HTC’s New One Is Good. Will it Be Good Enough?

by Reads (6,455)

Last year’s HTC One was a beast of a phone, an elegant flagship as gorgeous as it was powerful. It was a critical darling, and while it managed to sell well at first, it didn’t win HTC much ground in the war with Samsung and Apple. The Taiwanese underdog isn’t throwing in the towel yet, however, and on March 25th they’ll be unveiling the follow-up to last year’s hero device.

The next One, in other words, is coming. 

But how can HTC top a phone that, even today, is still on the cutting edge of specs and hardware? An immense number of leaks from the past several weeks have already shown us. As with all rumors, you should follow with some skepticism – but we feel confident in our predictions.

It’ll have the same name.

It looks like we won’t be getting any silly “One 2” wordplay. Reliable industry insider @evleaks was first to report that HTC wouldn’t alter its One branding on the new device, saying it’ll be called the “All New HTC One” — just like Apple called its third-generation iPad “The new iPad.”

HTC has since confirmed the report by employing the same name in a number of recent ads. Its codename, the HTC ‘M8’ will likely live on as the phone’s model number.

It’ll have a similar chassis.

The first One’s metal, unibody frame was a joy to hold, and HTC isn’t going to mess with that.

While they’ve gone ahead and confirmed that much, a variety of leaked photos from Weibo user tdzhijia, @evleaks, and others show a phone whose design cues are strikingly similar to the original. A since-removed video from YouTube user GadgetReviews corroborated the move, so expect to see the same curved body, dual BoomSound speakers, and brushed aluminum material as before.

All New HTC One 2014 All New HTC One 2014

That’s not to say it’ll be an exact replica, though. The leaks suggest that the new One will remove its predecessor’s pair of capacitive buttons in favor of three onscreen prompts, similar to what you’d see on one of Google’s Nexus phones. Its display looks like it’ll be bumped from 4.7 to a full 5 inches, and its back appears to be a little more rounded than before. @evleaks says it’ll come in grey, silver, and gold.

Those who were hoping to see an improved version of the One Max’s fingerprint scanner shouldn’t get their hopes up. No leak thus far has suggested that HTC will be carrying the tech over to the forthcoming device.

It’ll get the standard spec bump.

The original One was, and still is, a powerhouse, and can breeze through just about anything Android has to offer. The next One doesn’t seem like it’ll bring dramatic spec bumps – and really, it doesn’t need to – but HTC will up the horsepower nonetheless.

According to a leaked sales guide obtained by GSMArena, the new One will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core SoC running at 2.3GHz, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a 2600mAh battery. HTC is said to be switching to nanoSIM this time around; there’s also the standard microUSB, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC.

All New HTC One 2014

A premature listing on eBay is a little less reliable, but lists the same guts, and suggests that a 32GB model will also be available. That storage space is also said to be upgradeable all the way up to 128GB through a microSD card slot. It’s a welcome addition, and leaked hardware images do show such a slot.

We’ll see if its battery will play nice with that high-end chip, but the new HTC One looks like it’ll be plenty capable on paper. The only downside is that it’s a tad thicker and heavier than its predecessor. GSMArena says it’ll weigh 160g and measure in at 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm, as compared to the 143g weight and 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm dimensions of the original.

Its display is getting bigger, but not sharper

Displays are king in the smartphone world. As we noted before, the new One’s display looks like it’ll move to a 5-inch model, but all the aforementioned leaks say that it’ll retain the same 1080p resolution as before. That might be a tad disappointing to some, but if the new panel is anywhere close to the previous screen’s quality, we won’t complain – and frankly, you’re not going to be able to tell the difference.  

All New HTC One 2014

It’ll have two rear cameras?

This seems to be the big addition for the new One. Last year, HTC shifted to what it dubbed “UltraPixel” sensors on all of its top-end phones. The idea was to eschew high megapixel counts in favor of a smaller number of larger pixels that would take in more light (the larger each photosite, or light receiving part of a camera’s sensor, the better the quality). This was supposed to let them take fuller shots at a faster rate, while also performing especially well in darker settings.

In practice, shots with the first One’s 4-megapixel, UltraPixel camera were inconsistent. It was perfectly capable of taking a great photo in the right conditions, but next to the improved shooters from Nokia, Apple and Sony, the One just couldn’t keep up.

