It's funny. For as much as Android phones have been known a prime spec war battleground for years now, they may have finally reached a tipping point. Big screens, fast processors, and 1080p everythings have become standardized. What matters now is thoughtfulness and execution, and at a glance, HTC's One is right on the money.
To start, the aluminum body is damn beautiful. It's got a curve to its back piece, but its edges have more of a hard line to them than the One X+ and One X. It's more monochromatic, too, with just a small beats logo on the bottom back. It's lovely and light (considering there was a gigantic DON'T STEAL THIS lock on the back of the phone we touched), and all together pleasant. The screen is gorgeous, but you knew it would be, since the HTC One X's screen was basically the best phone screen available. The blacks on the new One, though, show a little light leakage around the edges of the screen. I'm not sure you'll notice them without specifically looking for them, but that's an imperfection not present on some other top tier displays.
The new HTC Sense, BlinkFeed, is a nice design. Up close, it's actually a little less Windows Phone-y that it seems at first glance, though still plenty like Windows Phone. It's more like an RSS feed, with just content on the tiles. You sort of wish the other features of WP, like messaging, email, and weather widgets, were present, but it's still a pretty slick interface. It's a question, though, of if people want their news and information in their face when they open their phone, or if they'd rather that off to the side, instead focusing on functions.
One thing to note is that there are only two haptic buttons on the phone—the home button, which is on the right side, and the back button. A non-centered home button will take some getting used to for some folks, but it's not all that awkward, and might be a benefit since the phone is 4.7 inches, so it'll be easy to access from side. Of course, it'll also be a pain in the butt to get at from the other. Multitasking is accessed by double tapping the home button.
The new Sense is also fluid, with the app drawer accessed from a software button in the center of the screen. Icons can be arranged either by alphabetical order, most recently used, or a custom arrangement. The traditional home screen for Android is accessed by a swipe to the right, and you can longpress to add widgets directly from there (they're not in the app drawer). It's all very smooth (built on 4.1—staying current with Android has always been a huge problem for HTC), and looks nice, but its general aesthetic and especially its icon design still look a little sloppy compared to default Android.
The camera, from what we saw, was pretty fast. It blurred when taking a photo of a man doing a flip off of a pillar in a dark room (don't ask), but you could make out that it was a human being, and that's at the upward end of what you're going to be asking your camera to do. The image also not grainy at all, which was pretty impressive given the lighting circumstances.
Photos by Nick Stango