HISTORY Former owner of iPhone 5, Nexus 4, Galaxy Nexus, iPhone 4S. After having problems with defective Nexus 4's, I went with the iPhone 5 because I wasn't initially impressed with either the S4 or the One. The lenient Apple return policy also afforded me time to make my decision. The jailbroken iPhone 5 actually came close to being a keeper to tie me over until more options came out later in the year, but its instability and the 4" screen couldn't prevail. I had to make a decision. Ultimately, HTC's amazing offers and value pushed me toward pre-ordering the One. Here are my thoughts... THOUGHTS First, let's get the bad stuff out of the way... -A lot of Sense makes no sense I could give you example after example, like how you can only configure the dock icons from the app drawer, or how if you want to bring an icon from the app drawer to a home screen, you have to drag it up to the "Shortcut" button and then drag it back down to a home screen. Or how the App Switcher only shows nine apps, and if you swipe one away, it shows eight. Where's the tenth opened app? Who knows! You just get 8 out of 9 with one blank. Swipe more away, more blanks. The App Switcher also does weird things like separate out certain Settings into their own separate "app" so it wastes more space: Why are the Settings, Network Settings, APNs all separated? And yes, believe you me, I had more than 10 apps opened, but because I swiped some away, I get blanks. Maybe this is Sense's way of managing the RAM? I also find the App Switcher strangely cumbersome to use. It squeezes things into a small tile and too often it's hard to tell what app is what. I find myself having to really look for the app I'm trying to switch to, instead of just recognizing it right away. There are other examples. Like if you launch an app from the App Drawer, when you hit the Home button, it takes you back to the App Drawer. That's just bizarre. If you want to go home to an actual HOME screen, you have to tap Home again. The question comes down to this: Why would you make Android harder to use than it is? For example, being unable to change your wallpaper from the homescreen (a standard Android feature as far back as I can remember) or the aforementioned issues make no sense. Again, why make things that used to be easier harder and more roundabout to do? Some of these things may not be a big deal (because who changes their wallpaper that often, right?) but others make for a frustrating experience. The lack of toggles as a standard feature in the pull down menu makes Sense feel behind the competition. Lack of 4.2 also means no single-finger notification expansion either (it requires two fingers, which was a mistake of 4.1 even when it was on stock Android that Google saw to fix right away). And apps like DashClock Widget, one of the most popular and useful apps, isn't compatible because 4.1 doesn't support lockscreen widgets. So when will we get 4.2? Great question. Maybe June when the rumored M4 comes with JB 4.2? And lastly, the persistent on-screen menu button bar is ugly, obtrusive, a waste of space, and unremovable. It's puzzling how HTC forgot to keep the configurable back button to long press as the menu button. This oversight reeks of carelessness. But they have an opportunity to amend this. Just include it with the 4.2 update. It's up to them to deliver on this. The on-screen menu button pushes third party keyboards (like Swiftkey) up. And it is sometimes there even when there is already a software dedicated menu button from the app. Strange! As for Blinkfeed, it's okay. I give HTC props for trying something different, but they should have given people the option to remove it. What if someone likes Sense 5 but doesn't like Blinkfeed? It becomes wasted space, then -- bloatware at its worse; right on a home screen and impossible to remove. If you don't use it, it just sits there with ugly blank tiles. Not to mention I could have a far less obtrusive and, more importantly, a better experience with Flipboard. BlinkFeed really should have been optional. Ultimately, after a couple of days of being driven nuts by Sense, I had to switch launchers. I went with Nova Launcher, you know, where things actually make sense and Android is allowed to be what it's supposed to be. There were a few impressive things about Sense, but it's the sense-less things that ultimately hurt the experience. -There's no beating around the bush: The home button configuration sucks And it sucks even more--like salt on a wound--by the fact that it's been confirmed that the HTC logo is an area that does register touch: So, why not, HTC? Really, does anyone know the answer to why they went with this configuration? Has there been any [good] explanation? It would have been symbolic, too... HTC