For better or worse, the UltraPixel tech looks to be returning on the new One, but it may not power just one camera. Bloomberg, GSMArena, @evleaks, and many others have all reported the phone will come with a dual rear camera setup, with one small lens stacked on top of a larger one. HTC is said to call this the “Duo Camera.”

‘Why would I want two rear cameras, you ask’ According to a leaked retail brochure obtained by GSMArena, the additional lens will let you choose an adjustable focus point, and create new bokeh and 3D effects. Smartphone historians may recall that HTC tried this idea before with the Evo 3D, but it seems to be making another pass at the tech with this new flagship. We expect the company to make the Duo Camera a major focus of its presentation next week.

Beyond that, the main rear shooter is said to have similar specs to last year’s model, though we hope it’ll increase its megapixel count in some capacity. There will be a bump on the new One’s front-facing shooter though; it will jump from 2.1 megapixels to 5 megapixels this year. Both should be able to shoot 1080p video, too.

It’ll run KitKat and a new version of Sense.

This shouldn’t be too surprising. Android 4.4, a.k.a. KitKat, has been out for months now; it’d be a bigger shock if a high-profile phone like the One didn’t have it from the get-go. Likewise, Sense is still HTC’s baby, and just about all reports say that it’ll be the first device to run its newest version – Sense 6.0.

A couple of leaked YouTube videos — the first posted anonymously, the second by user “JonasG” – purport to show the latest version of HTC’s Android skin, and at first glance, its menus and mannerisms don’t appear to be changing much.

However, proprietary software like the clip-capturing Zoe and the Flipboard-esque BlinkFeed widget seem to be in line for some minor visual tweaks. The sales guide we mentioned earlier also says that Sense TV will be getting some sports-focused functionality, and that a new transfer app called “HTC Match” is in the cards.

All New HTC One 2014The software’s most notable new tricks are a suite of gestures that HTC will call “Motion Launch.” On the surface, they appear to be a cross between the Moto X’s Active Display tech and the “KnockOn” functions found on LG’s latest high-end devices.

Judging by the videos and earlier reports, Motion Launch will let you gesture your way around Android while the One is still asleep. Double tap the display and it’ll wake up, showing you status alerts and notifications. Swipe left and it’ll bring you straight to the One’s widget panel. Swipe right and you’ll go to your BlinkFeed. Hit the volume rocker while in landscape mode, and you’ll go to the camera app.

Sense has gotten a tad stale over the past year, but useful additions like these stand to freshen it up a bit. Whatever the case, the One will be powerful enough to let it all run smoothly.

It’s getting brilliant new smart covers.

We’ve told you about this one before, but a couple of weeks ago @evleaks spilled the beans on a set of smart covers that will show the time and weather without requiring you to open the covers themselves. They also look like Lite Brites. We’ll let you judge their aesthetics, but these could be a clever, if goofy, way to make smart covers even smarter.

It might be available right away.

Just recently, UK retailer Carphone Warehouse said in a press release that it’ll begin selling the “new HTC One (M8)” shortly after HTC’s big event. We’re not sure if this will be the case across all retailers and regions, but an announcement like that does hint that HTC won’t waste any time in getting the new One to market. Given that Samsung’s Galaxy S5 juggernaut is arriving in just a couple of weeks, it’d be in HTC’s best interest not to dillydally.

It’ll probably cost the same.

Even if it’s not available precisely on March 25th, we feel confident in saying that the One will be available relatively soon, and that it’ll be available on all the major US carriers from day one. And yes, as @evleaks notes, that should include Verizon, which got a significantly delayed One launch last year. As with last year’s model, the new One will also be getting a Google Play Edition release at some point.

Pricing, on the other hand, is a different story. We can expect the standard $200-with-a-2-year-contract setup on Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, but as for T-Mobile, unlocked models, and the like’ The leaks haven’t been consistent. We don’t think HTC will do anything outrageous, but we don’t have an exact number to anticipate just yet.

The New One will be a beast of a phone.

We’ll find out why at HTC’s launch event next week – and don’t worry, we’ll be there to bring you coverage. Will you be picking up HTC’s next One, or would you rather wait for something from Samsung or Apple? Be sure to let us know!

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