HTC took an unusual approach to smartphone imaging with its low-megapixel but low-light-friendly HTC One "UltraPixel" camera — and for the most part, the gamble paid off. The One is widely regarded as one of the best smartphone cameras you can get your hands on today.
So what happens when you strip out the company's custom software and slap stock Android in its place? I'm talking, of course, about the new HTC One Google Play Edition. While the phone benefits from Google's clean and intuitive pure Android UI, it also loses out on HTC's camera-specific software modifications — and that has the potential to change how images turn out on the device.
I put the new HTC One Google Play Edition up against the regular HTC One in a side-by-side camera shootout. I took the same pictures with one device and then the other, using each phone's default settings for a base-level comparison.
As you'll see, in some scenarios, there's a very noticeable difference between the two. Check out these side-by-side samples.
HTC One Google Play Edition at left (or top), regular HTC One at right (or bottom). Lots more light coming through in the regular One's photo; if you zoom into the full-resolution version, you'll also notice it has more consistent clarity and less noise.
HTC One Google Play Edition at left (or top), regular HTC One at right (or bottom). In this comparison, the Play Edition appears overexposed and loses out on much of the natural, real-life coloring. The difference in noise is also quite noticeable at the full-res level.
HTC One Google Play Edition at left (or top), regular HTC One at right (or bottom). Less of a dramatic difference in this direct sunlight, more muted-color scene.
HTC One Google Play Edition at left (or top), regular HTC One at right (or bottom). At a glance, these two images look similar — but open the full-res versions and zoom in, and you'll see that the regular One once again has greater clarity and less noise, particularly if you look at the trees in the distance.
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