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HTC One – A split personality franken-phone?

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HTC One
HTC One

HTC has just unveiled its next flagship phone, the HTC One. The Samsung Galaxy S4 may be waiting in the wings to steal its thunder, but this is a very important phone, make no mistake.

However, there was something we noticed after stumbling out of the launch of the phone, which was packed with more sweaty bodies than a Wetherspoon’s in mid-summer – no flagship can pass by without pomp these days, it seems. What we noticed was how much the HTC One is an amalgamation of styles and ideas we’ve already seen from other manufacturers. Is this phone not as original as HTC hoped?

We wouldn’t go as far as to say HTC has pilfered its ideas, but someone else well might.

Exhibit One: The aluminium unibody-style design
Source: iPhone 5

With a different screen aspect and a much larger display, the HTC One is a different hardware prospect entirely from an iPhone 5. However, a number of the design methodologies are very familiar.

The all-aluminium body, the bevelled edges of the phone and the relatively severe edges are clearly indebted to the iPhone 5. A look at the HTC One from its front reveals that HTC’s designers must have read a page or two from the Apple design bible, 2012 edition.

Plus, let’s not forget the iPhone-like design choices HTC has adopted in its last few waves of devices. Once upon a time, almost every Android device has expandable memory. There’s no sign of a card slot on the HTC One. This will not please the geeks.

In HTC’s defence, the BlackBerry Z10’s lines are intensely iPhone 5-like, although BlackBerry didn’t go quite as far as using the same construction materials too.

Exhibit Two: Blink Feed UI
Source: Windows Phone 8

The Blink Feed UI is the top-billing feature of Sense 5, the HTC-made user interface that was introduced alongside the HTC One. It makes the home screens of the phone look uncannily like Live Tiles screens of Windows Phone 8.

Blink Feed UI features sharp blocks that relay all sorts of content, from RSS feed articles to Twitter/Facebook updates and emails. HTC says it can incorporate over 1,000 different sources.

Of course, this is not how Windows Phone 8 actually works. Your home screens there aren’t flowing content waterfalls with Microsoft’s mobile OS, but once again the design ideals, and the feel of the implementation in part, are the same.

HTC also seems to be moving towards a vertically-scrolling style throughout Sense 5, as the plain app menu also uses this style.

Exhibit Three: UltraPixel camera
Source: Nokia PureView

Until the HTC One, HTC was largely playing along with the renaissance of the megapixel war. The last generation of phones had 8-megapixel cameras, before that 5-megapixel cameras. The HTC One, on the other hand, has a 4.3-megapixel sensor.

Has HTC just done the timewarp back to 2005?

Not quite. Although the resolution of the HTC One seems desperately low, it’s actually as photo-centric a the Nokia PureView camera seen in the 808 PureView. Its sensor size is actually pretty standard, but the pixels used are much, much larger – the size of a very good compact camera. That’s why it can only fit in a 4.3-megapixel sensor.

Just like Nokia PureView, the HTC One UltraPixel camera wants to derail the trend for more megapixels with every generation. It’s something to applaud, but if HTC wants to take credit for starting this movement, it’s going a bit too far.

What Does it All Mean?
It might seem like we’re suggesting the HTC One is a mis-mash of re-hashed ideas, but we’re not.

It’s more like this – where the Samsung Galaxy series is all about packing every feature under the sun into a flexible and geek-friendly body, HTC seems to want to streamline its favourite bits from every phone ecosystem to make a “dreamphone”.

Of course, for all that to pan out, all the bits we’ve looked at have to work a treat. If the UltraPixel camera is nothing special, the phone may end up as damp a squib next to the next iPhone and Samsung Galaxy as the HTC One X was last year.

What do you think of the HTC One?

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