Samsung might have pleasantly surprised us with a Galaxy S 4 running stock Android at Google I/O last month, but it wasn't long before HTC followed suit with its own announcement regarding the One. Officially known as the HTC One Google Play edition, the phone is now available in the Play store for $599 alongside the aforementioned Galaxy S 4. When it comes to specs, the handset is a dead ringer for AT&T's 32GB version and incorporates the same radios (with LTE support). It features Qualcomm's 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 SoC with 2GB of RAM, a 4.7-inch 1080p Super LCD 3 display, an Ultrapixel camera (4MP) with OIS and flash and a sealed 2300mAh Li-polymer battery. We finally played with it yesterday and came away rather smitten. Read on for our first impressions and hands-on video after the break.
Hardware-wise there's nothing particularly unusual about this HTC One. You're still looking at the same gorgeous design and top-notch materials as the Sense-equipped models. Carrier branding is missing of course, and HTC's logo only shows up twice: below the screen in front and in the middle of the back. The phone is factory unlocked with quad-band EDGE, tri-band HSPA+ (850/1900/2100MHz) and quad-band LTE (700/850/1700/1900MHz). Sadly, there's no AWS support for HSPA+, which is a non-issue for AT&T customers but might be a problem in some T-Mobile markets. Still, it's the software that really shines, with a totally stock implementation of Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) that's free of any carrier or manufacturer contamination -- that means no BlinkFeed, for better or worse. Beats audio carries over, however, with a toggle in the sound settings.
Button management's been revised on the HTC One running stock Android since it only features two capacitive keys. The on-screen buttons commonly found on Nexus devices are gone, including the dedicated apps list key. As a result, the home button provides additional functionality: double-tapping displays the recent apps, and long-pressing brings up Google Now. Obviously, there's no menu key, but most apps today have an on-screen menu icon (three stacked dots) anyway. Still, we'd like to see an option to simulate the missing menu button with a long-press of the back key.
Google's not going to win any awards for stock Android's lackluster camera app. Thankfully, this version of Jelly Bean comes with a slightly different camera UI than what we're familiar with and appears to benefit from better image processing. We're satisfied with the photos we've snapped so far, which are just as beautiful as those shot with handsets running Sense. It's interesting to note that OIS is only enabled during capture and not while the viewfinder is active. Speaking of the viewfinder, the app's UI still shows a cropped view when taking 4:3 pictures, which interferes with composition -- then again, it's less of an issue here since the HTC One is equipped with a 16:9 sensor. Of course, stock Android means living without Zoe and its wonderful features -- that's unfortunate, but perhaps Google's fun Photo Sphere is a suitable consolation prize?
We'll soon be reviewing the HTC One Google Play edition and running it through our usual suite of benchmarks and tests, so stay tuned. Sense 5 brings a lot of benefits to the table, but there's no doubt that stock Android makes this powerhouse of a phone even better -- it certainly feels snappier and brings an extra level of clarity and simplicity to an already phenomenal user experience.