Review: HTC One (for Windows)

After a successful debut on Android, HTC re-architected its second-generation HTC One for the Windows Phone platform. The result: Gorgeous, flagship-level hardware repainted with a fresh interface.

Windows Phone has been struggling to gain market share in the U.S., especially among high-end handset buyers. Now, those itching to give the mobile OS a try have another high-end hardware option: the HTC One. While the overall hardware and software experience is great, the phone does have a few annoying quirks.

The Windows Phone-equipped version of the HTC One, like its Android counterpart, is an incredibly handsome smartphone. The front is dominated by a 5-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 LCD display. The rear is a brushed metal plate punctuated by stripes of black banding near the top and bottom of the device that wrap around its circumference to form the borders of the front display. The phone’s slender edges fit securely in one hand without feeling sharp, while a subtle chamfer along the top edge gleams smartly. The size, while too big for me to operate one-handed, is such that I could still fit it in my rear jeans pocket and jacket pockets. It’s essentially the same phone physically as the original M8, with dual rear-facing cameras (4 megapixels and 5 megapixels), a 5-megapixel front shooter, and a 2.3 Ghz quad-core processor inside.

Microsoft has made huge strides since it first debuted its Windows Phone platform, but there’s clearly still some things missing.

The rear-facing camera’s shutter speed is pleasantly quick, but I found its image stabilization to be lacking. I’m one of those people that can’t seem to snap a photo without dipping or shaking the phone slightly, which resulted in some slightly blurry, out-of-focus shots where other cameras, like that in the iPhone 5s, are able to compensate for my unsteady hands. This camera does take great 1080p video footage. However, the front-facing camera’s image and video quality, despite being 5-megapixels, is pretty low by today’s standards.

The worst part of the camera experience is that there is no way to access the camera in a pinch. There is no dedicated shutter button, or volume button workaround, like in the Android version of this handset, and no access to the camera on the lockscreen. You have to swipe to eliminate the lockscreen, then tap a Live Tile to get to the app. That’s precious seconds lost when you’re trying to quickly and discreetly capture a cool moment at a concert, for example.

But despite my camera hangups, the Windows Phone version of the HTC One is undoubtedly a good phone. It’s available on either Verizon or AT&T’s 4G LTE networks, and unless you’re doing seriously intense, non-stop activity on the phone, you can easily get a day or more’s battery life out of the handset. If you mostly use your handset for emails, internetting, social media, and watching video, you might enjoy this handset as much or even more than its Android counterpart. But if you’re a heavy camera user, or rely on specific apps not yet on Windows Phone (Google Authenticator and Training Peaks were two I missed), this is not the handset for you.

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