HTC's One is the company's one last shot

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: February 16, 2013

As we inch inexorably closer towards February 19, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of anxiety building in my gut. HTC has always been one of my favorite device manufacturers, even before I got my hands on the original Hero, and the 19 of February marks a very important date for the company. While nothing has been confirmed yet (obviously), we’re all expecting to see the newest high-end device from the company unveiled on that date. This is the device that, based on the rumors, will drop the unnecessary naming schemes and just go right for the knock-out punch: The One.

This will apparently be the one phone you want to buy in 2013. This will be the one device you’ll want to get your hands on (at least for the first six months of the year, right, HTC?) in 2013. This is, for all intents and purposes the One. And I fully expect to see that bit of marketing somewhere in HTC’s announcement event on the 19.

“This phone really is the One.”

It practically writes itself.

That anxiety I mentioned earlier isn’t so much because I think HTC isn’t going to unveil a great phone. No, that isn’t it at all. In fact, I think HTC is going to unveil a phone that I’ll immediately want to buy, even if I know there’s still going to be their proprietary Sense user interface attached to the Android mobile operating system. But, we’ll get to that in a few moments. I know that I’m going to want the hardware, just because it’s HTC and I’ve always been a fan of their devices. And if the recent leaks are any indication of what we should expect, then yes, I already know I’m going to want it.

But, let’s get this off our collective chest: Yes, the last leak we saw of the One, and many of the leaks before it, make this particular device look like an amalgamation between Apple’s iPhone 5 and BlackBerry’s Z10. It does. But I’m going to go ahead and tell you right now that I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Sure, HTC probably could have come up with a final design that looked much different, but I’m saying right here and now that the One looks nice. Very, very nice. (But I think the iPhone 5 and the Z10 look nice, too. So, there’s that.)

Did they “copy” Apple and BlackBerry? That’s for a different discussion, I think. Until we have that particular conversation, let’s just look at the phone for what it is by itself, in that lone image up there by itself. It’s a nice looking phone! I can only imagine how thin and light it’s going to be, once finally unveiled. And, of course, that is if this is the final version of the device we’re all expecting to be unveiled in just a few days. Curveballs don’t happen all that often, but nothing’s impossible.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get the rumored specifications out of the way, just so we know what we’re dealing with in the bulk of this particular article. At the top of the list is a 4.7-inch SoLux full HD display will apparently boast a pixel per inch count of 468. In initial leaks, the display was said to have improved color accuracy compared to previous Super LCD displays that HTC used, so that’s also a huge bonus. Additionally, the phone will apparently harbor a quad-core processor under the hood, along with 2GB of RAM and a whopping 32GB of on-board memory. (If that’s true, HTC, then thank you. Make sure it stays that way from model to model, okay?) The phone will also be running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean out of the box, and boast a 13MP camera on the back, along with a 2MP front-facing shooter.

So, we’ve got a phone that looks great, but also has a features list that’s definitely worth paying close attention to. As long as the rumors pan out. If the rumors pan out, then it would seem HTC certainly has a phone they could put some real marketing muscle behind. A win-win, if you ask me.

But, here’s my question: How does HTC stand out? What does HTC have to do to make their newest flagship device, which will reportedly feature plenty of high-end specifications, get any elbow room against the likes of Apple or, especially, Samsung? After all, just releasing a high-end smartphone doesn’t mean much in this complicated and competitive market. Sure, you’ll see some sales, but not anywhere near the likes of where you ought to be.

That’s a pretty tough question, I think. Having a nice package (the hardware) is definitely a step in the right direction. If HTC can prove right there on the stage, and amongst the fleet of journalists covering the event, that the HTC One’s hardware is second-to-none, then we’ve got a ballgame. The next step is software, and what is being called Sense 5. This is HTC’s latest attempt at making their aging proprietary software work on a new, high-end device, and I think this is going to be where the water gets a bit dicey.

Why? Because Sense. I’ll tell you right here, right now, that I stopped using HTC-based devices because of Sense. The last phone I bought for myself manufactured by HTC was the Rezound, and I stopped using it because Sense made my experience less than stellar just a few days after purchasing it. It bogged down, lagged, and the proprietary skin just didn’t add anything to the experience for me. Not in the same way it did for me back in 2009 when I bought the original Hero. Sense has aged just as much as iOS, in my book, so it’s up to HTC to change it. To make it work.

Can Sense 5 do that? Theoretically, sure, why not? As aforementioned, nothing’s impossible. And from what I’ve seen in the leaked images showing what’s supposed to be Sense 5, I can see that HTC is at least giving the proprietary software a few visual tweaks. But that won’t be good enough. Sense has to give something to the user, and not just a visual differentiation between it, Samsung’s TouchWiz, or even LG’s proprietary user interface. It has to offer something.

Just pick up a device like the Galaxy S III or the Galaxy Note II. Those devices are literally laden with features, and Samsung has made sure they’re built into TouchWiz, which makes the features part of the proprietary software. That’s basically genius, and HTC needs to emulate this immediately.

So this is me saying that the new One is HTC’s one last shot at giving an Android-based run a chance. I think they’ve got a lot of room with Microsoft’s Windows Phone, but that will only go so far since it is Windows Phone. HTC’s efforts in Android can’t slow down. They need to get more focused, better, and the results need to be provided to the end user. That will make everyone happy.

So what do you think? Is this HTC’s last shot at keeping any traction in the Android market? Or even the smartphone market in general? Or is HTC one of those companies that will just continue to pump out phone, after phone, and do what they can to merely be a presence, rather than a true competitor? Let me know what you think.