HTC One smartphone: With a snazzy camera, improved audio and new interface, will it compete?

HTC is obviously eager to make a splash with its latest Android phone, the HTC One, and it may just do that. The phone is, on first look, well crafted and has some interesting features. 

The hardware itself looked good and felt good. When I picked it up, the HTC One was lightweight (it weighs about 5 oz. with battery, and has an all-aluminum chassis) and fit nicely in my hand. The 4.7-in. 1080p Gorilla Glass screen was bright, with a crisp, colorful image, and could be seen nicely from the side. The phone will ship with a quad-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

HTC One

HTC emphasized three main features in its presentation. 

Special emphasis was put on the new home screen interface, called HTC BlinkFeed, which continually streams and updates information from various sources -- you can set it up with preferred social networks, topics and sources. I have to admit that the BlinkFeed home page did look rather impressive: three large rectangular windows showed various graphic presentations of news, video, etc. What that's going to do to the life of the phone's 2300mAh battery, however, has yet to be seen.

In fact, HTC has played with the look and feel of the Android operating system so much that at least one attendee at the introduction asked if it were possible to get to the "real" Android interface. (Which may annoy users such as our own JR Raphael, who prefer their Android front, center and untouched.)

And then, there was the audio. The HTC One comes built with two front-facing stereo speakers, along with a dedicated amplifier and Beats Audio; while it was impossible to get a real impression of them with the noise level at the presentation, from what I could tell, the phone could indeed have a better volume level than the typically terrible sound that most smartphones have. I was also gratified when at least some attention was given the audio needs of the actual telephone; according to Jonah Becker, design leader for HTC, the HTC One offers noise suppression and dynamic in-call volume adjustment to allow for ambient sound levels.

The camera was the third emphasized feature in the presentation. Called the HTC UltraPixel Camera, it has an F2.0 aperture and 28mm lens, and can capture full 1080p video, We were told that the camera is capable of capturing 300% more light so that it works better in low-light conditions. How? According to Becker, it captures larger pixels. (You want to know the megapixel count? Don't ask -- literally. We were continually told that it wasn't relevant.)

The camera is also accompanied by a multitude of software enhancements, including a process called HTC Zoe, which automatically captures high-res photos and short videos simultaneously and assembles them into a video mix together with background music. Might be fun, although I have doubts about its usefulness in the long term.

As always, it's hard to get a real impression of a new phone during the circus atmosphere of an introduction (in this case, almost literally -- during the hands-on time that came after the formal program, there were several young men jumping over, around and onto a variety of large blocks for the entertainment and distraction of the press).

The phone is due to ship in March, and will be available from AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Reportedly, prices will be $199.99 for the 32GB model and $299.99 for the 64GB model; however, that hasn't been confirmed. 

From first impressions the HTC One looks like a fine new phone, with a lot of interesting consumer-focused features. We will take a closer look when the phone actually goes on the market.

HTC demos the BlinkFeed and Zoe features on its new HTC One smartphone.

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