We've said it before, but the design of the HTC One is something worth gawking at. It's the supermodel of smartphones and it makes every other handset look a step or two behind the curve. Like the Sprint model, T-Mobile's version is free of any carrier branding, which makes it identical in appearance to the global edition. Also similar to Sprint, internal storage of the HTC One for T-Mobile is limited to 32GB, whereas AT&T offers both 32GB and 64GB options.
If you hope to store gobs of media on the One, but are adamant about using T-Mobile's network, you could also consider the HTC One Developer Edition, which includes 64GB of storage and runs $650 unlocked. Be aware, however, the Developer Edition doesn't support HSPA over the AWS spectrum. This means it can't take advantage of T-Mobile's 42 Mbps DC-HSPA+ network, and you could also experience poor network performance in areas where the carrier's 1900MHz 21 Mbps HSPA+ network isn't yet active. That said, since the Developer Edition supports LTE for T-Mobile, it's still a worthwhile option if storage capacity is an important factor.
In all, so long as you're comfortable with the 32GB ceiling, you'll find a very strong argument for choosing T-Mobile's version of the One. Naturally, it plays nicely with the carrier's networks, but the handset also earns distinction as the most flexible and capable One in the US. Yes, T-Mobile's version supports 42 Mbps DC-HSPA+ (AWS), 21 Mbps HSPA+ (1900MHz) and LTE Band 4, but as a very nice surprise, it also supports LTE Band 17. While you'll never find that last bit on any of T-Mobile's spec sheets, the phone is fully capable of using AT&T's LTE network -- once you unlock it, that is.
Performance and battery life
Once you move past subtleties such as storage capacity and radios, you'll quickly see that the HTC One shares identical hardware across all the US carriers. Naturally, this means a Snapdragon 600 lives at the phone's core, which includes a 1.7GHz quad-core Krait 300 CPU and an Adreno 320 GPU. The Snapdragon 600 currently leads the pack for performance (barring comparison to the octa-core Exynos 5), and you'll find it in all variations of the One, along with its contemporaries such as the Galaxy S 4 and Optimus G Pro.
Unsurprisingly, benchmarks show the HTC One for T-Mobile running neck and neck with its peers, with minor differences that aren't easily perceptible in real-world use. To that point, while the One's benchmark scores handily obliterate the Nexus 4 (which is based on the older Snapdragon S4 Pro), both phones feel equally quick and competent. Pitted side by side, the One is only slightly more responsive than the Nexus 4. Still, the HTC One for T-Mobile can hold its head high among the world's fastest smartphones, and this is unlikely to change until later this year when the Snapdragon 800 and Tegra 4 hit the market.
Unsurprisingly, benchmarks show the HTC One for T-Mobile running neck and neck with its peers.
Assuming that you're familiar with our review of the One, you already know that for all of the phone's strengths, its battery life is on the weaker side of average. That holds true for T-Mobile's version, and our battery rundown test -- which we attempted twice, for good measure -- suggests that it might be even worse. Here, the phone was able to provide just six hours of uptime, as opposed to six and a half hours for Sprint's model and seven hours and 29 minutes for AT&T's.
Don't be too alarmed by the results of the battery rundown process, though, because our real-world trials suggest that T-Mobile's version is still practical for daily use. After a 12-hour day of moderately heavy usage, which included extended web-browsing sessions, checking emails, taking photos and getting about town using Maps, the One ended the day with 40 percent of its battery life to spare. What's more, while we didn't take advantage of it at the time, we found ourselves preferring HTC's power saver option when indoors and at night, since the display is otherwise unnecessarily bright -- almost like the showroom settings on an HDTV. Needless to say, the power saver option is a practical way to squeeze additional mileage from the battery, and it can be configured to merely reduce the display's brightness to more pleasing levels; by default, though, it'll cripple the CPU and data connection as well.
