HTC One review: To rule them all

To rule them all

GSMArena team, 22 March 2013.

HTC Zoe is a wiz at photo retouching

HTC Zoe is more advanced than any other gallery on a phone and it was made possible by the dedicated ImageChip 2 that the One uses. When you use the camera in Zoe mode, every time you press the shutter key, the phone captures up to 20 full res shots and a 3 second video (1 second before you press the shutter key and 2 seconds after). All that information is required for the advanced features of Zoe.

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Standard looking gallery, at first • Events view is where Zoe comes in

One of those features is Events. Zoe can be used as a regular image gallery with photos stacked together by folders, but Events groups photos by when and where they were taken. Each event has a 30 second highlight video, which is stitched together from those 3 second clips plus a slideshow, including some of the pics. You can remove clips and add new ones to the highlight video, add a video effect and also include a background music (the tracks are preset, though it is possible to add new ones to the list).

The animation in the Gallery is seamless which is more than we can say about it outside the HTC One. If you save the pictures into your PC you're left with 20 shots for every Zoe animation created. The good news is HTC allows you to upload the sequences to HTC's Zoeshare webpage and send the links to your friends. Images there are displayed like GIFs.

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The gallery

The videos and multiple full-res shots come into play when editing images as well. Since the phone has a video of the scene during which the photo was taken, it can find moving objects and put a red X on them so that you can tap and remove the ones you want, but keep the rest. The result is a full-resolution 4MP image.

Zoe can also make sure everyone in the photo is smiling and their eyes are open - it detects all faces and circles them, then you can swipe to go through all available images of that face until you find the perfect one.

Yet another feature is called Sequence shot. It takes a shot of a moving object and it creates a cool effect "multiple exposure" effect where that object appears several times on the photo. It's perhaps easier to show the effect than explain it, here's a shot of a BMXer jumping over a ramp. You can tweak the effect by adding and removing clones.

The Zoe arsenal of effects doesn't stop here - there are some vanity effects too. One such effect is Face contour, which allows you to easily slim someone's face. There's also Skin smoothing, an automatic lightning fix, Eye enhancer (which makes your subject's eyes open wider), Eye brightening, Red-eye removal and Anti-shine. The strength of these effects is adjustable with a slider so you can fine tune it.

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The photo editor has tons of options

That's just the Retouch section of the Photo Editor. There are also effects, frames and transformations available. Basically, Zoe is a knowledgeable Photoshop helping hand in your pocket.

As we said, Zoe events can be shared on the dedicated Zoe Share site and we've prepared several albums to share with you: Album 1, Album 2, Album 3.

Of course, you are not limited to that site - you can share these albums on other social networks just as easily.

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Setting up Zoe Share

As before you can find a map with your Geo-tagged images in the Gallery.

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Geo-tagged photos

Video player with very limited codec support

The Video player on the HTC One has a pretty simple interface. There isn't even a dedicated app, you just pick a video from the gallery. Anyway, you get a Play/Pause button and a slider to scrub through the video, a button to launch the camera and a small square with the current time and battery charge. Those automatically hide after a few seconds, of course.

The video player can use the Beats audio sound enhancement just like the music player, which is great for watching videos. The video player supports DLNA and you can use an MHL adaptor to plug the phone into a TV.

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The video player

One pretty unique feature allows you to change the playback speed of the video. This is helpful for clips, you've shot in one of the high frame rate modes, it allows you to watch either a High Frame Rate (it playbacks in real-time, just like The Hobbit) or in slow motion.

The HTC One failed pretty miserably when it came to codec support . It couldn't play all our DivX videos save for one, MOV files were out of the question and did choke with some audio codecs (like AC3).

The videos that played did so up to 1080p, which is a given with this CPU but still deserves a note. With a great display like that the HTC One is some proper codec support away from becoming a powerful tool for watching video on the go. Luckily there are a few dozen video players in the Play store to address that deficiency and some of them are even free.

