After six years as an avid iPhone user, it would take a lot for me to give up my Apple smartphone for another brand of mobile device.
But I think I've found it.
The HTC One is the latest — and as far as I'm concerned, the greatest — Android smartphone to hit the market. It's stylish, beautiful, sturdy, has fun features and possesses the most gorgeous screen I've ever seen on a phone. I know the highly-anticipated Samsung Galaxy S 4 is coming out in just a couple of weeks and has been the subject of the most talk, but it's going to have to be truly amazing to quell my enthusiasm for the HTC One. The latter is available through AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, starting at $199 with a two-year-contract.
After playing with the phone for a couple of weeks, here are my thoughts.
Screen -- The 4.7-inch surface is as vibrant and detailed as any I've seen on a mobile device, including the Retina Display on the iPhone or the colorful screens on the Motorola Droids or the Samsung Galaxy S3.
That's largely because the screen has an amazing 1,920-by-1,080-pixel resolution for a remarkably dense, highly detailed screen. By comparison, the iPhone 5's resolution is 1,136 by 640. Even if you put your nose right up to the HTC One's screen, you won't be able to detect the individual pixels.
Sound -- Another big improvement is the inclusion of a second speaker for stereo sound. HTC also added the high-fidelity "Beats' technology (Beats is a brand of high-end headphones). With built-in amplifiers, the sound coming out of the speakers is almost as loud, clear and bass-driven as a mobile stereo box such as a Jawbone. It certainly beats the tinny sound coming from any other smartphone and makes the experience of listening to music or watching a video without headphones much better.
Case -- The HTC One case is constructed of aluminum, a big advantage over the upcoming Galaxy S 4, which will be made of the same cheap plastic as the Galaxy S 3. As a result, the HTC One is a little heavier than the Galaxy S 3, but it feels more substantial in the hand and better constructed.
It's also made of a sloped, sexy design that is no thicker than the iPhone 5. The disadvantage to its unibody construction is that the battery is not removable, so you won't be able to replace it.
Performance -- Despite the higher-resolution screen, the HTC One doesn't slow down, stutter or lag in performance. That's because it's powered by a quad-core processor that has kept up with just about any task I've thrown at it. Scrolling through pages is much smoother and more responsive than any other Android phone I've played with, and it hasn't crashed or frozen once.
Battery performance was average, at best, lasting less than a day under fairly heavy use. I had to turn off a lot of minor software features in order to optimize the battery life.
Call quality was on par with other phones I've tested or used, including the iPhone 5. The volume on the speakerphone was a little low, however.
Software -- The HTC One runs on a version of the Android operating system called Jellybean. HTC then implements its own software tweaks to the interface, called HTC Sense.
A big feature added by HTC is "BlinkFeed,' a news aggregator that becomes your home page. It collects Internet news stories most interesting to you and displays them in a magazine-style layout, similar to the popular mobile app Flipboard. Unfortunately, you can't delete it from the phone or turn it off if you don't like the feature.
Camera -- HTC, like Apple, didn't fall for the "more-megapixels-is-better' marketing hype. A good smartphone camera really depends on the quality of the circuitry, and the HTC One proves that axiom.
The phone's rear camera is 4-megapixels, lower than the 8-megapixel camera on the iPhone 5 and the 13-megapixel camera on the upcoming Galaxy S 4.
But HTC One claims it uses a camera sensor that is better at capturing light photons. In low-light conditions, it produced better pictures than any other Android smartphone I've looked at or the iPhone 5, which has been the standard for smartphone cameras.
There also are some interesting photo software features, including the ability to shoot multiple pictures in one second so you can find the best pose, and the power to erase someone in the background who "photo bombs' the picture. It also can take the day's videos and pictures, and automatically edit them into a 30-second highlight reel.
Cons -- The phone isn't perfect. The front-facing camera is too grainy in lower light. And although the front-facing camera is better than that of other smartpones in low light, sometimes the color temperature was off, resulting in images that were too orange.
Not only is the battery not replaceable because there is no removable cover, but the phone does not have a memory card slot like other Android phones to increase the memory storage.
Also, HTC and the carrier load up the phone with tons of bloated, useless apps and software that you won't need, and you can't delete them.
Finally, there were still some important apps that either weren't available for Android phones yet (like AirVideo or a half dozen games that I play) or were buggy (Flixster and PlayOn).
But the quality of the HTC One's screen, the sound and some of its distinctive software features are enough for me to finally drop the iPhone for good. Apple is going to have to announce some spectacular new features for its next version of the iPhone to bring me back.
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HTC One details
Dimensions -- Size, 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 millimeters, 143 grams
Screen -- 4.7 inches diagonally, 468 pixels per inch
Processor -- Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core 1.7 gigahertz processor
OS -- Android 2.4.1
Memory storage -- Built-in 32 or 64 gigabytes
Sound -- Dual front speakers with powered amplifiers and built-in Beats audio technology
Cameras -- 4 megapixel rear camera, 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera