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When HTC unveiled its latest flagship smartphone this year, the One, it easily became a favorite of many. Not only is it one of the most beautiful phones to grace this techy world, but it’s a joy to hold, and has some exceptional features. To make things even sweeter, some time after the One had been on the market, HTC announced the Google Play Edition of its flagship handset.
Physically, theGoogle Play Edition is the exact same handset we fell in love with, but ships with a pure stock Android experience. So what’s all the fuss? Well, with only one Nexus device shipping in a year, newer devices tend to make Google’s own flagship handset look older than it is after a few months down the road. So, when Google Play Editions of two of the hottest smartphones around are announced, it definitely piques some interest.
That said, the HTC One Google Play Edition ships at an unsubsidized price and without any of the nifty features you’ll find on the Sense version of the device. In this review, we’ll see if what we’ve wanted all this time is actually worth it.
No surprises here. The HTC One Google Play Edition is the exact handset that we saw launch earlier this year in terms of hardware, which is a very good thing.
Boasting a 4.7 inch 1080p HD Super LCD 3 display, the handset's screen is one of the best we've seen. Couple that with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, 2GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, BoomSound front-facing speakers, Ultrapixel camera, and more all wrapped up in a sexy unibody aluminum shell, and the HTC One is a phone that begs to be held and played with. The ports, 3.5mm headphone jack, and IR blaster/power button all remain in the same place to no surprise.
A feature that I used a lot with the original HTC One was it's TV remote application, utilizing the device's IR Blaster built into the power button. Given that the application isn't available on this particular handset, the IR blaster is essentially useless until a decent alternative becomes available in the Google Play Store.
Something that does work as expected are the BoomSound speakers on the device. I've never once considered myself an audiophile but the first time I heard the clarity of the speakers on the HTC One, I was immediately spoiled. Not only are the speakers on the handset extremely loud, but the clarity is great.
T-Mobile customers won't like to hear that the Play Edition of the HTC One lacks the necessary bands to support HSPA+ out side of the 1900Mhz band, which could be a deal breaker for some.
The design of this handset is one of its best selling points. The HTC One is a beautiful handset and the design is still unrivaled today. This is because HTC has constructed the handset out of a solid piece of aluminum, making it a joy to hold. Another design element that we appreciate on the One is that it's screen is taller, rather than more wide. This makes the in-hand feel of the device much better, allowing for a more solid grip on the phone.
If you're looking into the HTC One Google Play Edition, there's a good chance that you're in it for the beautiful unibody aluminum casing. Simply put, there just isn't another Android handset on the market that can rival the HTC One's build quality. The solid piece of aluminum screams quality and the feel of the cold metal when picking it up is something we like a lot. Other handset makers really need to take notice of what HTC is doing here.
Well, what can we say here? The HTC One Google Play Edition's software is essentially the same experience you'll find on the Nexus 4. There are few differences between the two, but then again, that's the appeal of the device, right?
Small things, like the preset Live Wallpaper is different, as well as the camera UI. Other small tweaks between the software on the Nexus 4 and the HTC One Google Play Edition are the amount of applications show on one panel of the Apps Tray (5x5 grid vs 4x5 grid).
There's not much to say about the software on the HTC One Google Edition. We've seen it before, and it's the experience many people have been pining for. With minimal tweaks between it and the software found on the Nexus 4, those seeking the Google Play Edition handsets will be very happy.
Simply put, the camera UI on the original HTC One is just better. HTC put a lot into making a friendly user interface while allowing the user to add many filters, among other things to set it apart. With the Google Play Edition, don't expect any of these nice tweaks to be retained. Zoe? Forget about that as well.
What you do get with the Google Play Edition of the HTC One is the slightly tweaked user interface from the Nexus 4, but the overall experience remains largely intact.
All that said, the camera on the HTC One Google Play Edition is still damn good. The camera is still the same Ultrapixel camera that we loved in the original, utilizing much larger pixels than many other smartphones today, allowing for great low-light performance.
Call quality on the handset was top notch, with not noticeable distortion on either side.
Battery life is on par with a majority of handsets today, and you should easily be able to get a full day without having to recharge. I was able to squeeze out 15 hours in one day of testing, but it usually gave out around 13 on average.
As per usual, results in battery life are going to vary. If you're streaming video constantly with the screen cranked up 100%, and have all the bells and whistles switched on, expect to see a dramatic difference in battery life with this (and any) handset.
The HTC One Google Play Edition is definitely and interesting handset to say the least. Not only do you get the great hardware found on the original HTC One, but you also get the stock Android experience that many have been clamoring for. Still, there are a ton of tradeoffs in the software department that should be taken into account.
While the homescreen UI is starkly different to that of the original HTC One, it's the applications that really make the difference. Stock Android's offerings are just fine, but there are some delightful tweaks that you'll find on the Sense HTC One that we found ourselves missing a lot. The camera software is really a sore spot, along with a handful of other apps. If you want to retain these applications, you could always grab the Sense HTC One and install a home screen replacement app like Nova Launcher to suit your needs. Then again, you could also install the custom ROM MoDaCo.SWITCH and choose what software experience you want at any time. Still, we have our doubts that many people will do this.
Nonetheless, if you're craving a stock Android experience with best in class hardware, there's really nothing better than the HTC One Google Play Edition.