By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
New York — Smartphone maker HTC promises its largest rollout ever when its premium One Android phone, touted by HTC Americas president Mike Woodward as “the best phone ever made,” goes on sale beginning in March in more than 80 countries, including the U.S.
The 4G LTE Android 4.1 phone does not reflect “just another set of incremental improvements,” added HTC president Jason MacKenzie during a press conference, here.
The One, promoted as the first phone with all-aluminum unibody chassis, offers such new features as live-stream information feeds on homescreen tiles, an UltraPixel front camera that captures 300 percent more light than traditional smartphone camera sensors, ability to simultaneously take a picture and three-second HD video, and ability to automatically stitch together these photos and videos into a Highlights Video with background music, transitions and effects.
At least one analyst said the UI and industrial design would differentiate HTC’s phone from other Android phones. Julian Jest, research analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, said the phone features “an industrial design rivaling any handset previously released by the Taiwanese company and the current crop of high-end smartphones on the market.”
The device is “highly distinguishable from the “Android mass” in terms of both usability and elegance of design,” he added. “Clearly, the introduction of One will help HTC to differentiate its brand from the typical Android identity without losing the high performance qualities the OS can offer.”
The premium phone, whose price wasn’t announced, will be available sometime in March through the direct distribution channels of AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Cincinnati Bell as well as through exclusive indirect launch partner Best Buy.
HTC’s BlinkFeed interface constantly feeds information such as social-network updates and HTC-curated information services to homescreen tiles.
The phone “will put them [HTC] back on the map,” said Allister Jones, marketing head for Best Buy’s connectivity business group. “Consumers need a strong third or fourth brand,” Jones said of the dominance of Apple and Samsung in the smartphone market. “We stand for choice,” he told TWICE after a press conference unveiling the phone.
At a price not yet announced, the HTC One will give consumers such new choices as a new user interface called Blink Screen, which constantly feeds social-network updates, HTC-curated information services incorporating content from 1,400 sources such as ESPN and Reuters, and other content to homescreen tiles that extend below the screen. Key applications such as calendar and music player also appear on homescreen tiles. Consumers can swipe to the left or right of the home screen to get to the traditional Android view of rows of app icons.
The phone replaces the “antiquated desktop model” for a “feed model,” said Mackenzie.
The company called the UI “BlinkFeed” because it delivers content for such brief interludes as waiting on line or riding in an elevator, said HTC design director Jonah Becker. He called BlinkFeed an “entry point into all of your passions.”
The homescreen content updates automatically every hour via Wi-Fi or every two hours via cellular. Users can also manually update the information on the screens.
The phone, promoted as the industry’s first phone with all-aluminum unibody chassis, also offers such other new features as an UltraPixel front camera, said to use large pixels to capture 300 percent more light than standard camera sensors, and HTC Zoe, which lets users simultaneously capture a picture and three-second HD video. The feature turns a photo gallery into a gallery of photos and moving images, the company said.
The phone also automatically stitches together multiple Zoe photos and videos into a Highlights Video with background music, transitions and effects.
The phone will “reinvent photography,” Becker claimed. The phone also lets users combine a series of shots in a single image and take people out of pictures, he said.
Other phone improvements include upgraded voice quality, clearer sound quality, front stereo speakers in landscape mode, universal IR remote with onscreen TV guides, and new music player that pulls down lyrics from the Cloud and displays them in real time as the music plays.
To improve voice quality, the phone features two microphones and dynamically adjusts volume and frequency response depending on ambient background noise.
To improve picture quality, the front camera uses a 4.3-UltraPixel sensor said to outperform traditional 8- to 13-megapixel sensors by gathering 300 percent more light to deliver ghost-less high dynamic range (HDR) pictures, HDR videos and 8-shots-per-second image capture.
Other key features include f/2.0 aperture lens on the front camera, which also sports 1080p video capture for display on the phone’s 4.7-inch FullHD 1,920 by 1080p display with 468 ppi resolution, exceeding the iPhone’s 326 ppi, Droid DNA’s 440 ppi, Samsung Galaxy Note II’s 400 ppi and Galaxy S III’s 306ppi.
A handful of other phones offer 1080p displays. They are the HTC Droid DNA for Verizon, the newly announced LG Optimus G Pro, and the newly announced Huawei D2.
The phone features quad-core 1.7GHz CPUs, joining two other LTE phones with quad-core 1.7GHz processor. They are the HTC OneX+ and newly announced LG Optimus G Pro.
Other key features include 2GB RAM, choice of 32GB or 64GB of embedded memory, and silver or black chassis.
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