is home. Or, even better, why not go gesture base like Blackberry has with the Z10? That would have been special. But instead, they put the home button on the right, and for some reason or another, the touch point is either too small or not sensitive enough because it's easy to either miss the home button or just not get a response (it's hard to tell which it is). There are way too many times where I have to hit it again to get it going. The location of it doesn't help with aiming either because you're angling your thumb in such an awkward way. This is made worse when trying to access the App Switcher, which requires two taps of the Home button. If you miss it the first time or it otherwise doesn't register, you're tapping at least four times just to "quickly" switch apps. Or sometimes it'll only register one of your two taps and it takes you to the home screen instead. Frustrating. At the end of the day, some will hate it, some will be indifferent, after all, Android devices in the past have had the home button in different places. But maybe that's precisely my point. Those were Androids of the past and I can't help but feel that HTC took a step back in time. There's just no beating around the bush on this one; HTC made a bizarre decision with the home button configuration and there are negative consequences. -The camera is mediocre HTC's gamble with 4MP Ultrapixels is, in my opinion, not going to pay off. I've tweaked the settings, I've done a factory reset, I've cleaned my camera glass (by the way, it's a little annoying that it's positioned so low. And when my index finger reaches across the back to hit that out of reach power button it causes smears so I'm constantly wiping to make sure the glass is clean. Annoying). I've done all I could, but the camera just doesn't deliver in the ways I'd hope it would. The pictures are grainy, noisy, lack color and honestly, the low light stuff isn't even that impressive. It's nice, but even so, everything else is a compromise. Smartphones have constantly been striving to replace standard pocket cameras and for the most part they've reached that level. Then to read that the One's camera is meant best for "Facebook, Instagram or email" quality pictures feels like a big leap backwards. The 4 megapixels really do matter and you'll be thinking about it in every shot. There's no getting around it. Zoe and some of the other features are really cool, but what's the point if the resolution and quality aren't the best it could be? The Gallery is alive with moving pictures, but what's the point if the pictures aren't impressive? By the way, the Gallery is cool when it comes alive, but stupidly designed navigation-wise. Also, on the first level in the Gallery, you are forced to have a "Friends" section which links to your Facebook friends. So if you're signed into Facebook, it bombards your Gallery with your friend's pics. It's completely obnoxious that they force this mess on you. But if you're not signed into Facebook, it's just an ugly long gray empty bar. I've researched it and as far as I know, there's no way to be signed into Facebook and opt out of that Friends gallery (even if all your Facebook syncs are off). Big thumbs down for this. Sharing is a little weird, too. It's not a biggie but you have to pick where you want to share it to first, then select the pictures. Feels backwards. I think there will be two camps here. People who think HTC made the right choice by bucking the megapixel trend and trying something unique, and people who think the compromises aren't worth it. How often do you take shots in the dark or in low light? Can flash solve that problem for you? Are you willing to compromise almost everything else to have good low-light shots? These are the questions to ask to see which camp you fall under. I would not have minded if they just gave us a solid 13 MP camera. There would've been nothing wrong with that. It is what it is and I apparently don't have the latest camera software, so I'm hoping things will get better. Either way, it's another waiting game with HTC. -Lack of AWS HSPA+ is a shame for T-Mobile users This phone is unlocked meant for all GSM carriers, except the one it works on ideally is AT&T because it supports all their bands. For T-Mobile, it supports only HSPA (21 MB/s) and LTE, and doesn't support HSPA+ (42 MB/s) which is what the LTE network falls back to if it should not find LTE. In NYC HSPA is refarmed but not always reliable. You walk remotely into a building, you lose service or it drops to EDGE/2G. In a car moving? It gets intermittent service. It's sad to still see "E" on a 2013 super smartphone. Some of this is T-Mobile's fault, some of this is HTC's fault. If HTC included the AWS HSPA+ band, it would've covered