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HTC One is the Android phone to beat

Armando Rodriguez | April 9, 2013
HTC knows how to make good-looking hardware. I loved the white ceramic body of the HTC One X and Nokia could learn a thing or two about making Windows phones by taking a closer look at the HTC Windows Phone 8X. The company's latest offering, the HTC One, is a paragon of industrial design: Its chiseled chamfers, rounded edges, and chrome accents are sure to turn more than a few heads when you whip out the phone in public. But the One is more than just a pretty face: HTC packed a lot of power under the phone's hood, and the handset's camera benefits from numerous software and hardware tweaks that should excite fans of mobile photography.

Built to be social

Another cool bit of software that the One offers is BlinkFeed. HTC is marketing BlinkFeed--which resembles the Live Tiles on Windows Phone to some extent--as a "magical" way to stay up-to-date on your social networks and news feeds, but in reality it's just a glorified RSS reader that lives on your home screen. You can tie BlinkFeed to your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts so that your friends' updates show up there; however, clicking an update just kicks you into the corresponding app. You can also instruct BlinkFeed to display news headlines, but the news outlets you can subscribe to are limited to a handful of blogs--though you can subscribe to a catch-all news category like 'lifestyle'.

Despite using the phone for several days, I never felt inclined to spend much time with BlinkFeed. Though I loaded all of my social accounts into it, I ended up using the stand-alone Twitter and Facebook apps to update my status and to see what my friends were up to. Being able to browse headlines quickly was convenient, but other dedicated apps such as Zite perform better in that regard. Most annoyingly, you can't turn BlinkFeed off: It always appears as your leftmost home screen, and you can't get rid of it without installing a different launcher.

UltraPixels make a difference

The other features that HTC played up when it announced the phone were the One's camera and camera software. Rather than perpetuate the myth that the more numerous the megapixels, the better a camera's image quality, HTC opted in favor of a 4-megapixel camera with larger pixels than those traditionally used in smartphones. These UltraPixels are designed to take in more light, making them better for capturing photos in low-light environments.

After taking the One's camera out for a spin, I think HTC may be on to something with UltraPixels. The One handled everyday shots well enough, but it excelled at taking photos in areas with less-than-optimal lighting. Photos were less noisy than comparable shots taken with an iPhone 5 or a Nokia Lumia 920 under the same conditions, and the One's flash didn't completely wash out the subject. The iPhone 5's outside shots looked better than the One's, but the two were more evenly matched on indoor photos.

The One's biggest advantage over the iPhone, however, is in the number of features that HTC packs into the phone's native camera app. The default Android camera has various extras built into it already, but HTC seems to have omitted only a kitchen sink app in assembling the One's camera software: Among the available shooting modes are HDR and panorama; and you can apply filters to your photos without having to resort to third-party apps such as Instagram.

 

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