Pre-orders on the gigantic 7-inch ASUS Fonepad phone/tablet hybrid have now opened in the UK. Carphone Warehouse, Amazon and Sainsbury's will each be selling the Fonepad, priced at £179.99, due for release on the 26th April.
First revealed back at MWC 2013, the whopping handset is the same size as some tablets despite its call-making abilities, and comes complete with an Atom Z2420 processor, Android version 4.1, 16GB of built0in memory and space for microSD expansion.
"It is ideal to have a larger screen with entertainment, social media and other online activities now playing an increasingly important part in our mobile lifestyles," said Jonney Shih, ASUS Chairman.
"The incorporation of 3G mobile data with full telephony support, makes the Fonepad the perfect combination of a tablet and phone in one single device."
We're not sure who in their right mind would want a phone this size, but at least the price hasn't scaled up with the size - £179.99 is perfectly reasonable whether you see the device as a tablet or phone. Those looking for similarly-sized handsets from Samsung should turn their attentions to the 5.8 and 6.3 Samsung Galaxy Mega handsets.
Huawei have just revealed release date and pricing information for their budget wonder, the Huawei Ascend G510.
First spotted at this year's MWC 2013 show, it'll set you back a mere £130 on PAYG, or free on £13 a month contracts from Vodafone.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that at such low prices the phone wouldn't be up to much, but it's actually packing an impressive spec sheet for the price.
With a 4.5-inch display, it's powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, running Android Jelly Bean version 4.1 and even supporting wireless NFC tech.
4GB of storage is onboard, which can be expanded by microSD cards, while there's a 5MP camera on the rear and 1,750mAh battery under the hood. It's not too shabby then, though Huawei's Android re-skinning wont be for all tastes.
Launching on April 12th, Vodafone UK are the only announced carrier so far. Expect to see the G510 go up against other budget devices including Huawei's own Ascend W1 as well as the HTC Desire C, Orange San Diego and ZTE Blade 3.
PC shipments worldwide continue to slide in the wake of the tablet and smartphone revolution, with the first quarter of 2013 seeing only 76.3 million machines ship, resulting in the PC market's biggest ever decline.
IDC, which has tracked PC shipments since 1994, saw the number of devices shipped fall 13.9% over the same quarter in 2012; a far greater decline than the 7.7% forecasted.
Defining PCs as desktops, portables, notebooks and workstations (but not x86 servers or tablets), HP stayed on top as the leading vendor with a 15.7% marketshare. But even that was as part of a 23.7% decline in shipments overall compared to the previous year. Lenovo saw now growth in second place with a 15.3% market share, while Dell sat in third with an 11.8% market share and a 10.9% overall decline. Acer suffered massively, sitting in fourth place with an 8.1% marketshare and hit with a whopping 31.3% decline overall. ASUS round out the top five with a 5.7% marketshare and a 19.2% drop in growth.
"Although the reduction in shipments was not a surprise, the magnitude of the contraction is both surprising and worrisome," said David Daoud at IDC.
"The industry is going through a critical crossroads, and strategic choices will have to be made as to how to compete with the proliferation of alternative devices and remain relevant to the consumer."
While tablet and smartphone sales take most of the blame for the decline, poor marketing of Windows 8 is also raised as a potential factor by IDC.
"While some consumers appreciate the new form factors and touch capabilities of Windows 8, the radical changes to the UI, removal of the familiar Start button, and the costs associated with touch have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices," said Bob O'Donnell at IDC.
However, even tablet market leaders Apple with the iPad have seen the tablet market spike have an adverse effect on their own computer sales. At the company's Christmas-season earnings call the company say Mac sales sitting at 4.1 million, down from 5.2 million the previous quarter.
ZTE have unvieled their latest smartphone packing an Intel chipset, the ZTE GEEK.
Powered by Intel's new 32nm Atom processor platform Z2580, it's clocked at 2GHz and is backed by 1GB of RAM.
Running Android Jelly Bean, it's fronted by a 5-inch 720p display, and comes complete with an 8MP camera, 8GB of built-in storage, a 2,300 mAh battery, which also supports wireless charging. 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity are included, but no 4G.
"Our recent collaboration with Intel on the ZTE GEEK builds off of the success of the Grand Series and further enhances our competitiveness in the high-end smartphone market," said ZTE EVP and Head of the Mobile Devices Division Mr. He Shiyou.
"This partnership also will improve customer experiences by providing them with more choices in the market."
Indie rock legends the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have sparked debate over the place of smartphones at gigs by insisting that punters at their live shows don't pull out their tech while they play.
