Like most, I’ve never considered myself to be a brand loyalist on many things. Cigarettes and coffee, perhaps. Despite owning a foul trifecta of Cupertino’s shiny toys, I have no real allegiance to anything other than the “ecosystem of interplay” of apple devices either, and that’s certainly a short term thing too. There are, however, a few of the big names that I always try to keep an ear out for. Two of them (HTC and sony)had sizeable product announcements this week, and despite having had precious little time with one and no more than half a webcast with the other, I’d like to throw my two cents in on both.
HTC, formerly of the meteoric reinvention and once known as the leading Android hardware maker have this week announced the HTC One, an incredibly (see below) shiny high-end flagship product. I got to mess around with one briefly today and, as ever, they’ve managed to shine on their strong points (build quality) while addressing one of their two long-term issues. That’s right, it’s a HTC android overlay that isn’t complete shit to use! No, REALLY. The new home screen is a live, constantly updating, vertically scrolling feed of news and social content. Not a page of icons with numbers telling you they want your attention (Apple), not a fuckton of baffling and battery draining widgets (Samsung, Sony), not enlarged app icons that serve no real purpose even if they are called “live” (Nokia), actual content. Sure, to anyone with at least one working eye and a fifteen-minute or longer memory, the question has to be asked as to whether the people that invented the Flipboard interface app are a. pissed off, b. sitting on a pile of HTC hush money or c. gearing and lawyering up for yet another copyright battle, but taking aside the Edison-esque level of “innovation”, it’s shit hot to use and tasty as hell. I don’t have screenshots but to be fair you all have google so go look them up. The bit that the internet doesnt tend to tell you is the size and shape of these handsets before you call in to your nearest phone shop (cough cough Parkway cough cough) and see that they’re big enough to beat you to death with (I’m looking at you, Note 2) so I took a quick snap of the phone in my reasonable scrawny paw for reference:
Yes, it’s really thin and rather shiny. Aluminium body as opposed to the plastic of, say, the galaxy S3, but again HTC don’t tend to skimp on build quality.
And then there was the controversy about the camera. HTC have decided that, rather than join the megapixel arms race, they’re going to have a smaller image with more information through something called “ultrapixels”. Technically it’s a 4 megapixel camera, which is shite by any standard of flagship for a major manufacturer. That being said, the logic is sound to an extent. The idea is that the pictures taken have a smaller area but more information and thereby more realistic and vivid photo reproduction. Perfect for , say, quick uploading to social networks or emailing. Honestly I can see other manufacturers going the same way, if not immediately then at least within the next two years. Over and over again we’ve all seen gadgets become less about pushing numerical boundaries and more about ease of use, slick interface, and social media interaction. This is probably just another step on the road to all devices being more apple-ish (for those of you playing “spot the sentence designed to enrage”, you get no points for that one – too obvious). How does the camera actually perform? It’s amazing. I swear, there were things that looked more clear through the eye of the camera than through my own (admittedly defective) peepers.
So where’s the other problem? Well it’s not confirmed yet, but i’m worried about the price. The One is going to be available on a lot (if not all) Irish networks, but it only comes in a 32GB and 64GB set of models. Maybe something bizarre is about to happen, but generally speaking that kind of tech doesn’t come cheap. So the question arises: if you’re going to build a high-end, high-spec camera with hyper-new technology that costs a huge amount to produce, why saddle it with a camera and UI that seems to cater entirely to the young, social media obsessed and most of all utterly impoverished demographic that is The Yoof? The day one pricing on this thing may be the make-or-break not only for this model, but HTC as a whole as they’ve not really had the best couple of years financially. Still, I hope this is the big one for them. I’ve had a few HTCs in the past 4 years, loved the original Desire and the Sensation XE, and would be really unhappy to see them being overshadowed by the two remaining cellphone superpowers. So as with any device, once it lands, go and have a play with it and make up your own fucking mind, just don’t say I didn’t tell you if it turns out to be great. And if not, shut up and blame someone else.
Tomorrow : PS4 or “why the fuck would I want to spend my money on that?”