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Opinion: Is the HTC One the ultimate iPhone switcher?

updated 07:14 am EDT, Fri May 17, 2013

The HTC One could be the most enticing Android smartphone yet

The HTC One may be the ultimate iPhone switch-inducing Android device yet, even if the Samsung Galaxy S4 juggernaut remains unstoppable for the time being. There are a few of key aspects of the HTC's Android flagship device for 2013 that makes it the most likely to interest Apple iPhone 4, 4S and 5 users itching for a change of scenery, but who can't wait as long as September when Jony Ive's design-influenced version of iOS could be released. Many iPhone users also love the beautiful industrial designs that Jony Ive has cooked up for the iPhone over the past few years. For many, however, even if they have contemplated switching to an Android device, most were simply not made to Apple's high standards of design and finish -- until now.

The HTC One is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful smartphones ever made. It is the type of cohesive and solid design that can only come with the choice to go ahead with a built-in battery. The One is also made from the same sort of premium materials that Apple users have long come to expect in their devices. The combination of the aluminum on the front and rear of the HTC One, along with its seamless integration of glass conveys the same sort of premium look and finish found on the iPhone 5. Yet, it is in no way obviously derivative of iPhone designs from Apple, demonstrating conclusively that a manufacturer does not need to rip-off Apple to come up with an original and stunning industrial design. As a long-time iPhone user it certainly caught my attention and I suspect I'm not the only one.

Apple's iPhone Retina displays with their 326ppi pixel density have been the benchmark for smartphone displays until recently. For a good couple of years, however, looking at the PenTile displays and those with a lower pixel density on competing Android devices made the thought of switching pretty unappealing. Once you've enjoyed a high pixel density, high resolution display, it is very hard to go back. Just ask the many potential iPad mini buyers who like the form factor of the iPad mini, but are holding off for a Retina version of that device. The display on the HTC One has the highest ever pixel density on a smartphone at 468ppi packed into a 4.7-inch 1080p display. At 4.7-inches, it is not too big to navigate one-handed either - just not as comfortably as on the 4-inch display on the iPhone 5. If you chose the iPhone because you wanted a smartphone with the best display, it is now found on the HTC One.

iPhone users have also long enjoyed the audio quality on their devices and this only improved with the release of the iPhone 5. It produces the sort of high quality sound that has attracted a massive after-market headphone economy that has targeted iPhone users to take full advantage of this. This has not gone unnoticed by HTC, integrating Beats Audio processing into their devices, but with little real success until now. HTC has ramped Beats Audio integration up a notch on the One, which now also includes high-performance front-facing stereo speakers powered by a built-in Beats Audio amplifier. Listening to music on the device in an enclosed space is surprisingly satisfying, while the added call clarity and volume is a revelation. Having used the One for the past few weeks, I can say that the sound quality is rich and clear and simply great to listen to with headphones on or off.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for iPhone users who have considered switching from an iPhone to an Android device has been the Android operating system itself. While it has tended to be more feature rich and flexible than iOS for some time now, it often suffered from stability issues, freezes, hang-ups and lag. Even when many an iPhone switcher jumped on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), many also found the experience less than satisfactory and switched back to the iPhone. Things changed with the launch of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), and have since continued to improve for the better with Android 4.1 and 4.2 (Jelly Bean). Further, HTCs Sense 5 customizations work well for the most part, and retain the inherent slickness and speed that iPhone users have long enjoyed from the iOS user interface. It is the first Android smartphone, apart from the Nexus 4, that I have had absolutely no qualms about using as my regular smartphone.

If you look at the photos taken with the HTC One from our One review, you will see that the iPhone 5 probably retains an overall lead over the HTC One in general use. However, if low-light situations are where you are most likely to use your smartphone, the HTC One outperforms the iPhone 5 pretty handily in this regard. It might not take the best photos outdoors, but they are certainly not bad. It also has the advantage of being able to take photos in burst mode, while also incorporating a few other tricks up its sleeve like HTC Zoe. If photography has been a driving factor in choosing the iPhone, then you will probably want to stick with it for the time being, but the HTC does bring something new to the table with its UltraPixel camera.

