Every month new challengers come forward to take on Apple’s ubiquitous iPhone. John Stokdyk assesses the merits of HTC’s latest contender.
With their super-wide (4in+) screens, the new HTC One family shamelessly appeals to those looking for a consumer device. For the sake of professional appearances I opted to try the 4.3in One S model - smaller, more portable and better suited to business use, though with less impressive specs than its bigger (4.7in) One X stablemate.
First things first. The screen is big and vivid and offers plenty of space for fat-fingered typists when you turn it to a landscape view.
The 8 megapixel camera and accompanying video facilities are excellent, and include a movie editing app should you want to create your own films. The model I received also came with a pair of Dr Dre headphones with mic for making phone calls.
As far as the hardware goes the One S is great, but the smartphone user experience is driven more by the software, and it’s here that the HTC device starts to struggle. The operating system is the multi-tasking Android 4.0 release (aka Ice Cream Sandwich), which like the iPhone 4 also supports voice commands.
I’ve already explored the possibilities of using Google Apps and Documents in a previous review of the Android-based Samsung Galaxy SII. But if you prefer a Microsoft environment the Android Polaris Office app does the job very nicely. The HTC One also came with Dropbox set-up option, but frustratingly, there was no way to change the ID details when I accidentally typed in the wrong email address.
This niggle was quite typical. As iPhone-like as it tries to be, Android exhibits a number of idiosyncrasies that ultimately come up short. The on-screen “pull ring” to activate the phone isn’t the most intuitive system I’ve seen, and after getting to the rotating on-screen home menu I started noticing app icons appearing without warning on the first pane (for the whole time I had the phone, I couldn't work out how to remove the Facebook app icon seen above). And while it multitasks with a physical key on the bottom of the device to navigate between the current apps, three steps (via the Settings menu) are required to turn any of them off.
All these bright pixels and simultaneous apps eat power to the point that you can see the battery meter visibly depleting on the screen as you use the phone. This may be why it defaulted to sleep mode very quickly, which can be inconvenient when downloading apps.
The HTC One smartphones are being touted as near-premium devices (£30/mo from Vodafone for business users, £5 a month less than an iPhone 4S), but I doubt whether the Dr Dre headphones and video-editing tools would pass the “wholly and exclusively” test. It's a very good Android platform if you are looking for an Apple alternative, but may not justify the extra expense for professional use.
● Big, vivid 4.3in Gorilla Glass screen
● Good browser speed (especially on maps), with Flash support
● 8 megapixel camera/video
● Sound quality (with Dr Dre headphones & mic)
● Google Docs/Apps integration
● Light weight.
What we didn’t like
● Voracious battery consumption
● Non-intuitive elements of interface (especially to stop apps running)
● A bit delicate-feeling due to thinness and lightness
● Difficult to justify premium features and price for business use.
For more info, visit www.htc.com
This review was conducted using a trial Vodafone UK Business package. The HTC One S is available free with Vodafone plans starting from £30 a month.