Android phones are often criticized as flavorless. While they come in a variety of screen sizes with insides that differ even more, they generally all look and feel the same, with many differentiators (ooh, apps that scroll up and down instead of side to side!) actually not amounting to very much. Even the name "Android" implies easily replicated automatons.
That's why the HTC One ($199 for 32GB with a two-year contract on AT&T or Sprint, also on T-Mobile) is a refreshing change from all the bots out there. HTC has focused on a few standout features — including an interactive home screen, a retooled camera and a novel way to share experiences — to turn the One into a device that, well, stands out. None of those features is perfect, but at least the company is really trying to differentiate and not just "skin" things.
Take just one example: The HTC One can function as a TV remote control. The app is bland, and setting it up could be clearer, but it's a great feature to have. HTC had to build an infrared blaster into the power button on the top to enable the One to work as a remote, but that's definitely something you iPhone can't do.
You can tell the One is a high-end phone from its design. The exterior is crafted from a single piece of aluminum, which feels solid in the hand — although it's ever-so-slightly less grippy than plastic or glass. The 4.7-inch screen size strains the balance between convenience and unwieldiness ... your fingers will get a good stretch sometimes, at least.
The edge of the phone tapers in slightly toward the screen. This actually gives the phone a very distinctive feel; I would never mistake the One for, say, the Galaxy S III or even other HTC phones like the One S. Some well-considered chiseling along the edge helps to give your fingertips more traction.
The 4.7-inch display is on the large side
Snacking on BlinkFeed
Searching for UltraPixels
Zoe Makes an Impression
The Zoe compilations themselves are surprisingly good
Setting up the HTC One to control my TV was probably the easiest universal remote setup I've ever performed
How the West Was One
For all its ability to attract friends like Steve Ballmer and Mark Zuckerberg, HTC isn't doing spectacularly well. Its market share and profits lag far behind Samsung's and Apple's, and other Eastern brands such as Huawei and ZTE threaten to undermine the recent progress HTC has made in the West.
With the One, however, HTC has built something it can really stake its future on