more ground. I am optimistic T-Mobile's network will get better when they light up LTE in the summer. For now, be aware if you're buying the unlocked/Developer's Edition from HTC for use on Tmo. Onto some of the a-little-less-sucky stuff... -Battery life is good enough I do almost the same thing on my morning commute. The commute is almost the same distance and time-wise. A little email, a text or two, Flipboard, and browsing the web, then a game or two if the news is slow. When I get into my office, that's usually how I gauge how the battery life fares. It's not scientific, but that's the only time I can do a consistent comparison. Then I see how it goes for the rest of the day. The One comes in at around the 85% mark. This is not bad, but I wish it was better. For comparison's sake, the iPhone 5 would come in at around 92-94%... The Nexus 4 around 86-88%... and the Galaxy Nexus in at low 90s. Of course, all those phones had their later and more refined software running. So hopefully it'll get better for the One in the future? It seems to have good standby time. If I don't use my phone for a few hours and pick it up later, the percentage drops maybe 1% or so. As for the rest of the day, with moderate use, it seems to make it into the evening. I've come home with ~30% around 7PM. Overall, I think the battery is serviceable. It definitely could be better and I do find myself sometimes minding it more than I want to -- as in, thinking about it or making sure I keep an eye on it. Maybe software updates will improve the battery efficiency down the line. One can hope. For now, it's good enough, and shouldn't be a deterrent from getting this device. For HTC, this is a huge compliment. -Yeah, the power/wake button is a little hard to reach. But it's not as bad as it was when I had the HTC One X, which I think is where most of my fears about it came from. I still disagree with HTC for their stubborn insistency on placing the power/wake button at the top of their devices. I've said this a million times: as devices get larger, it just makes more sense to place such an important button where it's more readily and easily reachable. I shouldn't have to do any sort of stretching or shuffling to reach it. This is the only button to access your device and without proper widgets/apps the only button to sleep your device too. Why put it out or reach? Nokia, LG, Sony, Samsung, and others have figured it out. (And please don't bring up the IR blaster. No one said the IR blaster had to be the same as the power/wake button.) Don't know why HTC is so stubborn about this. They clearly must have thought about it, but think they're still making the right decision to put it on top. Look at the Droid DNA. Top-center power/wake button. Not an IR Blaster. While there is shuffling involved in one handed use, thankfully, thanks to the ergonomics of the One, it's relatively manageable. Your mileage may vary, of course. Also, ironically, being so far left makes it just a hair easier to reach with the right hand index finger (than say top right like the HTC One X); the distance is less to "travel" so to speak for the right hand index finger. Some other minor annoyances involving the location of the power button: The camera glass easily gets smudged when the index finger is reaching up to it. I find myself wanting to use two hands to hit the button more than I want to. And I do find myself inadvertently hitting the volume keys sometimes when I reach up for the power button just like some reviews have warned. It's a little frustrating. I think it's ironic that I'm doing that with this configuration because that's people's defense for the power/wake button on top; so you don't accidentally hit the volume rockers. I've never accidentally hit the volume rockers on a device that had both the volume rockers and power/wake buttons on the sides (opposite). But I'm doing it with the One. Go figure. Overall, it's not as disastrous as I thought it would be, but its location still doesn't make sense and is cumbersome to use. HTC, stop being so stubbron about this and get with the program. -Kind of bizarre the USB port is off-center at the bottom. But whatever. Sort of gets in the way when you're using it with your right hand while it's charging. Plus, I imagine it could be annoying for people who already own certain types of docks. -Notification Light, how I missed thee! But wish you could do more. I love me my notification lights and HTC made this one subtle and placed it cleverly. I just wish it had more usable colors. Also, when charging, there's a consistent red light that stays on, which is fine, but then it doesn't blink or change colors or anything when I get notifications. Weird. Onto things I like... -BoomSpeakers seriously rock! Not