HTC has also developed iPhone-switching software for Mac users, which is something of a pleasant surprise. HTC Sync Manager for Mac actually a pretty decent effort too, and gives One users the option to sync their music via 'drag and drop' or through its Mac interface allowing users to click and select multiple albums or photo albums for syncing. Most interestingly though, it also has an iPhone switcher utility built-in taking your last iPhone back up and syncing the critical data like contacts, and calendar across to the One. Sony has also developed similar software for the Mac as the two companies look like they are quietly trying to outflank Apple, while it fights on the main battlefront with Samsung. It's great for user choice though.

Sure, there are things that I miss in making a switch to the HTC One. For one, I can't sync my legally purchased movies and TV shows through iTunes. Of course, I will need to repurchase some apps, but I still much prefer my iPad to any Android tablet so my app and movie investments will still get plenty of use for the time being. The iPhone remains a great app platform and without it, we wouldn't have the HTC One, or Android, as it is now. However, Jony Ive's redesign of the iOS user interface can't come quickly enough, while I'd also like to see Apple do something really interesting with its iPhone hardware too. Apple's WWDC in June will be critical if it wants to reassure investors and iPhone users that it is still the innovation powerhouse that sparked the smartphone revolution.

In the meantime, HTC has developed a smartphone proposition that may actually be more successful at switching iPhone users to the One than it is at switching Samsung Galaxy S4 users. That is no mean feat.

By Sanjiv Sathiah







HTC Sync Manager Software for Mac




By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. Geoduck

    Junior Member

    Joined: 01-14-10

    If I were going to go to Android The One would probably be the, er ... one. The reason is mostly because I've come to dislike Samsung's business practices intensely. Apple is not the only company suing them for stealing IP. I recently bought a TV and deliberately skipped the Samsung in favour of a Toshiba. I've been in the market for other items and whenever Samsung has been an option I immediately take it off the table. I don't do business with thieves.

  1. bleee

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 03-28-02

    It sounds like the One is a good alternative to the iPhone if you don't already own it, but there isn't anything that substantially better that would convince me to drop my existing iPhone. Where's the iMessage, Find My Friends, Find My iPhone replacement?

  1. ruel24

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-17-09

    Seriously, pixel density isn't the only measure of how good a display is. Brightness? Contrast? Gamma?

    There isn't an Android device, yet, that will make me switch. If the Samsung Galaxy S4 didn't have a pentile display, it could be a candidate. The One just doesn't stack up in the camera department, which is important to me, and there still isn't a Siri equivalent, not to mention the total lack of virus/malware in iOS compared to the plethora of it in Android. There isn't a single app in Android that I feel as if I'm missing, but there are several apps still completely missing in the Android catalog. Then, there is Apple's customer service, which is second to none by a long shot. Verizon's customer service isn't bad, but I'd much rather deal with Apple.

  1. nowayoutofmymind

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-07

    From F-Secure Q1/2013 threat report:
    91.3% of all threats -> Android
    8.7% Symbian
    0.0% Blackberry, iOS, Windows Mobile.

    Way to go Andrrrroid.... your market share in threats is astonishing.

  1. kerryb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-05-01

    This is a similar the the PC era when Sony or another hardware manufacturer put out a good quality PC with some actual good design. What kept me from buying a PC then was the Windows OS which in some ways was better than Android is to mobile devices. I know not everyone wants an iPhone that's fine with me but I am not convinced there is an alternative to the iPhone that competes on all levels, yet....

  1. macmediausa

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-23-05

    While a beautiful design, the first thing that came to mind when I saw the HTC one was that it reminded me of the iMac design - aluminum back, top and bottom and gorilla glass black front. The holes remind me of the speaker for the macbook pro.
    Absolutely NO ONE used the aluminum with glass design prior to the imac and macbook pro - so those were truly the innovation in design. HTC just borrowed those elements to create their version of the phone - nice but not innovation

  1. direktor

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 10-20-01

    I had a few bad moments with my iPhone a couple weeks ago...not finding emails I needed to find that moment, frustrations with small screen (again, email related)...

