Friday, July 13, 2012

HTC One V Review

To first time smartphone owners, the thought of cores, Gigahertz and 4G can be extremely intimidating. Most will look to just get their feet wet when it comes to smartphones and that's where many turn to budget or low end Android smartphones. This often leads to frustration and sometimes anger when one is then stuck in a contract with a device that isn't up to their expectations. Today we look at the HTC One V, the last of HTC's One Series and the "One" that is obviously the "low end" offering of the three. HTC looks to make the budget experience one that might make customers come back to HTC for their next smartphone with a decent set of features and we see if it's the best bang for buck phone out there.

Overall Construction
HTC's hasn't been one to shy away from eccentric and head turning design. Looking at the lineage of the Hero, the Legend and now the One V, the infamous "chin" has been a staple of HTC design. What isn't new either is the unibody aluminum shell of the One V, which felt very nice and high end for a budget offering.

The debate over whether the chin helps with ergonomics, especially during calls, will always be a sticking point for many tech enthusiasts, but we feel it's a nice departure from the straight cold slabs that we've seen in other smartphones. For people who might be turned off by the chin because they are afraid of how it feels in the pocket, we are happy to say that it didn't hinder the pocketability of the device. Phones at this point in time, especially those of this form factor, are going to be far more pocketable than phones of yesteryear.

While the debate over the form or design will probably never end, the quality of the phone itself is pretty undisputed. We found the brushed aluminum unibody to feel extremely premium for what is supposed to be an entry level device and we are sure prospective buyers will also be quite surprised by the incredible build quality.

The One V is without a doubt the successor to the venerable HTC Hero/Legend line and as some of you might know those weren't the largest handsets in terms of screen real estate. This continues with the budget oriented One V and its 3.7 inch form factor. Often, as tech enthusiasts, it's easy to get caught up in the spec wars, which of course includes the increasing size of screen. But taking a step back and using the One V for a while it was quite refreshing and it felt significantly different to use a phone of this size.

While we do understand that phones, especially smartphones, have evolved to the point where they are far more than a mobile phone and need handsets with larger screens. The One V however fills in the demand for phones that are significantly smaller the behemoth phones of today, providing a nice stop gap between feature phones and smartphones.

The version we received to review was the black version from TELUS/Koodo. We found it to be quite attractive in a stealthy way and really found it to be a nice evolution in HTC design. The grey version is available to SaskTel and Bell. In the end, we found the overall build quality of the One V to be far superior to any phone in its price category.


While the screen on the HTC One X and One S have gotten a lot of attention for two very different reasons, the One V's screen has gone under the radar and we feel that isn't fair as it's one of the better displays we've recently seen on a smartphone and easily the best we've seen on a budget phone.

The One V sports a similar Super LCD 2 screen to the beefier One X although with several drawbacks. For one, the One V's 3.7 inch screen is an inch smaller than the One X's and the resolution is the good old WVGA 480x800 resolution that was very prominent a few years ago.

As with most SLCD screens, the One V uses a traditional RBG pixel arrangement so when paired with its relatively high 252DPI, the One V produced text and graphics practically free of aliasing. While this should mean good readability and improved graphics, we found that the smaller screen was simply not a large enough canvas for zoom free reading/browsing but was great for gaming. If you're coming from an iPhone, the experience is pretty similar to the iPhone 4/4S Retina display.

We found the screen to have excellent brightness, great vibrant colors, good sharpness, and good black levels. Viewing angles were noticeable good thanks to the SLCD being laminated to the glass, which ever so slightly protrudes from the face of the device unlike the "infinity curve" on the One X and One S.

One thing we noticed however, is that we don't believe that the phone's front glass wasn't given a oleophobic coating as we had great difficulty wiping residual finger grease from the display. This might bug some people migrating from phones that did have an oleophobic like the iPhone 3GS for example. This isn't a deal breaker however, a wipe from a damp cloth does the trick.

As the phone from the One series with the smallest footprint, it's only natural to place the power button on the top of the device. Unlike larger devices a side mounted button isn't needed and really would just confuse potential iPhone migrants and first time smartphone buyers who might be current iPod Touch owners.

