Smartphone reviews tend to stay on their respective subjects, so it's been startling how many Samsung Galaxy S 4 reviewers have pulled readers aside to suggest they also check out the HTC One.
This is a great and deserved compliment for HTC, which tends to make pretty excellent phones that too few people take notice of. Since its years-ago successes with the HTC Evo 4G and Droid Incredible, HTC has struggled to attract the attention of consumers away from Samsung smartphones and Apple iPhones.
The One is a result of HTC summoning all its might and innovations, though not in a Samsung "throw it all at the wall and see what sticks" way.
For example, the One is the first smartphone to feature dual front-facing speakers, so when it's set on a countertop or desk, it offers loud, crisp audio. (How has no one done this sooner?)
On its home screen the One features what HTC calls BlinkFeed, a live (but not automatically updating) feed of content that a user can customize. The tiles can be all Reuters news stories, for example, or your Facebook news feed plus Reuters, Cool Hunting and ESPN.
The One also offers a camera feature called Zoes—3-second videos that can be looked at frame by frame as well as combined into "highlight reels" or mini movies that phone can automatically create. Zoes offer a little more moment to savor—you can also see them playing within a photo gallery, which is nice—and it becomes addictive to try and capture a perfect 3-second clip. At least until one realizes that Zoes can only be shared on HTC's Share site. When emailed or posted to Twitter, they simply appear as still photos.
The microphone in the One's camera is also excellent. In a video clip of my daughter at a busy after-school playground, the din of screaming toddlers behind me and a teenage basketball game ahead of me were picked up as a background soundtrack to her light, 2-year-old voice.
In indoor settings, the excellent sound experience is even more exaggerated—everyone sounds like they're wearing a mic. HTC says the One's microphone is twice as sensitive as the average microphone and has 10 times the range—no argument here.
The One is also a good-looking phone, though here my feelings are more reserved than most you'll find online. HTC boasts that the One features a metal unibody with zero-gap construction, but these are words I can't get my head around. Looking at the side of the phone I see four colors and two textures, which hardly makes for the kind of look I think of as "seamless." It very much looks like several pieces put together. What does unibody mean, then?
This is a quibble, of course, but quibbles are what I had with the One.