HTC, an also ran in the mobile device market, has announced their new flagship phone the One. It ticks all the boxes you would expect. Many cores, many pixels, many different ways to connect to things, lots of RAM and so on. If you were playing specification bingo, you’d be yelling full house right about now.
Hardware wise, it looks like a nice bit of kit. It’s made entirely out of aluminium, with the screen flanked by speakers (confusingly the phone is branded as being with Beats Audio, but they’re also calling it HTC Boom Sound – Make your mind up).
But as with a lot of these Android phones, the user experience is where this phone will fall down.
The One debuts HTC’s new Android software overhaul, which is named Sense 5. Aside from a simplification of the visual style, the biggest change in the new user interface is something called BlinkFeed — a Flipboard-like aggregator for news, information, and social feeds that will serve as your new homescreen.
What do HTC think they are bringing to the table with this? Something that can be done much better with an app from the app store in exchange for a clunky experience overall. There’s a market out there for vanilla Android phones running the latest version and good hardware, I do not understand why HTC isn’t targeting this market.
The camera looks genuinely interesting.
Secondly, HTC is betting big on the One’s camera capabilities, which revolve around a custom-developed imaging sensor with enlarged pixels that can absorb roughly three times more light than those inside a conventional 8-megapixel camera. These UltraPixels, as the company calls them, will make for a major leap in low-light performance, however they do limit the resolution of any photos you take with the HTC One to 4 megapixels. The obvious goal here is to compete with Nokia’s PureView system in the Lumia 920, and just like inside that Windows Phone device, the HTC One includes optical image stabilization (OIS). Gyroscope-based, multi-axis OIS is available for both the front- and rear-facing cameras, with the front unit also being of the ultra-wide angle variety we first saw on the HTC Windows Phone 8X.
So phone manufacturers are learning what camera manufacturers learnt a few years ago. Chasing numbers isn’t what’s important, it’s about the end result. Low light performance and image stabilisation are the new megapixels.
Unless HTC can sort out its marketing message (using two forms of branding for your audio isn’t going to help) this phone is doomed much like the HTC One X was before it.