HTC One Six Months On

As an introduction to this article, I recommend you have a read of my original HTC One review, which I wrote back in April 2013. That summer, I was able to persuade my powers-that-be that I really needed the HTC One as a business handset. And since then, HTC have continued to work on the device with three software updates although as I write, I have only received two of them.

As I write, HTC have just announced that they will keep their North American flagship device updated with the major Android versions for two years. Whilst this statement opens up as many questions as it answers, the HTC One is HTC’s 2013 flagship device.

When I review a device, I aim to have it in service for at least a fortnight. Quite often, my initial impressions formed in the first few hours linger on but sometimes my mind changes during the review period. In the case of the HTC One, during the time I used the device, I was enjoying and appreciating it more.

Screenshot_2014-02-17-15-37-14My business use HTC One is running Android 4.3 and Sense 5.5 having been through 4.2.2 and originally on 4.1.2 and Sense 5. There are some differences between the earlier and the later software, such as power management shortcuts and some improvements to BlinkFeed. HTC have worked some magic on the One’s battery too, which I’ll discuss presently.

The missing update will put the One to Android 4.4 Kit Kat.

To write about BlinkFeed, although I like the application I have disabled it on my device. This is because my One is a work tool and the improvements to BlinkFeed means that the application works with Google+, my main social network. It’s too distracting! However, HTC realised that not all users wanted BlinkFeed on their device and have introduced the ability to disable it. It only ever made a small impact on battery life.

To access the power management gadgets, you need to use the second notification screen. This is either accessed from the normal notification screen, with a button to tap, or by dragging two fingers down rather than one from the top. These are easily edited, which means I can put the functions on here that I need rather than all the stuff on here that I don’t need.

There have been some small improvements to the camera of the HTC One such that it’s one of the best smartphone cameras for sale. Still. It might not have as many MPixels as the competition but the ability to take twenty pictures in a row plus how consistent the results means that if I plan to take a picture of something, it’s my One I reach for.

BoomSound is just as brilliant as ever. It does make the handset a little taller than the competition but it’s worth it the moment you show off media or take a conference call on speakerphone.

HTC Sense Voice is the marketing name for HTC’s clever noise cancelling technology and I need to write that it’s excellent in a noisy environment. It trades punches with the Nexus 4, coming out ahead in a noisy environment but slightly less clear in a normal or quiet environment. This was the main reason why I asked my business manager for the One.

And finally, battery life. I’ve referenced the HTC One’s battery from the latter half of 2013. Running the blend of Android 4.3 and Sense 5.5, the HTC One is capable of two working days. It is usually complaining at the end of the second day but it’s still going. I am not a heavy user of the device but I don’t have WiFi access in my store and I make and receive plenty of calls and text messages.

That I can tell, the main reason for this battery longevity is HTC’s Power Saver mode. This underclocks the processor (and I believe disables two processor cores, or at least changes how aggressively the Snapdragon 600 uses all four), dims the screen slightly, stops vibration feedback and shuts down the data connection(s) when the device is asleep, much like Green Power. Sometimes, the device is marginally less responsive with the Power Saver mode on, but it’s very hard to tell.

Despite the device shutting down the network thanks to Power Saver mode, it has a magical way of having my notifications ready and waiting for me when I next go to use the device, rather than making me wait for it.

The other reason why battery life is so good is how well the device can manage synchronization thanks to what HTC calls “Smart Sync.” Smart Sync does exactly what you might expect and intelligently synchronizes your account as and when you need it. It cooperates with Power Saver mode in that it can wake up the data connection in order to synchronize, but it bases how frequently to pick up your messages on how often you use certain services on the device.

Screenshot_2014-02-17-16-01-17By way of an example, I work five days in seven but usually get Sunday off. I have set my work email peak times to be 0845 to 1800 every day and between these times, the device uses Smart Sync. Out of these hours the handset does not connect to my work email account. My other day off changes but I almost always work Saturday and Monday. My One figured this out quicker than most of my colleagues! It checks for mail most often on Saturday and Monday, it very rarely performs a sync on a Sunday and the other days, if I start to use the device, it checks my email more often. This is clever stuff indeed.
When I sat down to write my update on the HTC One review, I’ve been using the Moto X as a review model and thoroughly enjoying the Motorola experience. The One and the Moto X are quite different devices but in my ideal world, perhaps some of their standout features could be combined. Motorola’s Active Notifications paired up with HTC’s Smart Sync could be something truly impressive…

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