May, 13 2013

Rob has loyally covered iOS topics for several years at iSource.com, but with the HTC One in hand and a smile on his face, he is welcomed to Phandroid as a brand new Android enthusiast.

HTC One rocks

A couple of weeks ago I made the leap and bought my first Android phone after owning 5 different versions of the iPhone.  I chose the HTC One for several different reasons, but the most obvious and easy to identify was how well it was built.

HTC One first impressions

Call me shallow, it’s ok, but first and foremost, the HTC One is a thing of beauty.  This is one awesome looking phone.  I’m sure by now you have read Chris’ HTC One review several times in addition to Kevin’s HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S4 comparison post, but I personally can’t get over the quality that HTC put into the One.  For me, a life long Apple customer, that ‘s saying a lot.  Do I think that it is built better than the iPhone 5?  Actually… yes, yes I do. Let me explain why.

With the iPhone 5, Apple went thinner and lighter than they have ever gone before.  It’s a trend in the mobile handset industry that I think has too much emphasis thrust upon it.  When I picked up an iPhone 5 for the first time I almost thought it was a fake display model, it was so light.

A strange thing happens when you design a device to be so lightweight — it tends to feel more fragile as a result.  With the HTC One, that doesn’t happen.  Weighing in at a whopping 30g heavier than the iPhone 5 it feels much sturdier as a result.  Perhaps it’s simply because the weight is distributed over a larger surface area than the iPhone 5.  Whatever the reason, I prefer the feel of the One.

HTC One durability

I have never been much into using a case for my phones.  Sure, there are the occasions where I’m at the beach or on a boat and I might take extra precautions, but for the most part I support the “naked” approach for my mobile devices.  Consequently, my iPhone 5 paid the price within the first week of its existence.  The anodized coating that Apple covers the black version with chipped rather easily.

HTC One unboxing hands on

I got over it and moved on, but I knew it was there.  So when I picked up the HTC One, I was concerned that the same thing might happen to the aluminum casing as well.  To my surprise, after two weeks of using the One it doesn’t have a scratch on it — not even on the largely exposed curved back.

I was also a little concerned about the white plastic trim that completely surrounds the perimeter of the phone.  My last three iPhones didn’t have any plastic on them, much less white plastic, so discoloring and durability were something I was worried about.  HTC has proven that they can build a quality product that  stands up to my daily routine.  After two weeks, I have yet to see any discoloring of the plastic trim.

HTC One look and feel

The HTC One feels very great in the hand.  I hate the way that sounds, but it’s true.  The curved back rests in my hand very naturally. If there is one complaint I have, and it might be a result of my familiarity with using the smaller, thinner iPhone 5, is that it is NOT a one-handed device.  I have average sized hands, and I can’t reach the top left corner of the screen with any accuracy on a regular basis.  Even the back button at times seems to be too far to the left depending on how high the phone is resting in my hand.  The volume rocker button is a little harder to locate than I’d like, but for the most part my thumb is always resting on it anyway.

Anything I don’t like?

The last observation and comment I have is one of the only real “complaints” I have had with the HTC One so far, and probably Android in general — the soft buttons.  I never really realized how much I relied on the physical  home button on the iPhone.  You press the home button and it takes you “home” no matter where you are in the OS.  Even when I jailbroke my iPhone and relied more on gestures to navigate the OS, it was still fairly intuitive and easy to pick up.

Dedicated soft buttons for new users to Android seem straight forward enough.  I especially appreciate having a “back” button, something iOS could definitely benefit from as well.   However, my experience with the HTC One has been that of an inconsistent response from the soft buttons.  Even with feedback turned on, which I’m still getting used to, I feel like I am always hitting the soft button more than once to get a response.  Perhaps it’s a smaller target area than I’m used to, or the fact that I’m stretching my hand trying to maintain a one-handed experience when it isn’t reasonable to do so all the time.

HTC One front homescreen

Whatever the reasons, the fact that the buttons aren’t always lit and easy to discover in low light environments seems to just exacerbate my frustration further.  Is this a common issue for other Android users, specifically those with a HTC One?  Have you ever had problems using soft buttons?  Would you prefer smartphones went back to using physical buttons for certain functions?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

[UPDATE]: I wanted to share with you my first “Android” moment–in the middle of my post no less.  I had just ranted a little about the lack of consistent backlight for the soft buttons on my HTC One.  Just for the hell of it, I Googled my issue, saw an app that addresses soft button backlight issues, downloaded it, and boom–no more problems.  I guess this is probably the most celebrated benefit of Android over iOS–the ability to find answers to your questions, and resolve them on your own.  More about that on a later post!

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