While attending the New York trio's show at Webster Hall, Spin spotted the following sign posted onto doors at the venue.
"PLEASE DO NOT WATCH THE SHOW THROUGH A SCREEN ON YOUR SMART DEVICE/CAMERA.
PUT THAT SHIT AWAY as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian.
MUCH LOVE AND MANY THANKS!
YEAH YEAH YEAHS"
Singer Karen O re-iterated the request from the stage, telling the crowd that they could snap away during the second song of their set, but then had to "put those motherfuckers away."
The request follows similar sentiments from other high-profile stars, including Prince. The diminutive pop star is very protective over what images of him are released to the public, and threatened those at his recent SXSW appearance with removal if they were spotted using smartphone devices.
It's an interesting argument. I for one hate smartphones at gigs, obscuring my view of blistering live performances while other punters lose the real-time experience by watching the whole thing through smartphone or digital camera screens. And don't get me started on iPads at gigs! They're just ridiculous, and massively obscure the view of those behind them, dulling the atmosphere as people stand statically trying to protect their expensive tech from the bustle of the crowd.
On the other hand, it's reasonable to want to capture a great gigging moment with a camera or video, and I have to admit being grateful of all the YouTube clips posted of gigs I wasn't lucky enough to attend.
My brother took it a step further at a recent gig I went to with him though; he played the Infinity Blade game on his iPhone the entire way through a support band slot, which I felt was rude. He countered with the fact that he felt he'd only paid to see the top-billing band at the show, and would reserve the right to turn over a song he didn't like on the radio. Why can't he enjoy a bit of downtime on his phone while waiting for the act he really cares about?
When it comes to recordings though, you wonder how much damage is causes the artists and fans caught on film. With record sales declining, gig ticket sales and subsequent tour DVDs are an important revenue stream for bands. Do bootleg YouTube videos diminish the potential returns on such products? Some artists however have embraced them; Supergrass's Supergrass is 10 DVD included bootleg footage sent in by fans.
So what do you think? Should smartphones, tablets, and even digital cameras be banned from live performances? Or should those who want to capture performances be allowed to enjoy gigs as they please? Leave your response in the poll below!
Sick of black and white iPhones, but don't want to have to cough up cash for a garish cover? The rumoured launch of the iPhone 5S may be ready to sate your appetite for tints and shades, as Japanese publication Macotakara are now reporting that the handset will come in multiple different colours.
Citing unnamed sources, Macotakara claim that five different colour iPhone 5S models will be available at launch. And while specific shades were not mentioned, it's easy to guess at what they could be, following the iPod's lead with black, white, yellow, pink and blue finishes.
The iPhone 5S is expected to be an incremental update for the line, and is unlikely to have dramatic new features, such as the iPhone 5's elongated screen. Aside from a spec bump and traditional camera improvements, it's likely to be a very similar phone to what launched last year.
EE has announced that it's doubling the amount of the 1800MHz spectrum it currently devotes to its 4G network, leading to doubled mobile network data speeds in the process.
Upping the amount of the spectrum used for 4G from 10MHz to 20MHz, users hitting the highest speeds on the network will benefit from 80Mbps download speeds, while even the country-wide average will now top out at 20Mbps.
The widened spectrum amount will also lead to greater capacity, allowing more concurrent users on the network without affecting speeds.
"Mobile users in the UK have a huge appetite for data-rich applications, and this will only grow as people become more familiar with and reliant upon next generation technologies and services," said EE CEO Olaf Swantee.
"Our double speed 4G network will provide developers with the quality and speeds needed to develop the next wave of killer 4G apps. Whatever innovations they come up with, we're ready."
Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield will be the first cities to benefit from the improved speeds by the summer, with the network aiming for one million subscribers by Christmas.
The only way is up for the Samsung Galaxy line, as leaked specs for the new Samsung Galaxy Mega handsets suggest the company are looking to further blur the line between smartphone and tablet. Two models, 5.8 inch and 6.3 inch versions, have had rough spec sheets posted online.
SamMobile have got their hands on the details of the Galaxy Mega 5.8, giving a pretty clear indication of the hardware its packing. Codenamed the GT-I9152, it's said to be a dual SIM smartphone running either Android 4.1 or 4.2 Jelly Bean, with a 5.8-inch 960x540 display.
A 2MP camera sits on the front of the 5.8 Mega, with an 8MP snapper on the back. 1.5GB of memory seems a bit of a suspect feature (RAM usually comes in multiples of 2, not half figures), while a 2,600mAh battery and 1.4GHz processor also feature.
