Remember HTC? For a long time, this Taiwanese phonemaker was on a roll. Its Android phones kept making gadget headlines. And then Samsung came along. It became an Apple versus Samsung world. Everyone sort of forgot about HTC.
Its latest phone, the One, available now or soon from Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, will give HTC at least a few more weeks in the spotlight. The phone is priced at $200 with a two-year contract for the 32GB model, $300 for 64GB.
It's an Android phone, and likely the most beautiful one you've seen. The One is sculptured from a thin, solid block of aluminum, with a gently curved back that adds to that soothing, worry-stone effect. The aluminum grille, above and below the black, black screen, houses powerful, crisp stereo speakers.
At 1080 resolution, the highest HD video there is, the screen is bright and vivid. It's also huge — 4.7 inches diagonal. A screen that size makes the One much bigger than, say, the iPhone, but not as unwieldy as some Android jumbophones. It weighs a satisfying 5.1 ounces.
The camera is something special, its low-light pictures putting other phones to shame.
There are some disappointments. There's no memory card slot, so the built-in storage is all you get. You can't pop out the battery, either. Battery life is typical 4G LTE Android; you'll get one day of use on a charge.
The usual set of three buttons on an Android phone — Back, Home and Menu — are down to two; HTC has eliminated the Menu button. These buttons are supposed to light up, but they don't always.
Weirdest of all, HTC once again insists on replacing the mature, polished Android software design — the "Jelly Bean" version — with an interface of its own. This software places, on the first of your Home screens, a series of tiles showing photos and headlines from news sources of your choosing, much like the popular Flipboard app. It's great, although optional. But in many other areas, HTC didn't improve Google's original design.
The phone's power button doubles, intriguingly enough, as an infrared lens for controlling your TV, but the accompanying app is fairly inelegant. The camera app is not only full-fledged, it may be overly fledged; it offers Still mode, Video mode, and Zoe mode (capturing a series of still images and a 3-second video clip). There's no physical shutter button.
Otherwise this phone is packed. It's ridiculously fast. Its camera, screen and speakers take first place in smartphones. It would be hard to imagine a more impressive piece of phone hardware.