Let's get back to the really good news. Call quality on the HTC One for T-Mobile is quite excellent, even in settings where excessive background noise might otherwise hinder a conversation. We tested the phone at a busy intersection with city buses and delivery trucks barreling along. And while the traffic was perceptible to our callers -- even to the point that they could discern the roads were wet from rain -- it was never a distraction from the conversation, as our voices were mutually clear and distinct, and always dominated the call.
As for data speeds, we tested the HTC One in Portland, Ore., aboard T-Mobile's HSPA+ network. Here, the phone managed 12.6 Mbps down and 3.4 Mbps up, which is serviceable, but disappointing given the availability of DC-HSPA+ 42 in the area. The HTC One for T-Mobile supports LTE connections, but like many metropolitan areas, Portland has yet to receive LTE service from the carrier. On the upside, T-Mobile's HSPA+ network is widespread and offers speeds that are more than adequate, and T-Mobile's LTE rollout promises to make a good situation even better.
Like all smartphones that are subject to carrier whims, you'll find a number of customizations with the HTC One for T-Mobile. Some are quite useful, while others just seem to get in the way. The best of the bunch is easily WiFi Calling, and while the free service is less relevant now that the carrier isn't counting minutes, it'll undoubtedly come in handy if you find yourself in an area that has wireless internet, but lacks mobile coverage. Other reasonable additions include Lookout Mobile Security, which scans new apps for malware, and the My Account app, which allows you to check your usage, access billing info and get in touch with customer support.
T-Mobile walks a fine line between providing useful services and hammering you with up-sell opportunities.
On the whole, though, T-Mobile walks a fine line between providing useful services and hammering you with up-sell opportunities. Take T-Mobile TV. It'll be hard to ignore, because its widget dominates the home screen -- thankfully, it can be removed. Within the app, you'll find access to free content from the likes of PBS Kids, NBC News, Fox Business and The Weather Channel, but you'll also find consistent nags to sign up for T-Mobile TV Prime, a subscription service that runs $12.99 per month. You'll find a similar situation with T-Mobile Name ID, a caller ID service that starts out as a free, 10-day trial, but that ultimately costs $3.99 per month. Lastly, there's Visual Voicemail, a free service that has great utility, but which also offers text transcriptions at a $3.99 monthly rate.
Unlike Sprint, T-Mobile doesn't allow its customers to uninstall the bundled apps, which is both frustrating and a shame. Meanwhile, Android offers the ability to disable these programs, but this method won't remove the bloat from your phone. On the upside, if this sort of stuff gets under your skin, the HTC One for T-Mobile has an unlockable bootloader, which opens the phone to a world of custom kernels and streamlined ROMs that are free from carrier cruft.
If you've been eyeing the HTC One as your next smartphone, it's safe to say that T-Mobile offers a very compelling option. By and large, the handset is a faithful interpretation of the original, which is all the more reason to fall in love. Unique to T-Mobile's version is LTE support for both T-Mobile and AT&T, which makes it the One to get if you're interested in its flexibility as an unlocked smartphone. For everyone else, the best argument in favor of T-Mobile's handset may be the carrier itself, where you'll find unlimited data plans that are served up by its speedy HSPA+ and LTE networks.
As for your options within T-Mobile, the One stands as a better value than its closest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S 4. Speaking simplistically, you'll pay $580 for the One, which includes 32GB of built-in storage, whereas the Galaxy S 4 costs $630 and offers just 16GB of space. Combine this with the One's premium fit and finish, superior display and more versatile camera, and the argument for the One only grows stronger. Naturally, the need for expandable storage and superior battery life may shift the balance in favor of the Galaxy S 4, but the One is otherwise the more compelling of the two devices.
There's one other Android smartphone that deserves to be on your radar at T-Mobile, however, and that's the Nexus 4. Most significantly, the phone lacks LTE connectivity, and its display and camera are inferior in relation to the One, but at $299 for the 8GB model, it's far and away your best bet if the One's price tag is beyond your comfort zone. For everyone else, though, the HTC One is hands-down the best smartphone that you'll find on T-Mobile, and it's worth every penny.