Its chassis is said to be 164mm x 83.8mm x 9.7mm, making it bigger than even the stonking Galaxy Note 2, pictured above.
That's before we've even looked at the specs uncovered by Korean website Daum for the Galaxy Mega 6.3 model, which packs in a gigantic 6.3 inch screen, a dual-core Exynos processor, 2MP and 8MP front and rear cameras and the option of black or white chassis shades.
At 6.3 inches, can you even classify it as a mobile phone anymore? It's hardly "mobile" at all; you're going to need a backpack, not a pocket to carry it in. Of course, all these specs are as-yet unconfirmed by Samsung, so there's the possibility that they're off the mark slightly.
But it's not the first time we've heard word of Samsung pushing screen sizes this high. Remember the ridiculously named "Galaxy Fonblet" (which may in fact be the 5.8 Mega)? Whether you like it or not, the big screen trend isn't going anywhere.
A new job posting from Apple has added further fuel to the fire of rumours suggesting that the Cupertino company could be looking to add a fingerprint scanner into the iPhone 5S and other iOS devices, as well as potentially Mac products.
The company is on the hunt for a software engineer to join a new team at the Melbourne Design Centre on Florida's Space Coast. That's the same area of Florida where you'd find AuthenTech, the fingerprint sensor specialists that Apple bought last year for $365 million (£233m).
It's the only Florida-based role on the company's website, and requires an applicant that can write "low-level code to configure and control hardware".
Though fingerprint scanners are not mentioned by name, applicants are required to have had experience in hardware and firmware interaction, the sort of interactions that activating a fingerprint scanner and having a software response would entail.
Since the buyout last year rumours of an iPhone fingerprint scanner have swirled. Apple will be looking for a new USP for the annually-updated phone, and with rumours also suggesting that Apple are looking to introduce money management and payment systems into the new iPhone, a further security measure like this would be useful.
However, Apple regularly invest in new technologies that never see the light of day in their products, or at least not in the ways analysts predict. While we may well see fingerprint sensors hitting Apple gear in the future, it may be a hardware generation away still.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 isn't going to come cheap, with its price revealed to be hovering around the £530 mark. If that's too much of a stretch for your wallet, you may want to check out Samsung's new mid-range offering, the Samsung Galaxy Win.
Sharing similar looks to the Galaxy S4, it's packing a slightly slower quad-core processor, though is expected to come in at a significantly cheaper price.
A 4.7-inch handset, its screen runs at 720p resolution, with 8GB of built-in storage and a 5MP camera on the rear.
Running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, some of the S4's impressive still camera shooting modes have trickled down to the Win, including Continuous Shot and Best Photo, as well as software features like the new Easy Mode, stripping back Android to your most used functions and apps.
There's also Motion UX gesture controls, letting you control elements of the mobile software onboard without using the usual taps and swipes.
No word on pricing or release information yet, but we'll keep you posted.
Are you a blog reading, Twitter obsessed, Instagram snapping O2 customer whose daily commute sends you through the hellish tunnels of the London Underground? Then today's your lucky day; you'll now be able to access Wi-Fi on the tube!
Inking a deal with Virgin Media similar to that already offered to Vodafone and EE customers, O2 subscribers will now be able to access Virgin's underground web infrastructure at no extra cost as of June. Details on how to sign up will be sent to all customers in due course.
It's becoming a very healthy network underground, with Virgin Media adding a further 12 stations to the service this week, including Bank, Earls Court and Baker street, bringing the total number of connected stations up to 120.
With Virgin, Vodafone, EE (taking in T-Mobile and Orange too) and now O2 all covered by the underground network gratis, that leaves just Three users out in the cold. They still have to pay additional fees in order to access the service.
Revealing its first financial results for 2013, the company have posted their lowest ever profits for the period, with net income down a monumental 98%.
Much of the blame lies with the late release of the flagship handset, hitting UK stores two weeks late and still missing from US shelves and other key markets. With a timely release of the HTC One, analysts had estimated HTC's first quarter net income to have been around NT$600 million (£13 million), but the delays lead to a posting of just NT85 million (£1.84 million).
With the phone now hitting stores, it's possible that HTC's fortunes could bounce back for the second quarter, but again they face difficulties. Despite looking to be the superior phone, HTC's One now has to face the might of the Samsung Galaxy S4, a brand synonymous with Android and a go-to product for many looking for a new top-end smartphone. HTC have also lost the power of early hype and buzz surrounding the device; despite glowing reviews, the tech world moves quickly, and those holding out for the HTC One may start looking further afield for their new handset.
