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HTC One deep-dive review: A smartphone that flirts with perfection

JR Raphael | April 15, 2013
With its high-quality hardware and stunning design, the HTC One is one of the best smartphones you can buy today -- but it isn't without its drawbacks.

When you evaluate enough mobile technology, one thing becomes painfully clear: Device quality and commercial success don't always go hand in hand.

Just look at HTC: The company's One X and One S were among the finest phones of 2012, but both suffered from limited availability and lackluster marketing. Despite being very much on par with their rivals, the phones failed to take off.

This year, HTC has an even stronger contender on its hands: the HTC One, launching April 19 on AT&T ($200 for a 32GB model or $300 for a 64GB model with a two-year contract) and Sprint ($200 for a 32GB model with a two-year contract) and "sometime in the spring" on T-Mobile. The One combines many of its predecessors' best assets with an inspired new design, innovative new features and a bold new approach to smartphone photography.

So is the HTC One the right one for you? I spent a week using the device in place of my own personal phone. Here's a detailed look at where it shines -- and where it falls short.

Body and display

The moment you pick up the HTC One, you know you're holding a premium product. The phone's silver aluminum unibody casing is visually striking and a pleasure to touch; it gives the device a high-quality feel and serves as a sharp contrast to the plasticky builds seen on some Android devices.

HTC One
The HTC One has an inspired new design and innovative features.

The HTC One has an inspired new design and innovative features.

The HTC One measures 5.4 x 2.7 and is only 0.37 in. thick. The phone has a gently curved back that makes it even thinner at its edges -- it gets down to 0.16 in. at its narrowest point -- without creating an unsightly camera "hump" or any other midsurface protrusion. At 5 oz., the One feels light yet substantial and not at all flimsy or fragile.

The One does have a touch of plastic -- a thin trim that covers the phone's outer edges and crosses its back, presumably for reception-related purposes (antennas and metal, as we've seen in the past, don't exactly play well together). The strips are firm and finished with a matte effect that helps them blend seamlessly into the design.

The One's left edge houses a barely visible micro-SIM tray that opens only with the help of a small pin tool. On the top-left edge sits the power button -- an awkward placement that makes the button difficult to reach, particularly if you hold the phone in your left hand. The power button doubles as an IR blaster for controlling TVs and other components -- one of the phone's cooler features -- which may explain its otherwise baffling position.

 

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