While the Chinese variants of the HTC One won't be formally introduced until April 24th, we've managed to get our hands on its cousin device: the 603e that sports a similar earpiece design as the One, but without the front-facing BoomSound stereo loudspeakers. The retail name of this dual-SIM (WCDMA 900/2100 and GSM 900/1800/1900) device is actually E1, and HTC pitches it as an affordable Android 4.1 (with Sense 4+) phone with a 2.1-megapixel f/2.0 wide front-facing camera -- likely identical to HTC One's, judging by our own comparison -- along with beautification features and the company's much publicized ImageChip technology. But the real selling point of the E1 is its role in HTC's new e-commerce strategy in China: while you can get hold of one at an authorized HTC store, HTC's Chinese "eShop" throws in custom options for the built-in storage (8 or 16GB), main camera (five or eight megapixels, both with only 720p video capture) and one of the six body colors plus patterns. Choosing the top spec combo will also get you a special red body interior.
To make things more "fun," the eShop has collaborated with Sina to provide custom spec suggestions based on your zodiac and gender. For instance, as a Virgo this author was recommended a "Lolita white" color option with the basic 8GB storage option and yet the more powerful 8-megapixel camera -- because apparently he'd appreciate an object's "substantive benefits," but he'd also find the extra storage space a waste because he would never use it all up. Thankfully, you can ignore all that nonsense and just tweak the specs as you desire, with the price going from ¥1,699 ($275) to ¥1,899 ($307). For these prices, the E1's build quality didn't disappoint us. The rest of the phone stays the same: you get a dual-core 1.15GHz processor, 1GB RAM, a removable 2,100mAh battery, a 4.3-inch 800 x 480 Super LCD2, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC (which naturally supports China UnionPay's Quick Pass service) and up to 32GB of microSD expansion. Not a bad package overall, but hopefully HTC can work a bit of Sense 5 into this phone in the near future as well.