I assume you have all caught the Facebook news from yesterday. If not go here. Suggesting that apps were a legacy from the PC age Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a new wrapper for Android 4.0 handsets called Home that is embedded in a six handsets - three each from HTC and Samsung - and will be available to download via the Google Play Store.
The wrapper's customise the home screen of an Android phone enabling notifications, images and messages to appear on the main screen of the phone.
Its nearest cousin is the way in which Amazon has wrapped its content around the Kindle Fire Android powered tablets.
It is an interesting move but is it enough to make you want to run your phone via Facebook? Or do you think it is all a step too far?
Whatever your views, it is a shift in emphasis that Facebook needed to make. It has to get more people using Facebook on their mobiles so it can present mobile advertising to them.
Zuckerberg said."The home screen is the soul of your phone. It sets the tone. We feel it should be deeply personal." And: "It's putting people first in your phone."
So in order for consumers to let Facebook lodge on their home phone the company needs to deliver a pretty compelling set of features.
Well slowly but surely over the past year or so that is exactly what Facebook has been doing.
Want to make a call? Well Facebook recently introduced its free Messenger calling service in the UK. So if you and your Facebook buddy both have the service live and a Wi-Fi connection you can chat without paying.
Want to listen to music? Well don't bother firing up your Spotify app you can listen to your tracks on Spotify via Facebook. Image - well they have Instagram. Want to read the news - well several sites have Facebook apps.
You get the picture. It has always been the stated aim of the company for Facebook to be the internet for people and with Facebook Home on the mobile it could mean that people spend more of their time using the company's services.
What I think Facebook are hoping for is that Home goes viral. In that users download it and show it off to their friends outlining all the benefits, who then go and download it. It is fair to say that with Android they have good chance too for even though the OS is highly customisable a lot of phone owners barely tweak their home screen at all.
The next question for Facebook then is getting the Home feature to work on iPhone or Windows handsets. It is not a move that you can't see Apple freely and readily making, but if Home becomes massively popular on Android it may have no choice.
It looks like Facebook has an interesting year ahead.
You may not be able to get 4G speeds on your mobile where you live just yet (check here to see if you can) but one place where it's guaranteed is in the back of these distinctly coloured cabs in London and Birmingham.
Launched yesterday was a fleet of 50 4G enabled hackney carriages offering 4G to passengers across London and Birmingham courtesy of EE. Each car has been given a hi-tech makeover and fitted with a state-of-the-art MiFi wireless router that acts as a mobile 4G hotspot connecting the cabs to the UK's only superfast 4G network.
Says Spencer McHugh, Director of Brand, EE said: "The first motorised black
cabs hit the streets in 1901, nearly 70 years before the first
smartphone was available to consumers, now we are bringing this icon of
British transport into the 21st century with a 4G make-over.
this trial will demonstrate the benefits of a superior online experience
as users can browse, download, catch up on emails, Tweet and check
Facebook literally at the speed of light. We can't make taxi journeys
any faster but we can certainly speed up people's smartphones!"
The free 4G service will be available for three months with 40 traditional Hackney carriages in London and 10 in Birmingham decked out with the state-of-the-art technology.
BlackBerry may have just posted a surprising fourth-quarter profit off the early successes of their BlackBerry Z10 handsets (shifting 1 million of the new phones and 6 million smartphones overall). But it's the news that company founder Mike Lazaridis is to resign from his post as vice chair and company director that's the item we'll take away from this latest earnings call.
Establishing the company alongside co-CEO Jim Balsillie and co-founder Doug Fregin in 1998, Lazaridis helped steer the company to a point where they were clear smartphone market leaders and innovators. However, the dual leadership approach saw the company's fortunes fade in the wake of touch-orientated smartphones like the iPhone, leading to Lazaridis handing over the reigns to current BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins in January 2012.
"With the launch of BlackBerry 10, I believe I have fulfilled my commitment to the Board," said Lazaridis.
"Thorsten and his team did an excellent job in completing BlackBerry 10. We have a great deal of which to be proud. I believe I am leaving the company in good hands. I remain a huge fan of BlackBerry and, of course, wish the company and its people well."
Lazaridis will now focus on running his own investment fund alongside Fregin.
BlackBerry have revealed their fourth quarter, end of year results for fiscal 2013. And it seems the launch of the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone and BB10 operating system is having a positive effect on the flailing company's fortunes.
1 million BlackBerry Z10 handsets have been sold according to the Canadian phone giant, with 6 million smartphones overall shipped in the quarter ending March 2nd.
