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HTC One (M7) Rogers review

Jump right to a section:
Introduction
Physicals
Limitations
Hardware Specs
Movie Playback
Built in Apps
HDMI out
Charging
Sharing DLNA/Miracast
Bluetooth Tethering
Summary

Introduction
HTC were pioneers in the smart phone industry. The HTC Magic and Dream were one of the first Android phones to hit the market. HTC Sense (HTC’s proprietary front end) was migrated from Windows Mobile to Android. HTC quickly fell out of fortune, Samsung and Apple had HTC for lunch. I have had a number of Motorola and Samsung phones but I have not touched an HTC phone since the One V and have not owned one for a long time. A colleague at work bought one of these and has raved about it. So I decided to grab one.

Let’s start by setting the stage. My current phones are a BlackBerry Z10 (personal) and a Q10 (work). I love the screen of the Z10 but love the keyboard of the Q10. OnScreen keyboards are good but at one point or another I get totally frustrated by them. With the small screen of the Q10 I find I have stopped playing games, and use my tablet more. BB10 really is a smooth well written operating system. The add of Android apps has all but eliminated any app discussion. Although the odd screen size of the Q10 meant certain apps either didn’t work or were clumsy. The Q10 is hands down (pardon the pun) the best one handed device I have used in a very long time!

My last android phone was an international Samsung S3 i9300. I loved the quad core but the phone did not support LTE so I lost the blazing fast network speeds. And in spite of how fast the processor should have been I found more and more the S3 had maddening pauses where the phone went away and did something. No friggin idea what. And audio bluetooth that I use every day was hit and miss.

Physicals
Let’s compare size/weight:
S3 70.6 x 136.6 x 8.6 mm 133g 4.8″ screen 720 x 1280
Z10 65.6 x 130 x 9 mm 136g 4.2″ screen 768 x 1280
Q10 66.8 x 119.6 x 10.35 mm 139g 3.1″ screen 720 x 720
One 68.2 x 137.4 x 9.3 mm 143g 4.7″ screen 1080 x 1920

I always found the Samsung a bit plasticy. The Z10 is a good solid phone. The HTC one is a solid block of aluminium. Similar to an iPhone. Aluminium is light and reasonably strong but it is also a soft metal. So the HTC is a nick and ding magnet. I will get a skin for it right away to make it easier to hold and hopefully protect it from dings.

The physicals on this device are quite good. The bezel around the screen is quite small. Speakers above and below. Micro USB charging port (which doubles as a MHL HDMI port (more about this later), as well as standard USB OTG port (I tried USB keyboard/mouse and USB flash drives all of which worked). As usual with only one port you are limited to what can be used at the same time. Volume rockers on the side. Standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a power button on the top. The back of the device is curved. It really feels quite good in the hand. Especially when compared to how cheap and plasticy the Samsung S2/S3 felt. The curved back has a downside, when you have the phone on a flat surface the phone rocks.

The screen on this phone is bright vivid and very responsive. A definite highlight of the device. Nicely done.

Like most phones in this form factor the power button is on the top and in this case the left hand side. So powering it on usually means shuffling the phone in your hand to find (and hopefully not dropping it) the dam button. Less than convenient. I really enjoyed the ability to turn the Z10 on without using the power button. This is suppose to be coming in HTC Sense 6 we will see if this version of the phone can do it.

HTC oddly chose to only include 2 buttons, home and back, the options button is missing. I’ve noticed some apps don’t deal overly well with that. An odd decision by HTC. But on the positive side they have a nice place to put their logo. Right where the third button belongs.

Limitations
Right off the bat the obvious negatives of the One are 1) no SD slot (so limited to 32G and no expansion) 2) non removable battery (can’t carry a spare)

The phone immediately had an Android 4.4.2 upgrade ready for it when I powered it on. HTC seem to be keeping this up to date. It helps that HTC has far fewer models to keep up to date (Vs Samsung). The HTC customizations such as blink feed and sense are great but they mean there’s work more work to do to support new Android releases. So Kudos to HTC for getting the update out quickly. Mine is a Rogers phone by the way.

Hardware Specs
The hardware specs on this phone are pretty good. 1.7G quad core SnapDragon 600 ARM V7 processor, Full LTE support, ABGN WIFI, BT 4, FM radio, 2.1Mp front camera (for selfies) and 4 MP back camera (quite low compared to the S3’s 8Mp) and a 2300 mAh battery (which is not that impressive for a phone with a non removable battery). click here for a full list of specs.

Initial startup is clean and simple, standard Android. Once up and running HTC’s Blink feed is front and center. A glitzy fluffy news aggregation that reminds me of FlipBoard. You can change around the home screens order (push and hold anywhere empty on a screen) and you can fully customize the icons on the bottom of the screen (push and hold any soft button on the screen to remove and then change it to whatever you want). Blink feed can be totally turned off too. I really like the flexibility. In case it’s not obvious just slide your finger on the screen to get to the next screen. There is a setting to sort your apps alphabetically in the list, otherwise they are in some less than obvious order (which you can manually customize). I prefer the Samsung system which allows you to slide down the list of apps (rather than one page at a time on the HTC) and wraps around from the bottom to the top (which the HTC does not). I just find it more efficient.

