A while ago, I picked up the HTC One. I purchased the device because I wanted to experience Android, as having been a Windows Phone user for three years made me all too comfortable with Live Tiles, black backgrounds and sparse user interfaces.
As interesting as Android is, the real reason I purchased the HTC One was because I wanted to know what it’s like to have a tier-one flagship device. Windows Phone is a great operating system with unique advantages, however hardware just isn’t one. Hardware specific features are somewhat lacking in the Windows Phone ecosystem, likely due to the fact that Windows Phone device makers aren’t allowed to add much to the operating system.
Here are some of my experiences from using the HTC One. All of them are specifically for the HTC One and it’s Sense 5 software specifically.
All Metal Everything
While polycarbonate plastic is all the rage in the Windows Phone world, excluding the Nokia Lumia 925, metals and fine alloys have become a mainstay in the design language of iPhone and Android devices. Admittedly, I’ve not spent a great deal of time with the iPhone 5, but based on my experiences with the HTC One, companies using these materials have the right idea. Since purchasing this device, I’ve never once thought about putting it in a case or worried that it might come out on the losing end of a battle with something as dinky as my metal-accented headphones. You simply can’t beat this kind of quality.
Also, you can’t beat a phone that doesn’t require an expensive case and has 32GB of storage for loading media files. That’s something that can’t be said for the Samsung Galaxy S4.
Suicide is a Home Button on the Right
I don’t pretend to understand the intricate thought processes that go into designing a smartphone from scratch. I can’t be relied upon to interpret the different concerns HTC had to juggle when creating the HTC One. What I can say is that mounting the Home button on the right of the screen just isn’t a good idea. It’s not just that Windows Phone users have trained themselves to place their thumb in the center, it’s really that everyone who has ever used a smartphone is trained to do that.
Though questionable, the lack of a menu button isn’t totally out of the question, that much I’m willing to admit. Still, that Home button placement is just not convenient.
Blinkfeed is Your Friend, Sense 5 Not So Much
During my first week using the HTC One, I hid Blinkfeed behind an Android launcher and I suspect most novice users will do the same. After spending some more time with it this week, I’m inclined to think that Blinkfeed is something every HTC One user will enjoy. It’s simply useful having most of the things you might care about, like social network updates and the latest news, in one place.
While Blinkfeed isn’t as comprehensive as I would like, it actually does address a real need. It isn’t the cure-all to “digging for information” that HTC portrays it to be in their latest advertisements, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
Sense 5 on the other hand is a strange, strange beast. I understand that to differentiate from other manufacturers, Android device creators make their own skins. As a Windows Phone user, I find it utterly crazy… however that is the nature of Android. What I can’t understand is how tossing in different user interfaces on top of Android is helping users. The HTC One now comes with two completely different Music applications installed. The HTC One’s software likely existed and was locked down before the release of Google Play Music, and as the HTC One is running an Android version from last year, HTC had no choice but to build on top of the Music app from that version. Still, it’s confusing, and Sense 5’s stark, uncustomizable app drawer and really poor Mail app doesn’t help.
I’d like to see HTC move toward keeping their customization at the application level, like it is forced to do with Windows Phone. In theory it would make for much faster updates and a better user experience, since Google is likely doing more research into how users navigate unmodified Android than HTC is when it comes to creating new versions of the Sense Android skin.
So far my Android experience has been an eventful one. Since being immersed in the operating system for the last four weeks, I’ve learned a lot about Android and even more about my relationship to the operating systems that power my life. The HTC One is a fine device, albeit with a few quibbles.