That's resulted in a net income for the quarter of $98 million (19 cents a share), an increase year-on-year of an earlier profit of $9 million, or 2 cents a share.
The company are not over the hill just yet however; despite the strong sales of the new handset, customer numbers still slipped to 76 million subscribers, down from 79 million the previous quarter, and 80 million the quarter before.
"We have implemented numerous changes at BlackBerry over the past year and those changes have resulted in the Company returning to profitability in the fourth quarter," said Thorsten Heins, President and CEO.
"With the launch of BlackBerry 10, we have introduced the newest and what we believe to be the most innovative mobile computing platform in the market today. Customers love the device and the user experience, and our teams and partners are now focused on getting those devices into the hands of BlackBerry consumer and enterprise customers.
"As we go into our new fiscal year, we are excited with the opportunities for the BlackBerry 10 platform, and the commitments we are seeing from our global developers and partners. We are also excited about the new, dynamic culture at BlackBerry, where we are laser-focused on continuing to drive efficiency and improve the Company's profitability while driving innovation. We have built an engine that is able to drive improved financial performance at lower volumes, which should allow us to generate additional benefits from higher volumes in the future."
We had a good long look at the BlackBerry Z10 for our review after launch, and while it's a sturdy performer, it didn't exactly set our hearts pumping. Click here for our full review.
EE have rolled out their superfast 4G network to a further 13 cities today, which means that now half the UK population has access to their 4G service should they want it.
On track for EE's goal to have 70% of the country covered by the end of the year, EE 4G can now be accessed in Bradford, Bingley, Doncaster, Dudley, Harpenden, Leicester, Lichfield, Loughborough, Luton, Reading, Shipley, St Albans and West Bromwich.
The news follows the announcement last week that EE will be brining superfast mobile download speeds to the deep reaches of rural Cumbria, where some struggle to get any internet access at all.
The other 37 towns with EE 4G are Amersham, Barnsley, Belfast, Birmingham, Bolton, Bristol, Cardiff, Chelmsford, Chorley, Coventry, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hemel Hempstead, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Maidenhead, Manchester, Newbury, Newcastle, Newport, Nottingham, Preston, Rotherham, Sheffield, Slough, Southampton, Southend-on-Sea, Stockport, Sunderland, Sutton Coldfield, Telford, Walsall, Watford and Wolverhampton.
EE is aiming for 98% of the UK population to have 4G mobile coverage from their network by the end of 2014.
The long awaited Samsung Galaxy S4 Android smartphone powerhouse has finally gone up for pre-order from all leading UK mobile phone networks, and we've got the run-down on every deal going.
The 5-inch, 1080p handset (which you can read about in detail here) won't come cheap, so we've put together this guide as to what you can expect to pay from each mobile retailer. Expect a late April shipping date, with the majority of retailers here pushing from an April 26th release.
A 16GB SIM-Free Samsung Galaxy S4 from Carphone Warehouse will set you back £629.95, while contracts start at £41 a month for a free handset on a two year contract. That puts you on the T-Mobile network, with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and unlimted data (subject to a fair usage policy). Carphone Warehouse are also offering a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 for the first 2,000 people to pre-order a handset, sweetening the deal considerably.
No SIM-free offer from Phones 4U, so it's straight to their contract deals. The free handset can be picked up on £41 a month contracts from either Orange or EE on a two-year deal. With Orange that bags you unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 3GB of data. With EE you get unlimited minutes, unlimited data and 1GB of superfast 4G data, as well as £50 worth of Google Play app store credit. Anyone who orders through Phones 4U also gets entered into a prize draw to win Samsung prizes.
If you're looking for the handset on a superfast 4G network, head over to EE, currently the UK's only LTE contract vendor. They're highlighting their best value deal as a 24-month, £41 a month contract with the handset costing £79.99, bagging you 1GB of 4G data, unlimited calls and unlimited texts. In this respect, it seems the deal they're offering through Phones 4U seems better, so maybe head over their first. If you're looking for 3G deals through Orange and T-Mobile, EE are also the place to grab them. T-Mobile are offering the handset for £36 a month on a two year deal with an upfront cost of £109.99, which gets you the 16GB handset, 2,000 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data. Details of Orange plans are yet to be finalised, but start with the phone costing £19.99 on £51 a month deals over two years.
As ever, Three have gone a good value approach. On their network you can grab a free Galaxy S4 handset on a two year contract which costs £35 per month and gives you all-you-can-eat data, 500 minutes and 5,000 texts. Jump up a mere two quid to £37 and you get an additional 1,500 minutes and 5,000 Three-to-Three network call minutes too.