Plug the phone into a Windows computer and the One shows up as a Portable Music player. You can copy directly into the file space of the One. I do not see an option for the phone to show up as a flash drive instead. Copying files this way is not exactly zippy.
one

Movie Playback
Movie playback of a highly encoded YIFY was not perfect with the native gallery player (occasional hiccups) but played better with the XBMC hardware accelerated libstagefright nightly build. Lighter encodes had hiccups with the native player too. Seems like the native player is not that well optimized. MX Player also was jerky even with the ARM V7 plug in. Oddly turning hardware acceleration off and using software decoding improved playback. Also a negative for movies is the HTC one does not support exFAT formatted USB flash drives (fat32 does not support file sizes greater than 4G which HD movies can be). On the positive side the internal storage of the phone is formatted in a way that allows larger files.

Built in apps
Music playback includes the ability to display lyrics, update album artwork as well as be able to share what your listening to. A step above some basic music players.

Contacts are searched as you type in a persons name into the dialer. Something sadly lacking on Blackberry (but common on Android and Windows Mobile). Yo BB … wakeup!

The calendar app actually works properly with Google, as expected. For some reason I never had good luck with this on BB 10.

HTC have included a neat TV ap. You setup rooms. Each room can have a TV/Home Theater system. Then you tell it where you get your TV from including over the air. It then shows you what’s on now (including a plug in for BlinkFeed, nice integration) as well as gives you the ability to control the TV and or home theater system (a virtual remote). Cool. It is missing the ability to create smart activities such as turning both the TV and Home Theater on or off with one button. Too bad.

Blackberry has a service called Protect, Samsung’s is called Dive. Both allow you to locate, lock, wipe and ring your phone in case you’ve misplaced it. HTC previously had this but for now it seems to have been removed. From their web site “HTCSense.com is undergoing a renovation to improve the services and value we deliver to customers like you. Until the new services are ready, features previously available on HTCSense.com will no longer be available. If you would like phone location or backup services for your device, please visit Google Play (formerly called Android Market) and download an application the best meets your needs.” Google play does offer location services that may let you find your phone (as well as ring, lock and erase).

Oddly they do not include any kind of a file manager in the app load. I used ES File manager and it easily allowed me to see the USB flash drives contents as well as copy to and from. Speeds were relatively good 5-10 MB/s on a class 10 card (which should be good for 10).

I must say coming back to Android from Blackberry the things I missed from Android were 1) Llama (a location based automation app, and location alarm) 2) Where’s my droid 3) the Gmail priority Inbox 4) Google Maps (with Google play services for access to favorites etc).

SD Tools shows the speed of the internal storage at a whopping 21 MB/s read and 153 MB/s read. Wow. (sometimes I ran the test and got even higher numbers!).

HDMI
HDMI output on a phone is something that is rarely done right, fortunately it’s also rarely used. The HD resolution of the screen means it matches that of a HD panel. Using a standard MHL cable (I used my Samsung S2 cable, the S3 cable did not work) HDMI worked simply and easily. Interestingly the MHL worked even without power (Samsungs always require power to the MHL). I did try USB OTG at the same time as MHL but that didn’t work. I didn’t really expect it to but tried anyway. As with the Samsungs when the phone overheats the charge circuit shuts down. And playing a movie, while charging and outputting to HDMI was enough to cause it to overheat. I watched a TV show through HDMI and it took a reboot to get the charge circuit to come back on once it over heated. Even with the charge circuit working, and using the stock HTC charger the phone barely holds a charge while outputting to HDMI (and that’s without pushing the processor at all).
mhl
As is typical with Android by default the home screen does not rotate even when outputting to HDMI leaving it displays as a ribbon down the screen. Fortunately with the use of my handy dandy Ultimate Rotation tool this issue is solved by using forced auto rotation. Also as usual there is no setting to keep the screen on. Screen Timeout app fixed that little miss. All this by the way is pretty typical of my experience using HDMI on Android.

As an interesting aside I watched a 45 min TV show with no power using XBMC output to HDMI and it consumed over 50% of the battery! Sure can draw a whack of power.

Bluetooth keyboard worked correctly including the home and back buttons, something that is needed to use the phone remotely from the screen. As in the past the lack of soft buttons for home and back is problematic when using an HDMI display. As usual they never get this right. Probably knowing few actually use it 😦 Bluetooth mouse worked fine but also as usual the right mouse button is incorrectly implemented. It is the same as the left.

The 32G of storage is shared between content (music/video/pics) and apps. Which is nice in that you can make whatever mix of use of the memory you choose.

Charging
The stock charger from HTC is oddly only a 1A charger meaning a full charge will take 2.4 hours. This is particularly noteworthy given the non-removable battery 😦 And a higher current charger does not buy you anything. I tried a Samsung as well as a BlackBerry high current charger, neither charged the phone even as fast as the stock HTC charger. The phone is only designed for this slow charge. Pretty big limitation.

