Skip to main content

HTC One Review

htc one home screen
MSRP $200.00
“The HTC One is a beautiful, speedy smartphone with a gorgeous screen. Sadly, the battery life is poor, the back of the phone gets hot, and its new software features are too limited.”
  • Good-looking design
  • Beautiful, crisp 1080p display
  • Great audio quality
  • Speedy, fluid performance
  • High front and rear camera quality
  • Sealed-in battery
  • Mediocre battery life
  • No microSD card slot
  • Phone runs hot
  • BlinkFeed isn't that useful yet can't be removed

HTC wants to be back on top in the world of Android phones, and the flashy new HTC One is this year’s premiere effort to make that happen. Available on AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, this flagship smartphone makes a good first impression and boasts a spiffy spec sheet. HTC is known for its ability to balance design, functionality, comfort, and aesthetics. Unfortunately, the One doesn’t live up to this legacy.

Look and Feel

HTC is clearly going for a sophisticated look with the One and on many fronts it succeeds. The aluminum body, laser cut edges, and rectangular facade all look good. How the phone feels in the hand is another matter – those edges cut down on the comfort factor. The curved back, light weight, and angular, grip-friendly sides save the One’s overall holdability but it isn’t the most comfortable phone we’ve held.

htc one front screen macro
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Everything about the design follows this pattern: some good choices marred by small but significant missteps. For instance, HTC kept the hardware navigation buttons on the bottom of the One, but moved the Home button to the right and placed a logo in the center spot, which does nothing. The power button, which now doubles as an infrared port, is also in an awkward spot way up on the top-left of the phone. Left-handers, you might be cool with this, but right-handers, not so much.

The sealed unibody design means owners won’t be able to switch or replace the battery and there’s no microSD card slot for expanding the available memory. This can be a fair tradeoff for a slimmer phone as long as you get a generous amount of internal space and long battery life. Unfortunately, the phone only offers one of the two.

Screen and Sound

We’re glad to see HTC holding the line with a 4.7-inch (1080p) screen. Larger screens have an audience, but not every flagship phone needs to be huge. The phone’s Super LCD 3 technology produces bright and rich colors that don’t wash out in sunlight or distort when viewed from extreme angles.

htc one home screen
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The multimedia experience is enhanced by two front-facing speaker grills that flank the display. They pump an impressive amount of volume and produce true stereo sound. Sound quality is still tinny, but you can’t expect miracles, even from Beats Audio. You’ll have to plug in a pair of headphones to experience the full benefits of the Beats enhancements, and these do make music, video, and game audio much better.

HTC Sense and BlinkFeed

The Sense 5.0 skin/interface layered over Android Jelly Bean is just as extensive as ever and brings with it both benefits and drawbacks. The overall look is clean and sophisticated, unlike Samsung’s TouchWiz UX, and adds more user friendliness to Android. We like the extensive widgets menu and the enhancements HTC added to the stock Music, Calendar, Mail, Phone, and Gallery apps, among others. Sense justifies the existence of the buttons below the screen by giving Home multiple functions.

Then you get to the flagship enhancements like HTC’s BlinkFeed, a Flipboard-esque Home screen that serves up links from social networks and a select group of content partners in a visually appealing way. On paper, this is an appealing idea. In practice, it fails to live up to HTC’s hype. What worse, you can’t get rid of it. While BlinkFeed allows users to choose which general topics show up in the feed (Technology, Entertainment, Living, etc.), there is no way to add your own favorite sources either individually or en masse from a feed reader service. (Are you a fan of Digital Trends? Well, we’re not on the news list, and you can’t add us.) Links from social networks make up for the lack of customization a little, but the interface isn’t the best or easiest way to keep up with status updates, either. We don’t see many people giving up Flipboard or Pulse for BlinkFeed anytime soon.

Specs and Performance

The One is appropriately tricked out with a 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, resulting in impressive performance. Overall, the One is responsive and speedy and framerates in the Sense interface, games, and video are smooth. It scored 12,031 in the Quadrant benchmark, higher than the LG Optimus G Pro (11,780), Galaxy Note II (6,000), and the HTC Droid DNA (8,100). Unfortunately, with great power comes great heat. The One gets uncomfortably hot often, both during intense activities (such as playing games) and sometimes during normal usage and while playing music.