Vodafone are offering the 16GB phone for free on a two year contract priced at £42 a month, bagging you unlimited UK minuted, unlimited UK texts and 2GB of data. Jump up to £47 a month and you bag an extra 1GB of data on top. If you've got a half-decent touchscreen phone to trade in, you can also get the Galaxy S4 for free on a £37 a month deal, with unlimited texts, minutes and 2GB of data. Vodafone's handsets are 4G-ready too, meaning you'll be able to sign up for their super-fast mobile download speeds once the network launches.
Again, just a pre-registration page from Expansys, who had initially been taking pre-orders for both black and white versions of the Galaxy S4. It may be a sign of stock shortages for the online retailer.
Three have revealed further details of their 4G roll-out plans during an earnings call on Tuesday, announcing that they will wait for the technology to have fully matured before rolling out a service to rival EE's in the UK.
"Our network stacks up very well. Right now the latest version of 3G and the early versions of LTE are not dramatically different and I am very confident that our customers are getting the right experience," said CEO Dave Dyson.
"Realistically, I think it's going to be towards the end of the year before you see us launch (4G) LTE as a technology."
Three acquired space on the 800MHz spectrum during the recent auction, but will bide their time it seems then before making use of it. Certainly, their standard 3G network is proving very popular, attracting an additional million new customers since the last earnings call.
The company's customer base now sits at a healthy 9.1 million, with the company making £101 million in profit - only Three's second year in the black since it began trading in 2003.
When Three eventually do decide to roll-out their superfast mobile network, they seem well placed to attract even more customers - the network has vowed not to add a premium to their 4G tariffs.
It's been a tough few months for HTC, but they're firing on all cylinders with the superb new HTC One. Find out why it's the new Android smartphone to beat in our full review!
The HTC One is truly a thing of beauty. With a full aluminium unibody build (displaying no visible joins), it measures 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3mm, and weighs 143 grams. It's a solid construction that has a reassuringly weighty presence in the hand. Not that it's overly heavy; though its weight and depth are both significantly bigger than the 7.6mm, 112g iPhone 5, the curved back design of the HTC One means that even with its large 4.7-inch screen it's a comfortable smartphone to hold. The use of premium metals also gives it an edge over forthcoming rival the Samsung Galaxy S4, which by comparison is primarily made of plastics.Continuing the minimalist design ethos laid down by last year's One Series HTC handsets, this year's One sees the 4.7-inch screen bookended top and bottom by two aluminium strips, housing the HTC One's BoomSound stereo speaker system and front facing cameras. Flip the phone over and you'll see these strips wraparound with a white line detail, with the much-vaunted UltraPixel camera sitting near the top, a dark silver HTC logo in the centre and the Beats Audio logo down the bottom.HTC keep buttons and ports on the edge of the One to a minimum; there's a chrome single-button volume rocker on the left hand side, a deftly hidden SIM-card tray on the right hand side, a microUSB charging port on the bottom and a 3.5mm headphone jack alongside the power button (which doubles up as an IR blaster) on the top. There are no physical buttons beneath the screen on the front either, with HTC dropping the multi-tasking touch-sensitive button from previous smartphone generations in favour of just touch-sensitive "Back" and "Home" buttons, each flanking a small HTC logo in the centre.The HTC One's screen is breathtaking, a 4.7-inch display with a full HD 1080p resolution for a 468ppi resolution. That's significantly sharper than the iPhone 5's 326ppi, and even the forthcoming Galaxy S4's 5-inch 441ppi screen. In terms of size, it's spot-on for what we'd want from a larger handset too, avoiding the comical size of the Galaxy S4 and the overly-elongated stretch of the 4.8-inch iPhone 5. It's a remarkably vibrant, colourful screen, avoiding the muted tones of the Nexus 4 and offering brightness levels high enough for comfortable viewing in strong daylight.Running the show is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, a quad-core beast clocked at 1.7GHz and backed by 2GB of RAM. It's a really zippy processor, powering some really impressive software features which we'll detail a bit later. It also helps with the HTC One's super-quick boot times; even from a full shutdown the handset powers up again in moments.Both 4G and NFC connectivity are onboard the HTC One (necessities these days if you're pushing a top-tier phone), alongside standards such as Wi-Fi (802.11 a/ac/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0, GPS with GLONASS and DLNA. Miracast is also supported, as is MHL HDMI.
