The HTC One is about a month away from hitting store shelves in India and we managed to get a sneak peek at HTC’s flagship. The HTC One will compete with Sony’s Xperia Z/ZL and Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S IV. Here are our first impressions of the device based on the little time we spent with it.

It’s really hard to beat HTC when it comes to design and build quality and we can safely say it’s on par with Apple’s stellar construction. HTC has proved this with the One X and One S last year and this time, it is ditching polycarbonate for a custom aluminium alloy. The entire chassis is milled out of a single block of aluminium, so there are no joints or moving pieces at all. HTC calls this “Zero gap construction”. The only part that’s added to the chassis is the screen, which sits flush with the rest of the body creating a seamless look. The phone looks and feels very premium and there’s a lot of attention to detail. We feel the build is definitely a notch above the One X and is certainly one of the best in its class. The 4.7-inch display doesn’t feel all that large due to the slim bezel and the 1080p resolution is quite stunning as well.

If we had to change anything about the design, it would be the location of the power button – we would have liked it to be on the side instead of on the top. It’s still a bit of a stretch to reach the top, even if you have large hands. A side sleep/power button would have been a lot more ergonomic. The new capacitive buttons are another design change we do not like.

The new BlinkFeed widget

The new BlinkFeed widget

HTC is sticking with capacitive buttons, but it has knocked off the “recent apps” button, moved the home button to the right and slapped a logo in the middle. This will take some getting used to if you are a smartphone user as almost all phones have the home button in the middle. We don’t understand why HTC couldn’t have made the logo into a button, or why have the logo at all? The Galaxy Nexus doesn’t have one and it's very distinguishable.

Overall, we were very impressed with the form factor and quality craftsmanship of the One, which will be tough to beat.

The HTC One will be the first phone to showcase the evolutionary Sense 5. This version brings with it over 200+ new features, which we’ll explore at length in the full review, but for now, we’ll gloss over three new features that HTC is pimping – BlinkFeed, Boom Sound and Zoe. BlinkFeed is a Flipboard-like widget for your homescreen. You can select news feeds from your favourite websites and even link your Facebook and Twitter feeds. After that, all updates are pushed to you and you can keep scrolling infinitely. Social network integration is done well as you can view and “Like” a photo directly without having to open the Facebook app. While all this works well, it could have an adverse effect on battery life.
The second big change has more to do with the hardware than with Sense 5. The BoomSound refers to the new dual front stereo speakers that are placed at the top and bottom, so you get proper stereo sound when viewing a movie in landscape mode. The quality of the sound through the speakers has also improved since the HTC One features a hardware Beats Audio amplifier, one for the headphone jack and one for the speakers. 

Finally, we come to Zoe. This is a new camera feature baked into Sense 5 and when selected, captures 20 photos and a 3-second video clip at the same time. You can then do all sorts of fun stuff like save individual frames, correct facial expressions (like on the Z10), remove unwanted moving objects from the scene (like in the Lumia 920) and lots more. We didn’t get a whole lot of time to explore all these features in great detail, but we’ll bring you a detailed report of it once we get it for review. For now, we can say that the minimalistic look of the new UI is nice and a refreshing change from the previous version. We'll be putting up a video very shortly so you can get a better idea of Sense 5.

Excellent build quality as always

Excellent build quality as always

HTC isn’t really focusing on specifications too much as it’s a given that all flagship handsets from here on will have the best the industry has to offer. The One ticks all the important boxes like full HD screen, quad-band 3G and LTE support, quad-core CPU with 2GB RAM, NFC, GLONASS and everything in between. 

Pricing will play a key role
The go-to price for most flagship handsets launched in 2013 seems to be Rs 40,000, and this price bar raises every year. For this price, the handset better offer something truly unique. And by this, we don’t mean just an impressive spec list. The HTC One has its impressive build quality going for it and some of the new features in Sense 5 have huge potential. We are yet to see how impressive (or not) HTC’s new UltraPixel camera really is. In the end, it all boils down to the pricing. Sony has gotten a headstart with very aggressive pricing for the Xperia Z and we feel the main hook that will draw people towards that phone will be the IP57 certification. HTC needs to combat this with an aggressive launch price or else it could be a tough sell. The HTC One has the potential to do well in the market, however, reaching that number one position this year is going to be a challenge as the competition is fiercer than ever.

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