As with most modern phones, you can’t get enough power out of a USB 2 port so the HTC One doesn’t charge through the computer’s USB port, more like maintain.

Sharing DLNA/Miracast
From a sharing point of view the HTC supports DLNA as well as Miracast. It can be done from inside the gallery, or music player apps or it can be done using the media output setting which outputs the whole phones output to the display (for Miracast).
Screenshot_2014-03-19-22-26-51 Screenshot_2014-03-19-22-26-24 Screenshot_2014-03-19-22-26-00
As an interesting aside as you can see in the pic, XBMC makes a great DLNA server across platforms and can help to bridge desperate environments!

From a bluetooth point of view my Ford Sync still does not display the song playing and still does not recognize this phone as one that can read text messages. So at this point I have idea what it does support because everything I have tried (BlackBerry Q10/Z10, Samsung S2/S3 and HTC One) all do not support these features. This seems to be an issue with my Ford Sync (2010 Fusion) rather than the phone.

I loaded up the Ant+ drivers but it seems there is no Ant+ radio in this phone 😦

Google Play was for some reason set to auto update, something I positively hate. Inevitably it causes pauses in the phones responsiveness while updating. Android sucks at this. Installs/updates take every bit of performance they possible can. Grrr. Google … throttle them, SOMEHOW.

I was able to use a capacitive (fat) pen along with Evernote and Papyrus to do hand writing reasonably well. Not bad for a device with no digitizer (like a Samsung Note). Athinner pen was almost completely ignored.

Web browsing is quite good on this device. I hesitate to say iPhone like. Smooth pan and zoom, responsive. The quad core processor really shines. Overall the devices performance is excellent very responsive. I would say above the S3. Reliability is also very good. Bluetooth is better than the S3.

I hesitate to say it but this device is quite a bit better than S3. Smoother, more responsive, no in explainable pauses, no BT misconnects. Overall this is a surprisingly better device in so many ways (within the limitations of the device, no removable battery and no SD slot).

Battery life is one of those things, there is never enough. I managed to get 14 hours of somewhat normal use and there was still 20% left. At that point the power saver kicked in. This would stretch battery life even further. Power Saver moderates CPU, Mobile data and display. Power Saver mode can be manually initiated any time. This is as good or better than my Samsung S3. I will do a more in depth power consumption post in the future.

The on included screen keyboard on this device has a nice feature, on your second try at spelling something it stops trying to correct you! Excellent! A little less infuriating than usual for an onscreen keyboard!

802.11N (WIFI) supports B/G/N including both 2.5 and 5 GHZ bands!

The one has a notification LED, but I have to say, it’s super small and not as easily visible as some. I prefer the big obvious notification LED of the S3, but at least it has one (unlike the S2)!

There is a good assortment of accessories for the HTC One. Everything from cases to car docks, to desk docks. All on ebay and Amazon for reasonable prices. Accessories can make a big difference in a devices fun! The Z10 belt case by the way fits the HTC One just fine.

Bluetooth Tethering
Bluetooth tethering works well, but is often the case with Android it does not start on reboot (fortunately reboots are rarely needed on this phone). Like previous Android devices I’ve played with the processor seems excessively busy while BT tethering leading to higher than expected battery consumption. Having a tablet I use BT tethering often. Speaking of BT tethering you can use this phone in tablet like mode (turn the cell radio off) and then bluetooth tether it to another phone. Nice feature. By the way, the Z10 couldn’t do that.

As with every Android device I’ve played with to date I could not get acceptable call quality out of VOIP. I was using CSIP simple but have tried others. Oddly Skype out works fine. I have no idea why Android sucks at this. I’ve tried (in the past) different providers, different SIP clients all to no avail. While on BlackBerry the same provider works ok.

I have an old Zephyr bluetooth heart rate monitor. On some devices it just does not pair well. Sadly the HTC One is another of these. It would pair work fine then the next time I went to use it I had to enter the PIN each and every time.

Like all Android devices I’ve played with this one unlocked quickly, and inexpensively. Bought an unlock code on ebay, sent the IMEI code, got back an unlock code, plugged in a non-native SIM, it asks for the unlock code, type in what was provided and your permanently unlocked. Cost me $5 and about 10 mins. Now I can put a SIM in from any provider.

Summary
Limitations: non replaceable battery, no SD slot for expansion
Bugs/poorly implemented: slow charge, poorly done HDMI, poor hardware acceleration of the movie player
All in all this phone is better than the Samsung S3/S2 (I haven’t touched an S4) in pretty much every way. Smoother, more reliable, etc.

With past devices they have been a collection of unfinished code and a collection of bugs. Which device you chose was which device had the bugs that bothered you the least. This device IMHO is one of the better if not best devices I have touched in a while!

Standby Power consumption article for the HTC One.

htc_one

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March 26, 2014 - Posted by | Android

2 Comments »

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