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Review: HTC One SV for Cricket Wireless

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Jan 22, 2013, 8:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC's One SV for Cricket Wireless is an excellent mid-range Android smartphone for the prepaid carrier. Read Phone Scoop's full report to see if anything holds it back.

Form 

Is It Your Type?

HTC brings its excellent One Series to Cricket Wireless in the form of the One SV. This Android smartphone may be one of the more expensive devices in Cricket's lineup, but when you use it, you'll know where that extra money went.

Form

The HTC One SV follows the design path set by the One X, One S, One V, and One XV. It has a simple outward appearance, but there are subtle cues that make it an HTC device through and through. It is an attractive slab that makes good use of minimalist design.

The entire front panel is black glass. The rest is a bright orangish red color that’s hard to miss. The battery cover is made of plastic, but there's a colored metal band that encircles the outer rim of the SV. The metal band is rigid and strong. There's a slight difference in the finishes between the metallic band and the plastic battery cover that makes the two surfaces almost look like a different shade of orangish red.

 

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The overall feel of the device is quite pleasing. The curved back panel allows the SV to rest comfortably against your skin, and the relatively small footprint makes the SV an easy phone to grasp. The weight is just right; it's not too light and not too heavy. The materials are of excellent quality, as is the manufacturing. HTC clearly took care in creating this phone. The SV won't have any trouble slipping into a pocket, thanks to the thin profile.

The display hides well in the black glass panel. I am pleased that the bezel is somewhat thin, and the display isn't swimming in a large black frame. There are three capacitive buttons below the screen for interacting with the Android operating system (back, home, multitask). These keys functioned perfectly and offer a pleasing amount of haptic feedback. I like that they match the orangish red color of the outer shell.

As is typical for an HTC device, the volume toggle is on the right edge. The SV's volume toggle is among the best I've used from HTC in the better part of a year. Not only is it easy to find thanks to the profile of the button, but it has good travel and feedback. (HTC's volume toggles have historically been rather cruddy.)

The screen lock button, on the top edge, is also good. It’s easy to locate and the travel and feedback are quite good. The headphone jack is on the top edge, but the microUSB port is on the bottom. There is no dedicated camera button.

The battery cover takes a bit of prying to remove, as the clips holding it in place fit snugly. The battery itself can be removed, which is a bonus if you're the type who likes to keep extra batteries handy. The SV also has microSD storage card and SIM card slots, both of which can be swapped without pulling the battery.

In all, I really like the hardware. It’s a simple, classy smartphone from HTC.

Performance 

Screen

The SV's LCD panel measures 4.3 inches across the diagonal and has a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. This is where cutting-edge screens were two years ago. Nowadays, it’s the mark of a mid-range handset. The SV's screen looks good and is plenty bright, but pixels are noticeable when the phone is held close to your face. Outdoor viewability is excellent. I didn't have any trouble navigating the menus or taking photos even when under direct sunlight.

Signal

The SV performs on par with other Cricket devices on its wireless network. I didn't have any trouble connecting calls or surfing the web anywhere in the metropolitan New York City area, nor in Las Vegas. When used in areas covered by Cricket's LTE network, speeds were good, but not as fast as what I've seen competing networks deliver. The bottom line is that the SV does what it is supposed to when it comes to finding and maintaining a connection.

Sound

Voice calls made with the SV on Cricket's network rate "good" not "great." The quality of calls was inconsistent, and I noticed background noise and other interference during the majority of calls. Only a few were crystal clear. The quality didn't have any relation to the strength of the network in a given area. The earpiece produces acceptable volume for quiet areas, but it will be difficult to hear in noisy places. The speakerphone produces calls that are on par with the earpiece in terms of quality, but better when it comes to volume. I found myself using the speakerphone quite a bit rather than press the SF into my ear canal to hear callers. The ringers and alert tones are loud enough, and the vibrate alert will always get your attention.

Battery

The SV routinely lasted about 30 hours per charge, no matter how much or how little I used it. That's more than enough for most people, though I'd still recommend charging it every night. I worked it hard, and was sure to stream music over the wireless network, surf the web, spend time on Facebook and Twitter, as well as play some of the games preinstalled. It'll get through a full working day without problem.

Basics 

Menus

The One SV runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with HTC Sense 4. The system software and user interface are practically identical to every other Android smartphone released by HTC in the last 12 months, albeit with the usual customizations from Cricket Wireless.

The lock screen has (up to four) customizable shortcuts that will launch when you drag them down to the little ring at the bottom of the screen. The defaults are phone, mail, messages, and camera, but you can swap these out.

The central home screen panels all have a permanent dock at the bottom of the screen that holds five app shortcuts -- the same four as the lock screen, plus the main app menu. These can also be customized if you wish. There are seven home screen panels, but you can delete most of them if you want. The SV has all the home screen widgets that we're long accustomed to, such as various clocks, weather, HTC Watch, and so on.

Applications in the main menu are laid out via grids. Swipe the pages to the left or right to access more. You can alter the appearance of the main app menu in several different ways; they can be sorted by date, alpha order, as well as by the most frequently used.

Sense 4.0 offers incredible amounts of flexibility when it comes to customization. There are themes, skins, and profiles, all of which can use their own home screen set-ups, ringtones, and wallpapers. It's starting to get a bit long in the tooth, though, as far as appearances go.

The 1.2GHz dual-core processor is more than enough to power the SV and its applications. I didn't run into any performance problems with the phone at all. The multitasking tool, for example, was extremely fast to open and scrolled smoothly through open apps.

