Three months in, here's why I can't sell my HTC One

Feed the fanboys

There are an alarming number of people hanging on a date for when Android 4.3 comes to their toy. Make those people happy.

I buy an HTC One running Android 4.1.2, then feel mildly robbed when the Galaxy S4 clumps into town wearing 4.2.2. Yes, I know, I know - it’s but a point increment in the software roadmap, a mere sliver of gravel on the development of a mobile operating system’s highway.

But I still felt robbed. S4 owners could gloat over their superior settings screen in notifications. They had (hush at the back, there) home screen widgets. Yes. All I had was a beautifully engineered phone that worked like a dream. 

As it happens, the 4.2.2 update for the One magicked its way over the airwaves only a few weeks back - and the 415MB update was boringly painless. It’s almost as though (again, hush at the back) HTC had thoroughly tested it before releasing the software. I know. Insane stuff.

But I think we can all see the direction of travel: Google has spread Android at a terrifying pace by letting manufacturers do what they want with the interface. And gosh, didn’t they take the brief to heart.

But just lately, the core apps that define that Google experience have been appearing in the Play Store as stand-alone items. If you want your TouchWiz-ed S4 to look more ‘stock’, the Play Store is now your friend. And meanwhile, the whole noise around the stock Android / Nexus experience is getting louder by the day, aided by the looming rebirth of Motorola.

So there’s every chance that in a surprisingly short period of time, the Sense 5 on my HTC One will signify that I have the ‘cheap’ cut of Android - at least in the eyes of my Moto X and Nexus 5-wielding chums. Perhaps that was part of HTC’s motive in launching the Google Play Edition in the US, giving the purists the option.

How to out-One the One? Release big Android updates the day before Google announces them. 

More after the break...

GOING LOUD MATTERS - EVEN WITH A PHONE

The HTC One has the best speakers on any smartphone, anywhere.

HTC One speaker sketch

And surprisingly, it does matter. The decision to put the engineering effort into extraordinarily good speakers may have been questioned by HTC’s high-ups at some stage: after all, don’t most humans experience their device’s tunes through headphones, while voices are held close to the ear?

In that light, the One’s BoomSound system may appear to be a cheap marketing trick included purely for advertising value. If it is, then cheap marketing tricks work, at least on me. Sad confession time: I’ve contrived opportunities to make friends watch ‘Tube videos, just so that I can feel smug when they comment on the One’s sound. I know, I need help. But I have £50 riding on the fact that I’m not alone (and if you’re a One owner reading this, I dare you to deny that you’ve never done the same).

In case you’re wondering, voice call quality is as good as music and movie soundtracks. And the One’s is cleverly calibrated: the maximum volume setting on external speaker is loud enough to draw a crowd, but with the headroom to ensure that there’s very little distortion. Even after 90 days, the novelty of having a phone that doesn’t sound like a strangled duck hasn’t left me.

How to out-One the One? Fit your new handset with a pair of floor-standing, audiophile speakers. 

TRUST THE PRODUCT TO DO THE MARKETING

And lastly, the hardest lesson of all. 

HTC One sketch

There’s something about the HTC One that’s heartening for anyone who loves product design (and we do). So many handsets in recent years have reeked of cut corners, or of marketing or accounts departments chiselling at the rightness of a product until… well, there was no product.

In that sense, the One’s from a slightly different era, when you made things that were rather good, and sold them. On the whole, people tended to buy them, then told their friends how good the thing was. No contrived social distribution campaign, no hidden team of 10,000 paid ‘evangelists’ peppering forums with praise. 

For all the praise I’ve lavished on the One here, my particular form of OCD means I’ll be touting a Moto X in a few months. When I've moved on in the past, I’ve never regretted it (the last excursion before the One was a Nexus 4 - still one of the finest, most understated toys on earth). This time, I have the horrible suspicion that I’ll want to downgrade.

UPDATE: Since posting this yesterday, it looks like we've sparked quite a debate among our Google+ followers - many are pointing to the difference between 'look and feel' from 'build quality' when it comes to the relative merits of the Galaxy S4 and HTC One. 

If you think that there is a difference between the two things, just let us know in the comments below.

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