HTC unveiled its long-rumored new flagship Android smartphone, the HTC One, as it mounts a comeback based on a new user interface, a news hub for the home screen and enhanced camera and sound capabilities. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA will be among the company's U.S. carrier partners, but Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is noticeably absent.
Click here for pictures, videos, specs and more of the HTC One.
Verizon, the largest U.S. carrier, launched another high-end HTC Android smartphone, the Droid DNA, in the fourth quarter. Verizon spokeswoman Debi Lewis said the carrier has a "long history with HTC and we're focused on several HTC phones already in our lineup, including the Droid DNA by HTC." She declined to comment on future plans.
AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile all said they will launch the device later this year but did not indicate when or for how much. Cincinnati Bell and Best Buy will also sell the device in the United States. HTC said the One will be available globally through more than 185 operators and major retailers in more than 80 regions and countries beginning in March.
Using simultaneous events in New York City and London to get its message out, HTC sought to make a splash with the One ahead of the start of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, next week. The company is banking on the One to breathe new life into its smartphone line and serve as a catalyst for revenue and market share growth in the months ahead. The company could wind up competing head-to-head this spring with Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S IV, which is rumored to be announced March 14.
HTC, once the darling of the smartphone world, especially in the U.S. market, has fallen on hard times recently due to intense competition from Samsung and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), as well as from the likes of Huawei and ZTE. According to research firm IDC, HTC captured 4.6 percent of the global smartphone market for the full-year 2012, down from 8.8 percent in 2011. HTC reported a 91 percent drop in net income in the fourth quarter and forecast continued declines in revenue.
HTC's Jason Mackenzie, currently serving as president of global sales strategy, said at the One launch event in New York that "HTC saw a massive opportunity to bring new excitement back to the smartphone." According to The Verge, Mackenzie touted the phone as having "sound quality that's so good you won't know it's a phone, a revolutionary camera that will change the way you take pictures."
The HTC One is encased in an aluminum unibody shell and has a 4.7-inch full HD 1080p display, like the Droid DNA. The devices sports LTE and runs on the latest Android Jelly Bean operating system. The One has a quad-core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 600 processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 2,300 mAh battery and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
However, HTC is offering more than just high-end specs. Chief among the company's software offerings is its Sense user interface, which has run on HTC's Android phones for years. Drew Bamford, HTC's senior vice president of user experience, told The Verge that HTC "touched almost every corner of Sense" on the HTC One.
HTC is also introducing BlinkFeed, which turns the device's the home screen into a single live stream of personally relevant information that includes social updates, entertainment and lifestyle updates, news and photos. The service is similar to the live tiles that mark Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone. HTC will provide both local and global content from more than 1,400 media sources including the AOL family of media properties, ESPN, MTV, Vice Media, Cool Hunting, Reuters and others.
On the camera, HTC said the One will use what it calls "UltraPixels," which gather 300 percent more light than traditional smartphone camera sensors. HTC said this new approach will dramatically improve low-light camera performance. Further, HTC's Zoe camera feature gives people the ability to shoot high-resolution photos that come to life in three-second snippets. That way, users can combine the shots into mini-sequences, take out certain people or objects, and remix the sequences and share them.
In terms of sound enhancements, the HTC One sports HTC BoomSound, featuring front-facing stereo speakers with a dedicated amplifier. Additionally the phone's HDR recording uses advanced dual microphones and audio processing to capture better sound for HD video.
Will all of this be enough for HTC to reclaim its former glory? Informa Telecoms & Media analyst Julian Jest wrote he was worried about the device's battery life, but that the HTC One is a "striking device."
"Although the device is powered by Android OS, it is highly distinguishable from the 'Android mass' in terms of both usability and elegance of design," he wrote. "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."
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