 

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Calls/Contacts

The phone app defaults to the dialer when opened, with a list of recent calls and favorite contacts above the dialer. Touch any of the contacts above the dialer, and the dialer goes away and you can see an expanded view of your contact list. The SV has all the nifty gesture-based actions of other HTC devices, such as turning the phone over to silence the ringer.

 

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The contact app syncs across your different accounts and can hold a nearly limitless amount of information. Widgets for the contact application are plentiful. You can set direct dial shortcuts to the home screen, and there are three different styles of widgets for your favorite set of contacts.

 

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Messaging

The SV is loaded with all the stock Android 4.0 communication apps, which include Gmail, email, Google+, Google+ Messenger, Google Talk, and the stock SMS application. These work just as they do on every other Android Ice Cream Sandwich device.

HTC's FriendStream app/widget is also on board for those who prefer to consolidate their social networking. It streams in Facebook and Twitter status updates and lets you post your own updates as well as respond to the posts/messages of others.

The individual Facebook and Twitter apps are also both preinstalled.

 

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Extras 

Media

Muve Music is Cricket's premiere music product. It lets device owners stream an unlimited amount of music to their device, as well as store some locally for offline playback for a low monthly fee (it is included with most smartphone plans). The app itself works fine and makes for easy discovery of new and interesting music. It can be slow to start playing tracks, though, and I often found myself waiting a minute or more for songs to begin.

 

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The SV also has the basic Android music player app, plus TuneIn Radio, and the Google Play Store if you want to purchase tracks directly from the handset.

On the video front, the SV includes the stock YouTube app, the Google Play Store, and HTC's own HTC Watch application. HTC Watch is simply another avenue through which device owners can purchase video content.

 

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The SV comes with Beats Audio technology on board. I gave it a good workout listening to the new Newsted EP. Jason's guttural growl never sounded so good.

Camera

HTC's camera software is as intuitive and speedy as ever on the SV. Since there is no hardware camera button, you have to open the camera from the home screen or the lock screen. It opens very quickly.

The controls are laid out simply. On the top-left corner you'll see the handy flash control. The full settings menu lets users adjust video quality, the review screen, the ISO, white balance, etc. There are also different types of capture and scene modes, such as HDR, panorama, portrait, macro, etc.

The SV has two main on-screen camera buttons; one for still photos, and one for video. The still camera can take continuous bursts of shots if you hold down the shutter button, and the SV lets you take still images while recording video.

I didn't see any performance problems with the SV's camera at all. It was fast across the board.

 

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Photos

The One SV takes very good pictures for a 5-megapixel camera. Focus was sharp, white balance was accurate, and exposure was spot on. Honestly, you can't ask much more from a camera in this class of device. Nearly all the images I captured were usable and/or sharable (crummy composition and content notwithstanding). The SV can easily replace a point and shoot for your weekend get-aways.

 

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Gallery

The SV uses the stock Android gallery application, which will connect with various online accounts and let you access them all from the device. The design of the top-level menus for sorting between different photo albums could be better, but once you get the hang of it, it's not too annoying to navigate.

When viewing individual photos, on-screen controls make deleting, sharing, or editing them a snap. Editing features are limited to crop, rotate, or apply effects. The effects include black & white, antique, etc. There is no third-party photo editing software, but there is a video editor. It lets you piece together videos you've captured with the phone into simple projects.

 

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Video

The video camera maxes out at 1080p HD video. I thought the results were very good. The footage I captured was smooth, focus was good, and exposure was accurate. It won't replace dedicated video equipment, but it serves well for capturing everyday events that might not otherwise be recorded.

Browser

The SV ships with the old-school Android browser. It's a fine browser for rendering web sites and had no problem pulling CNN and other heavy-duty sites out of the air with all their images and video intact. As far as speed is concerned, it did well on Cricket's LTE 4G network, but not so well on its 3G network. The browser supports multiple tabs, and the bookmarking tool is robust. The SV also includes the Chrome browser, which is faster, syncs across devices, and is better at rendering web sites.

 

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Apps

There is plenty of unnecessary bloatware on the SV, including nine Cricket-branded apps and services that I have no need for. Most of them cannot be deleted, but there's still plenty of room on the SV for your own apps.

Bluetooth

The SV's Bluetooth works perfectly. It paired with every device I could find. Phone calls sounded good when sent through my car's hands-free system, though the volume could have been better. Music sounded very good when sent to stereo Bluetooth headphones. I had no issues pushing files to/from the SV, either.

Clock

HTC knows how to do clocks on its smartphones. If you want to change the clock on the lock screen, you need to select the "clock lock screen" set-up. Only then can you customize the clock to your liking. It's a bit convoluted, but at least it is possible. There are far too many clock widgets to choose from when it comes to home screen.

GPS

The GPS worked very well. The SV's GPS radio was able to lock on my position in less than 30 seconds, and was accurate to within about 25 feet. Thanks to the solid network access and an accurate GPS radio, directions with Google Maps were spot-on and close to real-time. The SV also has Cricket Navigator on board. The Navigator app works well, but costs an extra $5 per month.

Wrap-Up 

I don't think Cricket customers can do much better than the HTC One SV right now. Sure, it costs a hefty $349.99, but everything about it works well. The biggest complaint I can point out is that call quality and volume are only "average" and not "excellent." That's hardly something to cry about. Nearly every other feature of the SV functions well.

HTC did a great job with the hardware, and the screen and battery life are both quite good. The Sense 4.0 user interface is sometimes a bit fussy, but it offers more personalization that most other Android skins do. With the good camera and video camera, excellent media options, and solid network performance, the SV is a winner for Cricket.

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