As with the other One phones, the inherent issue with fully committing to ICS' button configuration while being dedicated capacitive buttons is also present but also is somewhat worse on the One V since it's a smaller phone. Instead of presenting the user with a virtual "Menu" button in legacy apps, the One V informs users that the menu Button is available by "Long Pressing" the Multitasking key. This is FAR from the ideal solution and far worse than the already maligned solution on the One S and One X.

That being said, this can be somewhat interpreted as a sign of HTC being dedicated to continuing to support the One V with future updates like Jelly Bean, or at least we hope. At the very least, it's continuity in the design language of the One Series and HTC phones moving forward.

Battery Life
The 1500mAh battery on the One S was fair game when 1GHz processors and 3.7-4 inch displays were the norm and the One V improves greatly over those older phone's battery life giving us just about two days worth of juice with moderate use. This could be due to many factors such as; more efficient processors, better power management at the kernel level of Android, etc. We're just glad to report the One V easily outperformed it's beefier One series siblings.

Unfortunately, just like the other One series phones, the battery is completely embedded into the phone thus is not user replaceable. But with this kind of battery performance we don't see the need for carrying around a spare even for many of those road warriors who seem to be allergic to power outlets and USB ports.

Internal Hardware
It was clear from the outset that the One V was the budget phone of the One Series, so one might expect budget specs and of course that's what we have.

- 1 GHz Qualcomm 3th Generation Single Core Snapdragon S3 Processor
- 512MB of RAM
- 4GB of Internal storage expandable with microSD card slot upgradable to up to 32GB
- Adreno 205 Graphic processor
- 14.4mbps HSPA+ capable chipset
- WiFi b/g/n
- 5 MP camera with LED flash and 720p video recording capabilities

As these specs would indicate from a quick glance, the One V wasn't a barn burner in synthetic benchmarks as it fell squarely in the range of high end 1GHz phone of yesteryear like the HTC Desire HD.

One glaring difference, when compared to the other one Series siblings, on the One V is the presence of a microSD card. We aren't exactly sure why the One V got one, while the others didn't, but it's a welcome sight to see. We suspect it to be the increased thickness that allowed the inclusion of a microSD slot.

The microSD card also fills a more important role than on other phones as the One V without it is missing several features, we cover more on that later in software segment the review.

What we are afraid of however, is the overall longevity of the device. Being a chipset with about two years under its belt doesn't bode well, but seeing as it already has ICS we think there is a good chance that it will at least get Jelly Bean.

HSPA+ "4G" Capabilities
Using hardware from several months ago, the One V naturally also has its cellular radios somewhat scaled back as well. The One V is only capable of 14.4mbps, which, by the Canadian nomenclature, is "4G". With this in mind we didn't expect to be blown away by download speeds and our tests weren't particularly impressive either. The 3mbps speed we did get however will be more than enough for the general browsing needs of many, however multimedia and large downloads might be problematic.

As with all speedtest sections we must remind you that your mileage will vary. Speed can drastically increase or decrease depending on your coverage and other factors.

Speaker and microphone
As with the trend with the other One Series devices, the One V's earpiece sounded pretty good in, microphone was good and the external loudspeaker was loud and clear but unfortunately not as much as One Series devices.

Following the trend of the One X and S, the One V has Beats integration and we found it to help bass heavy songs sound better (to us at least), but really doesn't do much other than be an audio equalizer.

Also worth noting, there are, once again, audio accessories included with the One V. So user will unfortunately (or fortunately) have to provide their own headphone for music, videos, etc.

As with the other compromises made to the One V, compared to the other One phones, the lens still features a f2.0 aperture but at a lower 5MP and without 1080p capabilities. ImageSense is also included with the One V but in a slightly scaled down version. Shutter speeds were pretty quick but not as fast as on the X or V.

These drawbacks are, most probably, because of the lower horsepower of the 1GHz Snapdragon Processor. This is a bit to be expected given the budget nature of the device, but we are glad to see the same software suite come with the One V.

As expected, stills were okay but lacked the detail and visual punch of other high end Android devices. Colors, sharpness and clarity were okay but won't blow you away. We also noted some odd anomalies like a blue-ish hue in some of our stills (see our bonfire picture) we hope it's something limited to specific low light situation or a problem isolated to our review unit.