Storage options come in 32GB and 64GB variants, so no 16GB "entry-level" price point with the HTC One, nor is there any expandable storage beyond Cloud-based apps. Make sure you grab a size you won't later regret.The HTC One houses a 2300mAh battery, which can't be removed or swapped out for a back-up. While larger in capacity than its HTC One X predecessor, it still struggles to last out an entire day. If you're simply pulling down emails and social networking notifications from the web it holds its charge well, but do anything more intensive, like 3D gaming or extensive use of the camera's Zoe system (more on those in a bit) and it starts to really suffer. It's far from being a deal breaker, but HTC are still a long way off from an all-day charge, let alone longer. On average use you'll see a working day out of the HTC One, but keep that charger handy.
Interface, apps and BlinkFeed
Though the HTC One is running Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2, it's almost unrecognisable thanks to the new Sense 5 overlay baked in. Though Android reskins usually cause eyebrows to raise, we've always been fans of the Sense UI, and there's plenty to make us feel that Sense 5 is HTC's best effort yet.
Offering a more minimalist interface (one that surprisingly calls to mind the LG Prada phone), you still have all the customisable bells and whistles of stock Android, with four homescreens you can populate with your choice of apps and widgets, which can be grabbed from the Google Play app store. Various lock-screens are available, specialising in everything from email to photo galleries, while long-presses on any homescreen give you the option to customise the experience. The app drawer now scrolls vertically rather than horizontally, while a static line of four app icons sits in a dock across all homescreens. These constant dock items can also be configured to your choosing. Notifications, battery life and connectivity settings can be seen at a glance from a bar along the top of the screen, which can be dragged down to tweak settings and delve deeper into the notifications you've been sent. It's simple, clean, and a joy to use.An additional homescreen is dedicated to BlinkFeed, HTCs striking new content aggregation app that pulls in everything from blog posts and social networking feeds. It sits somewhere between the Flipboard app and Windows Phone's Live Tiles, squeezing different sized boxes of information, updates and pictures into a vertically scrolling feed. It's beautifully presented, but we have a few reservations.
Firstly, there's no option for adding your own tailored sources, only the ones presented by HTC and their partners. While this covers a wide range of categories and interests, we'd still have preferred the option to import our own RSS feeds, like with Flipboard. Secondly, BlinkFeed isn't very smart; what the content providers push out is what you get, which is a shame as the interface would have been doubly useful if it grew to know your interests over time. We'd also have liked the option to cache a few hours worth of BlinkFeed updates over Wi-Fi for viewing on the go, rather than having to rely on mobile data when out and about. But we're being a little overly harsh on BlinkFeed; we found ourselves using it very often, and even took the option of switching off the lockscreen to see it immediately when waking up the phone. It's a strong USP that really sets the HTC One software apart visually from the iPhone and Galaxy lines.
Contacts, Calling and Messaging
HTC have always known how to handle contacts and address books well, and the HTC One continues in that fine tradition. Upon setting up the phone, the HTC One pulls in contact information from not only your Google account and any imported contacts from a previous phone, but also offers the option of grabbing details from social networking pals too. These are then paired with high resolution images from Facebook, instantly and simply populating your phone with all your pals' and associates' relevant details and profile pictures. Swiping right to left on a contact card also presents each individual's associated social networking updates (in a grid style similar to BlinkFeed) as well as any galleries they may have posted online. It's a comprehensive contacts set up, and again is presented with great care.
Calling is handed equally deftly. For starters, there's a Smart Dialler, letting you pull up a contact by tapping in their name or number using the T9 predictive text input, a feature that should really be standard on all smartphones these days. And call quality is outstanding too; noise reduction means that the recipient of your call can hear you even in the loudest of environments, whilst the inbuilt amp sensibly dialled up volume levels on our end when ambient noise made it necessary. Signal levels were consistently strong too, with not a single dropped call during testing.
SMS messaging is great on the HTC One thanks to the sizeable, accurate keyboard, that elsewhere intelligently adjusts itself dependant on what details are being inputted. Messages themselves are laid out again in a clean, simple interface, with text messages received boxed in white and justified to the right while messages you've sent appear to the left and in grey, all flowing in a conversation style view.Email is handled equally well, with messages on the same subject from the same contact grouped together rather than clogging your inbox up. A favourites folder can be set up to grab emails from VIPs, and a Smart Sync option intelligently pulls down emails only periodically, and when the phone is in use - great if you've got contacts who like to email you in the middle of the night and can't be bothered with hearing mail notifications at ungodly hours.
The Gmail app is also pre-installed, which is a fantastic mobile build of the desktop variant. Gmail users will be totally at home labelling and starring emails and scrolling through long chains of messages from the same recipient. There's also great search functionality built in, meaning you can easily dive into an inbox brimming with thousands of messages and pull out the one you're after.
