HTC One: New Smartphone?
HTC One: Smartphone Reinvented?
By JOANNA STERN | ABC News 02/19/2013
HTC is kicking off the start of Android phone season. At an event in New York City today, the Taiwan-based company announced its latest flagship Android phone -- the HTC One.
"We think it's time to shake things up in the smartphone space," Mike Woodward, President of HTC America, told ABC News in an interview. "We have decided to come out and reinvent the smartphone."
Of course, HTC hasn't completely reinvented what the smartphone looks like -- it's still a large rectangle -- but according to Woodward, the One is a complete shift for the industry, built around how people use their phones now.
"We have re-architected the phone around how Generation Feed behaves," Woodward said. Woodward and HTC say Generation Feed is those of us who look down at their phones constantly, staying up to date on news and friends.
Ahead of the Hardware
HTC's Android phones have always been known for their top-of-the-line hardware parts and the One is no different.
The phone is made entirely of aluminum -- no small feat, according to Woodward, who said it took two years to make a good all-metal phone. It also has a large 4.7-inch, 1080p screen, which is flanked vertically by two speaker strips. (HTC calls it Boomsound.) The phone is fast too, thanks to its quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor and 2GB of RAM.
Ultrapixel: Forget Megapixels
Where the One stands out from other Android phones on specs is with its camera. "Generation Feed grew up with a camera in their pocket, but the pictures that they take are not always great and they're not always outside," Woodward said.
With that, HTC has ditched megapixels for an ultrapixel camera.
"An ultrapixel is twice the size of a megapixel -- it lets in 300 percent more light," Woodward says. "We paired that with dual-axis stabilization. This is different than letting a shutter open."
HTC says the new technology should allow you to take much better low-light shots without having to use flash, which often makes for flat, blown-out images. We got a look at the camera and took this shot without a flash. A shot with the iPhone didn't match it. Nokia has focused on similar low-light settings with its Lumia 920 PureView camera vi.
HTC has paired that camera hardware with some new software features. It has livened up its gallery and allows you to take three-second videos when you take a photo. HTC calls this sort of video or photo a Zoe; the camera takes one second of video before you hit the shutter button and then two seconds right after, giving you photos that "come to life."
It sounds bit like the latest app from Twitter, called Vine, which takes six-second videos. HTC says you can share Zoes with anyone via a URL.
A Revamped Android
HTC has always added its own flare to Android with its Sense software. While HTC backed off from tweaking Android too heavily in its previous phones, it has begun to think of Google's software entirely differently with the One.
The phone is based on the latest version of Android (Android 4.2 or Jelly Bean), but HTC says that the majority of Android users only use one home screen instead of the three provided by Google (80 percent of Android users use fewer than three home screens, says HTC).
"We found that widgets and home panels aren't that well understood, so we wanted to simplify that," Woodward said. Called Blinkfeed, the home screen on the One is now a grid of news or a newsfeed of your social media accounts and news accounts.
"The idea is in a blink of an eye your phone is constantly refreshed and your phone is constantly alive. That becomes your home screen," Woodward said. The feed can be customized and if you don't like it, you can choose to put your Blinkfeed on another pane and use a regular Android home screen.
In addition to the Blinkfeed and redesigned user interface, HTC has added features like a Sense TV, which works with an IR blaster in the phone to turn the phone into a remote control for your TV.
Android Phone Season
The One will be offered by 180 carriers in 80 countries over the next few months. It will be available in the U.S. at T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T in March. HTC would not confirm the pricing, but said it would be competitive. Most high-end Android phones and the iPhone 5 cost $199 with a two-year contract.
But, of course, this is Android phone season and Samsung is rumored to be announcing the next version of its popular Galaxy S 3 -- the Galaxy S 4 -- in early March at its own event. While the One might be the only phone now designed for Generation Feed, it may make sense to wait to make sure it's the right one.