capturing images called Zoe. When you activate the One's Zoe mode -- by touching an icon at the top of the Camera app -- the phone records 20 still images and three seconds of 1080p video every time you tap the shutter icon.

Using Zoe delivers a few benefits: First, instead of having just one snapshot, you can pick from 20 images taken over a more natural period of movement. Second, it enables you to use speciality editing features, like one that mixes and matches faces from multiple Zoe images in order create one in which everyone in your group is smiling -- or another in which you blend multiple Zoe images together to erase an unwanted person or object from the background.

Last but not least, the One automatically compiles images and Zoe videos into Video Highlights: 30-second clips that put related content together with visual effects and music. Video Highlights can be exported as regular MP4 files and shared anywhere you want.

Whew! A lot to take in, right? It is -- and that's the downside: With all this going on, it can be confusing to wrap your head around HTC's ambitious camera software. The Gallery interface is rather difficult to navigate, too, and I suspect many users are either going to fail to notice the Zoe-related features altogether or stumble onto them by accident and become befuddled by what's happening.

Additionally, by saving 20 images and a video every time you press the shutter button, the Zoe feature makes a mess of your phone's image folder -- something that could be particularly annoying for users who rely on automated image syncing services like those provided by Dropbox and Google+. And while you can opt to avoid Zoe altogether, the Highlight Videos are automatically created on the fly and stored on your phone whether you want them or not.

By the way, the One's camera can capture regular 1080p video, too; a 2-megapixel camera on the phone's front also takes 1080p-quality video and is equipped with a wide-angle lens for vanity pics and video chat.


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