Media Playback and HTC TV
HTC have clearly set the HTC One up as something of a media powerhouse, and it's something that you'll be made starkly aware of as soon as you hear the chimes of the HTC One intro screen. Those front-facing BoomSound stereo speakers are LOUD, delivering accurate sound at volume levels you wouldn't expect from a smartphone thanks to the nifty amp built in. While a sensible person will only use the (potentially annoying) loud speaker in moderation, that amp works wonders for boosting audio of connected headphones too.
The HTC Music app ditched SoundHound integration, but makes up for it with new visuals and lyrics pulled from the GraceNote database (providing your library of songs has accurate information tied to it). It's a nice feature, particularly if you've a penchant for karaoke. Playback controls and album artwork are presented nicely too, and it's a simple interface for ploughing through even the most vast of song libraries. There's also Google Music pre-installed, handy if you're pulling tracks from the cloud often.
Video playback is a mixed bag though, with battery drain a real killer and the default brightness setting low through the HTC Watch service. Audio had a tendency to fall out of sync too. But with a fair few codecs and formats supported (including the ubiquitous AVI), you'll be fine if you nab another player from the Android store. Once you have, it's a lovely, large screen to watch videos on. It's a shame then that the default HTC Watch service proves such a chore.
One particularly interesting addition however is the HTC TV app. It uses the power button as an IR blaster and, once you've gone through a set-up process to pair the phone with your TV or home cinema kit, allows you to control playback, change channels and more from the handset. You can also browse a guide to see what's on the TV, setting up favourites before seeing them presented as large thumbnails when they're being broadcast. We had no problem syncing the app with a wide range of home cinema kit and broadcast services. HTC have done a really good job of localising the content for the app and attaching appropriate metadata, and it's one of our favourite features on the phone.
Still Camera, Zoe videos
There's much that's been said of the HTC One camera system, and it's certainly a progressive move by HTC. For starters, it's "only" a 4MP sensor, but that's tempered against the fact that each pixel is much larger and lets in far more light, which should result in far more detailed images. Dubbed the "Ultrapixel", it performs particularly well in low-light scenarios, picking up detail that competing smartphone cameras can only dream of. The smaller 4MP images look stunning on the phone's screen, but it's worth noting that you'll see an increase in noise and a loss in detail when blowing them up on a PC screen. They're still pleasant to view however, and again the low-light performance really is marvellous. It's worth noting too that the HTC One shoots in a 16:9 ratio rather than 4.3, which won't be much of a concern to casual snappers, but is a bit at odds with the "pro" marketing of the phone's imaging system. Again, it suits the size of the phone screen though.
Loading up and firing pictures incredibly quickly, the HTC One offers all sorts of manual controls, such as ISO levels, as well as a range of scene selections, filters and shooting options running the gamut from Sweep Panorama to HDR.The Zoe shooting features are most interesting however, accessed from a icon tap whilst in the camera mode. It captures 0.6 seconds of HD footage before you press the shutter button, alongside the 3 seconds that follow a still image being captured. These then come to life in the gallery view, adding motion to the normally static scroll of images. Capture a handful of Zoe shots over the course of the day and the HTC One will pull them together automatically in a 30 second highlight reel, adding date and location data if you've got geo-tagging enabled. It all looks great, but as you need to see the feature in motion to truly understand it, check out HTC's launch vid below (Zoe is covered from the 24.15 mark):
You've little control over how these videos are presented though and Zoe shots quickly fill up the storage space on the phone. A Zoe Share Server is on offer if you want to offload some of the data to the cloud though, which is a prudent move on HTC's behalf.
Is Zoe revolutionary? No, but it's a lot of fun. Is the Ultrapixel camera revolutionary? Not quite, but it's at least a match for what's on offer from rivals, and given more time, could evolve into a real selling point for HTC phones. Even now though its performance is commendable.
HTC may be struggling at the moment, but the stars have really aligned with the HTC One. It's a handset built to high construction standards and brimming with fresh software ideas and imaging innovations. It carries the weight of the company on its shoulders, and has done near everything it possibly could to reverse HTC's fortunes, resulting in what's one of, if not the best Android phone on the market at present. Can it withstand the threat of the Samsung Galaxy S4? On sheer build quality, features and spec-sheet numbers we'd say it's got it trounced. Whether or not HTC can match the marketing might of Samsung to see the phone reach its true sales potential remains to be seen. Either way, we recommend the phone highly; if you're on the market for a high-end Android phone, this is the one you want.