only do the front facing speaker grills give the device an edgy and aggressive look, they function wonderfully too. You really just have to experience a call on speaker phone for yourself, or Google Navigation in the car, or just playing games/music from the device to really understand how awesome it is. Also, the music quality in general is superb. Music sounds great through the earphones. Tons better than it ever did on the iPhone 5. The One overall is a real audio pleasure. -It's hard not to fall in love with the design. This has already been discussed to death. It looks great, feels great, and is fun to show off. It really is what the iPhone 5 should have been. The ergonomics also make the device feel great in the hand. It's a lot narrower than I thought it was, and I think that helps. As for build quality, it feels sturdy and seems well built, but only time will tell if it's just all looks or actually is well built. I sure hope it stands the test of time. I worry about the chamfered edges. And the inability to repair the device easily (or repair it at all?) is worrisome for the future. I'm using the device with a clear skin on the back, and a generic static screen protector on front. The skin protector is barely noticeable, and I love it: -4.7 inch screen and quality is picture perfect. Screen size, the crispness, the way things look and pop... just everything about the screen is perfect. That's all there is to say. I also personally love that it's 4.7 inches. It makes reaching across the screen a little easier. Not going with the fashionable 5" screen is one "bucking of the trend" that I actually commend HTC for. -IR Blaster is pretty nifty. It works very well with my TV and Cable Box. Just a handy and convenient feature to have for those times you have your device in hand and the remote is out of reach. NOTE: This doesn't mean it should be the power/wake button. Neat idea, but I still stand by my feelings about the power/wake button being on top as 100% unnecessary. DECISION TIME I think it comes down to this: The HTC One is a little bit of the best of both worlds from Apple and from Google... with just a touch from Apple's bad side in some respects with Sense forcing certain things on you... and just a touch from Google's bad side in some respects with the average camera. It's also amazing to me how a few key decisions can mar an otherwise good experience. The home configuration button just makes no sense. I don't now how else to put it. And it affects more than just the look and feel. It affects how you use the App Switcher, it affects how you use Google Now. It affects how you use the very home button itself. Likewise, the camera gamble is a big mistake. Maybe the biggest. There's just too many compromises. This is probably the hardest thing to reconcile about this device. This might improve over the next camera software update, though. Having said all that... I have to admit I am pretty enamored by the One. I won't say it's a keeper until I give the S4 a shot, but I will say I want it to be a keeper. Hopefully HTC will stay in the game with future updates; they will have to prove that they will support their own flagship product with timely and meaningful updates. So far, the fact that they're mum about 4.2 is deservedly worrisome. Lastly, I won't deny value playing a big part in me wanting to keep this device. The 64GB dev edition is only $650 unlocked and I LOVE having 64GB. Factor in HTC's wonderful trade-in program which will get me back $100 for an old Blackberry Curve that was otherwise just gathering dust and you have a real bargain. They threw in a free case for the delay and free overnight shipping, too. All in all, I spent exactly $549 (tax free) to get one of the biggest smartphones of 2013 with 64GB. You can't beat nor ignore that. It's difficult to ignore what's coming later this year too. If I should, say for example, want the Moto Phone X or the 2013 Nexus, I'll feel much better about spending $550 dollars to have used the One for less than a year. Plus, with 64GB, the resale value would be higher, too. All these considerations will be major factors in my decision. And because T-mobile delayed the S4 launch, I don't think I'll be able to get the device in hand to do a real side by side comparison in time (HTC only gives you 14 days). I may just have to pick out some time and use a live floor display model to compare. This is good news for the One and unfair to the S4, but that's Samsung's fault for the delay. These are circumstances beyond my control. I'll update in this thread my S4 impressions when I can. For now, my journey with the One looks like it'll continue even if I think HTC made some flat-out stupid and senseless decisions here and there. HTC, I'm rooting for you.