On AT&T’s LTE network we experienced acceptably speedy download rates of 8.2Mbps and upload rates of 2.1Mbps upload, on average. Other wireless connectivity includes a/ac/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA, NFC, and an infrared port for controlling televisions via the HTC TV app. Though there is only one port, the Micro USB is MHL-enabled, meaning it’s possible to output video with the right cord or dongle.

To make up for the lack of microSD card slot, the HTC One comes with 32GB of internal storage, and AT&T exclusively offers a 64GB version.

Call quality on both ends is great. Everyone we called was able to hear us clearly, even with medium to loud background noise and wind. The earpiece delivered clear sound as well and the speakers didn’t produce much buzz even with loud background noise on the other end.

Cameras and Zoe

The rear-facing camera sports 4 “Ultrapixels,” which HTC claims are like megapixels, but bigger. We know that having more megapixels doesn’t necessarily mean better quality photos, but is four Ultrapixels too few? Turns out: no. The back camera produced surprisingly good images both indoors and out. In low light it struggles, but no more than most competitors. The pictures aren’t crisp enough for large prints, but plenty nice for sharing digitally. The 2.1 megapixel front camera’s images are impressively crisp and color-rich and the wide-angle lens allows you to fit more people into a shot.

On top of the settings you’d expect – scenes, HDR, filters, editing – there’s HTC Zoe, a camera add-on that records a three-second video and 14 burst shots, then packages them together for sharing. Zoe shots live in the Gallery alongside regular images. From here you can share regular and Zoe shots as a combo video/photo album though HTC’s website.

At best, this is a fun way to create quick and easy slideshows of family vacations and kids/babies/animals being cute. However, the Zoe Share creation engine doesn’t give you enough control over how the finished product looks. It’s also only built to create super short videos that contain less than 20 pieces of content. In the end, many of you will find Zoe too limiting, the individual videos too short, and the burst shots too blurry.

Battery Life

The sealed-in 2,300mAh battery only lasted between 7 and 11 hours with medium to heavy usage. The overheating may be partly to blame, but the combination of this size screen, high resolution, LTE, and quad-core processor are probably too much for this size battery. And since users can’t swap out a second battery or buy a larger extended one, the relatively short life is a problem.


In an effort to claw its way back to the top of the Android superphone heap, HTC overcompensated with the One and left behind some of the elements that made previous handsets great. The designers crafted a beautiful phone without properly considering how it would feel in the hand, the engineers kept it thin without leaving room for a battery that could keep up with the other components, and the developers created some flashy apps and software to stand out from the pack without considering whether users actually wanted or needed the features. The HTC One has potential in spades and its drawbacks would be overlookable if the battery life wasn’t so bad, and if it didn’t get so hot so often.


  • Good-looking design
  • Beautiful, crisp 1080p display
  • Great audio quality
  • Speedy, fluid performance
  • High front and rear camera quality


  • Sealed-in battery
  • Mediocre battery life
  • No microSD card slot
  • Phone runs hot
  • BlinkFeed isn’t that useful yet can’t be removed

Editors' Recommendations

K. T. Bradford
Former Digital Trends Contributor
K. T Bradford is a lover of gadgets and all things geek. Prior to writing for Digital Trends she cut her teeth on tech…
Qualcomm’s newest chip will bring AI to cheaper Android phones
Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 artwork.