Video is as good as you can expect from a 720p shooter and really isn't that bad. Surprisingly, slow motion capabilities is also in board for capturing those special moments in epic slow motion.

Sample Pictures
Android 4.0 /w HTC Sense 4.0
We can't state how happy we are to see Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on a phone like the One V. Usually manufacturers will skimp out on lower end phone because of the fact there are aimed at a "less demanding" demographic. But with Ice Cream Sandwich we believe people will be getting one of the best smartphone experiences available on any platform.

Check out the software section of our review of the HTC One X for a deeper over look at Sense 4.0 and the additional enhancements made by HTC to Android 4.0. Although we have to point out there are several changes made from the One X/S version of Sense 4.0 on the One V.

For starters, the One V only has five homescreens instead of seven. This shouldn't be much of a problem for many people as 7 is generally more than most people need. Gone are the 3D scrolling effects when going to different homescreens. This is probably due to the slower chipset in the phone, although a bit perplexing since the Desire HD's latest version has the 3D scrolling effect and has virtually the same hardware.

Also worth noting is the multitasking menu, as it is the stock multitasking menu from Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Gone is the WebOS-esque card system on the One X/S. The last most noticeable difference is in the weather and time app where the intensive 3D animations and graphics have been removed for simpler graphics.

There are also other slightly subtle differences that are attributed to the smaller internal storage. Things like taking screenshots and storing media are simply not possible without adding a microSD card which isn't included unfortunately. We recommend pairing the One as a relatively cheap 16GB or 32GB microSD card.

We are sure there are other more subtle changes, but to be perfectly honest, the experience is practically identical to its larger siblings, which is without a doubt a good thing, especially on a budget device.


The budget segment of the smartphone market is now evolving past being the bargain bin for Android devices to actually having worthwhile offerings that can have something worth recommending. The One V is a spearhead device in these new "budget offerings" and at $0 on contract and at a very palatable $300 off contract on many carriers we are intrigued the added choice for people on a smaller budget. While it isn't a $350 Galaxy Nexus (like on the Google Play store in the US), we certainly feel like it offers a fantastic bang for your buck.

This One V is a compelling offering for people looking for a phone that fulfills the primary functions of a phone, calling and texting, while doing smartphone functions as well most other smartphones. While our overall score, at first glance, doesn't seem to indicate a solid smartphone, we find the One V to be a phenomenal offering for its price point and really is a fantastic value.

In the end, the One V is a very underrated device that warrants a serious look from anyone looking to get a smartphone for free on contract or looking to obtain a phone sans-contract.

Final Verdict
Overall Appearance: 8/10
- Fantastic industrial design based on the rich HTC Hero/Legend heritage. Chin will turn off some people, is a tad thick but with its small footprint is passable.

Screen: 8/10
- Very beautiful SLCD 2 panel. A bit small for existing Android users looking to upgrade but perfect transition size for migrating iPhone or feature phone users. Hard to wipe clean from finger grease.

Buttons: 7/10
- Great feeling buttons all around. Menu button workaround is less than ideal and pretty clumsy to be frank but will improve with adoption of Android 4.0+ design paradigms on third party apps.

Internal Hardware: 7/10
- Internal hardware from 2010, but still solid performance all around. Longevity is a question mark (although if bought off contract issue is moot). HSPA+ speed were a letdown.

Battery Life: 9.5/10
- Incredible battery life.

Speaker and Microphone: 8.5/10
- Beats may still be "gimmicky" but we found it better than regular non-equalized sounds on other phones. Good loudspeaker, slightly worse than on One X/S.

Camera: 7.5/10
- Good camera experience. But obviously lags behind high end phones with more advance sensors. Includes the great Sense Camera software.

UI Changes: 8/10
- Similar, yet scaled back experience as on the One X/S. Great to see Android 4.0.

Addition Enhancements: 9/10
- Dropbox and Beats integration are nice additions that set the One V from the crowd.

Included Apps/Bloatware: 8/10 (varies on carrier version)
- Pretty pristine installation of Android, little bloatware in our TELUS review unit. Other carriers are unfortunately more bloated, therefore score is normalized.

Final Score: 8.0/10

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