    ...and then a trip to Best Buy (yeah, I know) for a vacuum cleaner got me looking at Android for the first time in 2-3 years. Samsung had all their phones out and working, and I realized Android had come really far in a lot of ways since my last look. Closer inspection showed it still had a lot of junk going on. Crapware, etc.

    The HTC One caught my eye, I decided to investigate further. I researched for 3-4 days.

    Anyway, I've had the One for 4 days now. I still have my iPhone 5, sitting dormant until a decision is made (maybe after WWDC news is out?). Moving to Android, I have moved Calendar and Tasks to Google, I was already using Gmail so that was easy. All my contacts were on iCloud, but there was a checkbox in Contacts app on desktop to sync with Google, so moving contacts to Google/Android was as simple as one checkbox.

    I downloaded the Google Play desktop app which "matched" my iTunes library on Google, so all my music is on the phone now, albeit cloud streaming. Same as I was doing before with iTunes Match. Yesterday it prompted me to try All Access for free, so now I have my matched iTunes library and something equivalent to Spotify in one app. My Spotify subscription might be going away soon.

    Google Now is a nice and useful alternative/replacement for Siri. Definitely helping me get through a day of errands, driving around greater Los Angeles. I have a Mint widget telling me my checking balance at all times, which has been a failing of mine, keeping on top of my balance. I tried Mint on iOS years ago, but since it wouldn't tell me anything without me explicitly making an effort to check...it fell by the wayside.

    Blinkfeed (a Flipboard copy on a home screen just for the HTC One) is mildly nice. Entertains me while board in the checkout lane at Pavillions.

    Overall, it seems the million monkeys of Android developers who are constantly flinging shit to the wall to see what sticks have genuinely possibly surpassed iOS for the moment. My iPhone 5 feels, in comparison, to a device that will do anything I want it to if I have the presence of mind to remember to press the right chiclet tile..."there's an app for that". Android/Google on the other hand is paying very close attention to the 10 things you do on your phone every day repeatedly, and giving them to you without you having to "ask".

    I wouldn't want to do any of this Android stuff on a shitty, slow phone. It seems you need their cutting edge hardware for any of this to be worthwhile. Otherwise it a bloaty, stuttery mess. But the HTC One seems to have it's shit together, for the most part. I'm not ruling out going back to the 5 after iOS7, but for now, I'm enjoying Google's view of the future.

    Goddamnit though, I miss iMessage. And Find My Friends. But that's about it. At the rate Google's going, they will have that next week.

  1. direktor

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 10-20-01

    I should add, I've had an iPhone and nothing but since June 29th, 2007. And OSX since 10.1 Puma. Trying something besides an Apple product was a huge deal.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    Meh. I've got issues with Google, too. Not an option.

  1. aristotles

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: 07-16-04

    Let me get this straight direktor, you have been on the iPhone since 2007 but you have not bought any apps and that the only things you would miss would be iMessage and Find My Friends?

    We did not have the iPhone in Canada until iPhone 3G shipped which is when I jumped onto the iOS bandwagon. I have a tonne of paid apps on my IOS devices which would be worth ZERO dollars if I went to an android device. My 99 dollar iOS developer membership would also be worthless.

    From a developer's perspective, Android is mediocre. Nobody on Android wants to pay for apps and their official C/C++ API is anemic at best. Sorry, but Java does not cut it anymore.

    While you can now target both Android and iOS with Mono, the underlying API on Android is really limited. I don't want to have to reinvent the wheel especially if nobody wants to buy anything.

    It sounds like you never really used the iPhone as a "smartphone" and just used it for phone calls, texts and email because you otherwise would be missing Safari as well as the vast array of thirdparty apps and games.

  1. Bernie Ball

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-10

    >>iPhone 4, 4S and 5 users itching for a change of scenery, but who can't wait as long as September when Jony Ive's design-influenced version of iOS could be released.

    For me, iOS 6 does all I need a phone OS to do -- it's just that the iPhone screens are too small.
    I just need a bigger screen and longer battery life.
    And I know many professionals who love iPhones and iOS, but just have to move to a bigger screen.
    The Sony Xperia Z is what the iPhone 5 should have been. (and even its battery life is debatable)
    Apple are losing customers because they are not listening.

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