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Review: HTC One for Sprint

Form Performance Basics Extras Wrap-Up Video Comments  30  

Mar 12, 2013, 3:16 PM   by Rich Brome
updated Apr 8, 2013, 11:00 AM

Updated: Added more sample photos / Updated HDR photo section with response from HTC Updated noon, April 8, to reflect Sprint-specific model.

The One is HTC's new flagship Android phone for 2013. It has a slick unibody metal design and cutting-edge specs and features. Phone Scoop takes the Sprint version for a spin in this full review.

Ed note: Phone Scoop has already previewed a near-final version of the HTC One. This full review is of a final version of the HTC One optimized for Sprint's network. We were able to test it in New Jersey and in San Francisco to get a good feel for the network and signal performance, and other properties that make this device unique to Sprint.

Is It Your Type?

The One is quite simply a flagship. Like the iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S series, it should do everything. It's for people who want the best, but it's also for everyone. If you're on a tight budget - especially without a contract to lower the price - then this might not be the phone for you. But if you can afford it - and you're not put off by phones large enough to house a 4.7-inch display - then this phone is aimed at you.

Body

The unique, mostly-metal, mostly-unibody design is one of the selling points of the One. It feels different than anything else, and - for the most part - it feels great. It comes close to matching the finely-crafted feel of the iPhone 5. HTC used a unique manufacturing technique to bond the metal back to the white plastic bands that traverse the back and form the sides. The transition from metal to plastic is seamless in a way rarely seen.

 

One

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Unfortunately, that process has limits. That limit is the front of the phone. Specifically, the metal parts above and below the screen didn't fit the rest of the phone quite as smoothly. These imperfections are small and normal in most phones. Still, the design and build quality of the One is leagues better than the vast majority of phones; at the end of the day, it feels great.

It's a big phone, as you would expect from any phone with a 4.7-inch display. But it's remarkably thin and the curve of the back helps it feel even thinner and slip into any pocket with ease. It's heavy enough to feel substantial and solid, but not so heavy as to weigh down your pocket. The smooth matte finish of the metal back feels sublime and looks great (especially since it doesn't pick up fingerprints.)

The trade-off with a phone this thin, curvy, and sleek, is that everything it sealed inside. You can't access the battery, and there's no memory card slot. The micro-SIM card has a tray on the left side you can access with an included tool or paperclip.

 

versus the competition

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

For me, phones with a 4.7-inch or larger display are still simply too big. The problem is one-handed use; it's difficult and slow, and the phone feels unbalanced in my hand, leaving me constantly terrified it will slip from my hand. But according to the sales figures for huge phones, I'm in the minority, so I'll shut up about that now.

The display glass may look like it runs seamlessly from side to side, but the glass is framed by bands of glossy black plastic at the left and right edges. You have to look very closely to tell for sure; the visual effect is seamless. But the slight ridge where the plastic sticks up higher than the glass is easy to feel with your thumb. It's not sharp, nor is it noticeable during normal use, even doing sideways swipes. Manufacturers often use this raised-edge trick to help protect the glass from scratches when you place the phone screen-down on a table.

The lock button is on the top. It's made of glossy black plastic, because it doubles as the infrared transceiver for controlling your home theater. The button is very flush, sticking up only a tiny fraction of a millimeter. Yet the action is tight, working well once you know where to press (something you'll no doubt learn very quickly.) The volume keys have similar height and action. However, they're much trickier to find with your finger because of their location. HTC has given the volume control a fine texture to differentiate the volume buttons from the smooth side of the phone. If you can't feel the button texture, good luck adjusting the volume without looking. You'll never feel the volume buttons through gloves. Nor can you feel the lock button through gloves, but mashing the upper left corner works just fine.

The two - yes, just two - Android buttons below the display are capacitive, and backlit. Of course there's a back button, and home. The home key can be double-tapped to bring up the multi-tasking menu, and I'm just fine with that. I miss the search key, but that's Google's fault, not HTC's. You can press and hold the home key to activate Google Now and all of its magic voice-activated powers. By placing the home key off-center, however, many users will need to retrain their thumb muscles. This is an aggravating design choice made by HTC.

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Subject Author Date
Why are ALL phones too big? bofis Mar 12, 2013, 4:54 PM
No Sprint LTE in San Francisco? Huh? WiWavelength Apr 8, 2013, 2:32 PM
Can someone verify for sure which WCDMA/UMTS bands are in this unit. PhoneMaster Apr 8, 2013, 4:55 PM
network performance. KOL4420 Apr 8, 2013, 1:33 PM
New camera samples Rich Brome Mar 12, 2013, 5:18 PM
All USA reviews seem to have had European models - worrying? silas184 Mar 13, 2013, 10:29 AM
 
 
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