Music player with Beats

The HTC One comes with a custom music player, which is HTC Beats enabled, of course. It can organize your music library by Artist, Album, Songs, Playlists, Genres, Podcasts or Folders (we don't see this option very often). The phone will also easily stream songs over DLNA, you're not limited to the music library you have in the internal memory.

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Browsing through the music library

The music player has some handy features out of the box. It can automatically look for and download Album art and artist photos (you can limit it to Wi-Fi connections only) and it can also search for lyrics. The lyrics can be displayed either in karaoke mode or just as text.

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The Now playing interface • The player automatically finds the song's lyrics

There's no equalizer on board, you just have the option to toggle Beats audio on or off. That's not ideal, but at least the BoomSound stereo speakers on the front of the HTC One are quite loud.

SoundHound is the track recognition of choice for HTC and it has even been integrated it into the music player UI. It easily ID's a song from just a short sample. Or you can say the name of the artist and song and SoundHound will find it for you, including lyrics. The free app however only offers a limited number of uses (99).

Top notch audio quality

Update 11 April: We've identified an issue with our testing procedure that caused lower readings for dynamic range, noise level and stereo crosstalk on some smartphones. We've since rectified it and updated the scores to reflect the actual performance on the affected devices.

The HTC One audio output is almost identical to that of the HTC Butterfly, which is great news really as the former HTC flagship really aced our audio quality test. In fact the two Beats-powered smartphones offer arguably the best audio quality in the smartphone world right now.

The HTC One did great in the active external amplifier part of the test, posting great scores all over the field. In addition it had volume levels higher than all of its direct competitors, save for the aforementioned HTC Butterfly, which it only matched.

More impressively, there's next to no degradation when you plug in a pair of headphones. The stereo crosstalk rises a tiny bit, but that's the only affected reading. Volume levels remain at the same high level, too. This is the second smartphone in a row where HTC makes the Beats audio logo stand for something other than a simple equalizer, but as we said last time, the wait was probably worth it.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
HTC One+0.11, -0.14-92.491.20.0012 0.013-92.4
HTC One (headphones attached)+0.16, -0.07- 0.055-70.8
HTC Butterfly+0.13, -0.29-82.582.30.0090 0.022-80.8
HTC Butterfly (headphones attached)+0.16, -0.24-82.382.10.0094 0.042-59.7
HTC One X+0.02, -0.08- 0.393-80.7
HTC One X (headphones attached)+0.10, -0.10-80.680.60.174 0.459-60.8
Sony Xperia Z+0.11, -0.10-81.982.10.0430.041-81.3
Sony Xperia Z (headphones attached)+0.62, -0.09-81.781.50.2040.249-56.4
BlackBerry Z10+0.16, -0.29-82.882.60.0100.022-80.5
BlackBerry Z10 (headphones attached)+0.18, -0.28-82.782.70.0140.059-45.3

HTC One frequency response
HTC One frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

FM Radio and TuneIn Radio

There's an FM radio, which has a pretty simple interface. It automatically scans the area for the available stations and allows you to mark some of them as favorite. It also supports RDS and allows loudspeaker playback.

Aside from the headphones or loudspeaker choice you also get Mono sound if the reception is poor. There's no Beats enhancement here, however, not is there a playback control card on the lockscreen.

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The FM Radio app

You can also go with TuneIn Radio. It relies on your internet connection and can play just about every station on the planet that's gone broadband (let's face it, most of them are). And the quality is arguably even better.

You can set stations as favorites, search local stations by country or genre, and the app will even list you results to specific artist, album or song searches.

Finally you can also set your alarm to wake you up with your favorite station. Keep in mind that you need an active connection for this and it does tend to take the life out of your battery fast in the morning.

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TuneIn Radio

Reader comments

  • Paula

The phone has complicated technology and the battery life is terrible but its sound system is comparable to no other phone.

  • Anonymous

I'm still using my M7 as a backup device of my Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It is, for sure after six years from its debut, an outdated phone with insufficient power to support a lot of modern apps, but its sound system is still amazing in my opinion. The bat...

this phone's main problems are the battery and heating up.