NEW YORK — HTC needs to attract consumers away from iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices, and today it gave it its best shot, introducing the HTC One, an Android Jelly Bean–running smartphone with a 4.7-inch full-HD display, a new version of the HTC Sense user interface, HTC BlinkFeed—a home screen that's a constantly updating media stream—and two key areas of intense focus: the camera and the sound.
HTC BoomSound pairs Beats Audio technology with front-facing stereo speakers and a dedicated amplifier to change, said company executives, the currently "pretty terrible" experience of trying to show someone a video or game on your phone.
"People don't hear in mono; we hear in stereo," said Jonah Becker, HTC design leader. "It sounds way better when the sound hits you from the front."
HTC has long done a good job with its cameras—it's tough to beat the camera experience on the Droid DNA—but it says it has improved on it even more, not playing the game of talking about megapixel numbers but focusing on megapixel size.
It's also pairing its camera with HTC Zoe, new software that offers "life in three-second snippets." Zoes—which resemble the BlackBerry 10's Storymaker software—can turn a few videos and some photos from an afternoon at the park with your kid into a short music video to share with the grandparents (or someone less inclined than grandparents to look at photos of your kid).
Zoe offers themes, chooses music and is happy to reshuffle the content if you're not psyched about her first effort.
With the One, HTC is joining hands with as many partners as possible. The phone will be available in mid-March in more than 80 countries, with the most carrier partners HTC has ever had for a launch.
Those new partners also extend to HTC Blink, the above-mentioned new home screen experience. HTC has signed up more than 1,400 content providers around the world, including MTV, the Associated Press and ESPN, so users can see glossy, gorgeous content constantly updating, not just from their Facebook and Twitter feeds but also the biggest media houses in the game.
Becker said that Blink is for those "blank" few seconds each of has "when we're in an elevator or waiting for a friend who's a few minutes late."
Before, in those moments, we'd maybe read, or think, or use the opportunity to focus our eyes on something more than 15 inches from our faces. But soon, with the One, we'll be able to check sports scores and headlines.
HTC can be forgiven, of course, for doing what it needs to. Its market share is free-falling as, even with very nice devices in its portfolio, its brand isn't attracting users like Samsung's does.
With the One, however, that may change, says Informa telecom and media analyst Julia Jest.
"Although the device is powered by Android OS, it is highly distinguishable from the 'Android mass' in terms of both usability and elegance of design," Jest said in a statement following the One's reveal. "Clearly, the introduction of the One will help HTC to differentiate its brand from the typical Android identity without losing the high-performance qualities the OS can offer."
Finally, a last stop HTC has pulled with the One is a zero-gap aluminum unibody design that uses new antenna technology to address the now-previous need for a phone to have a nonmetallic area via which the antenna could work.
The One, HTC promises, is "solid, sleek and timeless ... a revolutionary breakthrough in quality and finish." Becker added that it has a "superhuman feel, like nothing you've ever felt before."
Mike Woodward, president of HTC Americas, took the praise further, telling the assembled journalists, "This is the best phone ever made."