Yesterday, HTC announced their new flagship phone, simply called the “One”. Not to be confused with last year’s One X(+), One S and One V models. In what looks like an Apple-like move, HTC now has one high end smartphone, available in two colors and with either 32 or 64 gigabytes of storage. I really hope that there won’t be a “One+”, a “One Mini” or a “One Ace II”. Simple is better, and from the looks of it, the new One is the new optimum in smartphone design.
The ideal phone
If you look at the evolution of smartphones, it appears that they’re converging towards an ideal set of dimensions. They’re getting flatter, and the screens are getting bigger. Many people think the new wave of 5.5 and 6 inch screens are too big, so perhaps the One’s 4.7 inch is the sweet spot. Screen bezels are getting thinner, and it seems that the end goal is a phone that’s paper-thin, with nothing but screen on the front and an excellent camera on the back. And the best effort so far seems to be the One.
A 4 megapixel camera?
There’s been a lot of talk about the One’s camera being “only” a 4 megapixel one. I think it’s a bold move by HTC to not simply put more pixels into the camera’s sensor, but instead focus on image quality. Smartphone camera optics have never been good enough to produce sharp 8 megapixel images. With the notable exception of Nokia’s PureView 808, higher density sensors do not help image quality. More pixels means smaller pixels, which in turn means that less light is captured by each pixels. This translates into poor low-light images, and huge files with millions of blurry pixels.
HTC put big pixels on the One’s image sensor, and added a fast f/2.0 lense. I haven’t seen any test images, but I’m fully expecting the results to be excellent. Kudos to HTC for taking the high road here, and trying to educate buyers instead of simply running the megapixel race. I for one prefer decent indoor snapshot and sharp 4 megapixel files to blurry 8MP ones.
Android, skins and updates
The only thing that slightly worries me about the One is that it’s running a new version of HTC’s Sense skin on top of Android 4.1.2. Okay, that’s actually two things. Sense used to be pretty bad on the HTC Desire, but from what I hear has gotten much better since. I’m not a fan of Android skins, but I’m willing to give HTC the benefit of the doubt here. And since you’re basically getting some sort of skin with any non-Nexus phone, there’s no competitive disadvantage.
Historically, HTC does not have the best track record when it comes to keeping their phones up-to-date. The One not launching with the latest Android 4.2.2 is not a good sign. But considering that this is going to be their one major smartphone, I assume they’ll step up their game? If Samsung can keep most of their rediculously broad Galaxy product range up-to-date, HTC should be able to do this for their one phone, right?
I want One!
The first hands-on reports indicate the the One is a thing of real beauty in real life. Its build quality appears to be on par with the iPhone 5, and that’s perhaps the most important thing about yesterday’s launch. Samsung may have been very successful in the Android market, none of their products really make my mouth water. The Galaxy SIII has excellent specifications, but it’s still an ugly, plastic phone. I think the One is the best looking smartphone out there, bar none.
Personally, I’d love to see the One succeed. It would be very healthy in terms of competition if HTC’s market share would somewhat recover, and the One might win over some iPhone fans too. And with a pretty exterior and top notch innards, why wouldn’t it?