Qualcomm has a new mobile platform on the table, and this one targets upper-midrange smartphones and promises to bring some new AI tricks. The latest from the chipmaker is the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3, which technically succeeds the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2, but the company is comparing most of the improvements against the older Snapdragon 7 Gen 1. 
The new platform is said to bring a 15% boost in processing power, a 20% rise in energy efficiency, and a massive 50% jump in graphics capabilities. Based on the 4nm fabrication process, it packs a single prime core, a trio of performance cores, and four efficiency cores. Interestingly, these cores are clocked at a lower frequency compared to those on the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2. However, this won't be the only area where Qualcomm's latest sounds like a mixed bag.
Qualcomm says the new chip improves AI-assisted face detection accuracy, but it adds that AI also lends a hand at tasks like making sense of routines and how users interact with apps. There are also a handful of new software-side enhancements coming to the Snapdragon Gen 7 series for the first time. 
Those include an AI re-mosaicing system for reducing grainy textures in photos, bringing down noise, and video retouching. Support for Ultra HDR is also a first for the midrange chip. Spatial audio with head tracking and CD-quality wireless audio are a part of the package as well.

The Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 jumps to the X63 cellular modem that promises a higher downlink speed of up to 5Gbps. Interestingly, it adopts the Fast Connect 6700 Bluetooth + Wi-Fi modem instead of the speedier Fast Connect 6900 modem on the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2. 
The camera capabilities situation is also interesting. The Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 relies on a triple 12-bit ISP system, while the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 puts its trust in a more advanced triple 18-bit ISP architecture. The latter allows higher-resolution photo and video capture in single and dual camera configurations. 
In fact, the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3’s ISP steps down to 120 frames-per-second (fps) slo-mo video capture compared to the 1080p 240 fps video recording allowed by its direct predecessor. Overall, it seems like Qualcomm jumped into its parts bin and crafted a half-new midrange chip for Android phones.
Qualcomm says China’s Vivo and Honor are the first adopters of the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3. The first wave of phones powered by the new chip is expected to be announced later this month. 

Read more
One of my favorite Samsung features is coming to OnePlus phones
The back of the OnePlus 11 and OnePlus 10 Pro.

OnePlus 10 Pro (left) and OnePlus 11 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Android is slowly, but steadily narrowing the precious gulf between phones and PCs. After all, seamless device pairing across iPhones and Macs has been a strong selling point for Apple. Remember the Phone Link system that lets an Android phone offer the same kind of cross-device benefits for an Android-Windows pair as the Apple ecosystem does? Well, OnePlus (and Oppo) are embracing it.

Read more
One of our favorite Android phones just got its own iMessage app
Nothing Chats app on a. phone.

Nothing is trying to bridge the great blue/green bubble divide for Android users of iMessage. This is not a personal crusade to shatter walls and open windows, as much as Nothing CEO Carl Pei would want you to believe that. Instead, Nothing is piggybacking on tech created by New York-based startup Sunbird. 
Technically, the Sunbird app can be installed on any Android phone and it features a blue bubble for all iMessage text exchanges involving an Android phone. No more green bubble shame that could get you kicked out of groups for disrupting the harmony or even slim your dating chances. That’s how bad it is! 
Nothing is adopting the Sunbird tech and bundling it as its very own app under the name Nothing Chats. But here’s the fun part. The app only works on the Nothing Phone 2 and not the Nothing Phone 1. And this life-altering boon will only be bestowed upon users in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., or the EU bloc.

The app is currently in the beta phase, which means some iMessage features will be broken or absent. Once the app is downloaded on your Nothing Phone 2, you can create a new account or sign up with your Apple ID to get going with blue bubble texts. 
Just in case you’re concerned, all messages will be end-to-end encrypted, and the app doesn’t collect any personal information, such as the users’ geographic location or the texts exchanged. Right now, Sunbird and Nothing have not detailed the iMessage features and those that are broken. 
We made iMessage for Android...
The Washington Post tried an early version of the Nothing Chats app and notes that the blue bubble system works just fine. Texts between an Android device and an iPhone are neatly arranged in a thread, and multimedia exchange is also allowed at full quality. 
However, message editing is apparently not available, and a double-tap gesture for responding with a quick emoji doesn’t work either. We don’t know when these features will be added. Nothing's Sunbird-based app will expand to other territories soon. 
Sunbird, however, offers a handful of other tricks aside from serving the iMessage blue bubble on Android. It also brings all your other messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Instagram, in one place. This isn’t an original formula, as Beeper offers the same convenience.

Read more