sexta-feira, 5 de abril de 2013

Why I am returning my htc One

Beautiful hardware ruined by dreadful software - a tragic tale

I got my new HTC One last week. After 7 days using it as my main phone, I've decided to return it.

There are tons of reviews on the internet about the phone, so I won't waste any time talking about its cool design, the powerful processor, etc - if you're reading this, you probably already know about all of that. The hardware is in general quite good, it's the software that ruins it above everything else. I will focus only on some of the little (big) things I couldn't stand about the phone and that ultimately made me decide I didn't want it.

This is not to say that everything's bad. There's plenty of good things, but you can read about those somewhere else.
1. The hedious "menu" bar

If you read the reviews, as I did before I got the phone, you know htc decided to ditch the menu/app switcher button (you only have 2 softkeys on the phone: "back" and "home") and as a consequence, some apps which aren't yet updated to the most recent android standards, will display a black "menu" bar at the bottom of the screen.

The dreadful black "menu" bar shamelessly robbing screen estate from my geocaching application

The reviewers dismissed this as a minor problem, that only appeared in very rare circumstances. Well, it turns out that it is there in almost every single third party app I've downloaded. It's absolutely maddening.

The black bar kindly shrinks the amount of map I can see on my satnav application.

My last phone was the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, so when I grabbed the One for the first time, I immediately felt I didn't have a lot of screen estate, by comparison.  When you have a relatively small screen, I don't think you want to see it being wastefully used like this.

The reviews I read gave me the impression that only some obscure apps would be plagued by the black bar. But it's there on Facebook! On freaking Facebook!! Come on, reviewers, seriously?

It should be clarified that once app developers update their apps to the latest android standards, the black bar should disappear, since the menu button is meant to move to the upper-right corner of the screen, as it already happens with all the native google apps, like youtube, for example:

The problem is that you don't know how long it will take for developers to redesign their apps to conform with the new standards. Actually, you don't even know if they will bother to do it. Facebook is probably one of the most downloaded apps on the android market, and it doesn't seem to care about those standards at all.

Can you imagine something more annoying than playing games with that ridiculous black bar stealing screen estate from you? It drives you insane!

The black bar is definitely the main grudge I have with this phone. But it is not the only one.

2. The notification area is a barren wasteland

There are no connectivity toggles on the notification area of the HTC One.

Seriously, how do you expect me to live without these?

These toggles from the Samsung TouchWiz interface are incredibly useful. And you can see more of them, just by swiping your finger across.

There's no such thing on the HTC One. And please don't tell me I can just get a third-party application to put them there. Because I did. And this is how the best application I could find looks like:
The toggles are placed below all the other notifications, which means their position on the screen keeps varying depending on how many pending notifications I have at a given moment. On top of that, functionality is very limited - on my Note 2, I could tap the wi-fi toggle to switch wi-fi on or off, and if I gave it a long press, I would be presented with a list of all the available wi-fi networks - very useful. Here, there aren't long press functions. Also, some of the toggles actually open settings menus (so they can't really be called quick toggles). What a shame.

3. The home button responsiveness sucks

The home button is a soft key on the HTC One. I was used to a physical button on the Note 2 and on the S2 before it. After a week of trying to get used to this small soft key, I still get frustrated very often with the lack of responsiveness of the damn thing. More often than not, it won't respond to my touch at the first try.

4. Sense 5.0. is not customizable enough

I like Android because, unlike IOS, Android acknowledges that you're an individual with individual preferences. It understands that every person is different and what is important and useful to one person may not be as important or useful to another. It does this by letting you customize your interface to your needs. It gives you a lot of freedom to let you change it as you please, instead of telling you how you should do everything, like IOS does.

Sense 5.0. is the interface skin that HTC overlayed on top of the Android OS. It comes preloaded on the phone, and you can't really remove it - only work around it. It savagely destroys the beauty of Android customization. Like Apple does, it takes your freedom away from you and tells you how you're meant to use your phone. Like Apple, it does this for the sake of simplicity. If I wanted simplicity, I would buy an iPhone. I'm not a fan of android because of its simplicity. I don't expect it to be simple, I expect it to let me do whatever I want. And Sense doesn't.

 Sense 5.0. is senseless

For one, I could immediately see that the list of settings I have on the HTC One is much shorter than what I had on my Galaxy note 2. The things that bother me may be completely different than the ones that bother you. But the fewer options we have, the more likely it is that neither of us will be able to do anything about them.

In my case, these were some of the things that bothered me:

- I'm not a big fan of Sense's system font. In my Galaxy Note 2, I could easily change the system font. Nothing I can do about it in the One.

I find Rosemary to be a terrible font choice. But I am sure someone out there likes it better than the stock font, and I am a defender of their freedom to have horrible font taste.

- I almost never open my app drawer, because I put everything I want on my home screens. As such, I find it pointless to have a shortcut to the drawer on my dock. Sense doesn't let me remove such shortcut, though. It's not the only Android skin guilty of this sin and that may be one of the reasons why third-party launchers are so popular. This reason alone made me immediately install the Apex launcher. I never got to experiment Sense's Blinkfeed because of that. One way or the other, the fact that Blinkfeed can't be removed is another lack of freedom that drove me away from Sense's launcher.

That shortcut to the app drawer, right in the middle of the dock, can't be removed

- If you like to use the app drawer (which I don't, so it doesn't really bother me), Sense made some of the poorest design options in the history of ever for its layout. I can't even begin to describe how awful it is. The app grid is 3x3, wasting most of the space. There's a clock on the top of the screen, wasting even more space. The dock stays there when you open the drawer, which manages the feat of wasting even more space.

The ridiculously wasteful app drawer.

5. Disappointing camera, messy gallery

I won't go deep on this because there's already a lot of controversy around the htc One's camera on the internet and more than enough samples and technical analysis were made for those who want to check them out. I will just say that I wasn't impressed with the camera in any way.
But much worse than the camera, is the gallery app. It's a mess. Not intuitive at all. It keeps filling my screen with photos from my facebook friends, something I never asked it to do and that I can't disable. It's always hard to find the photos I'm looking for.
Zoe takes photos like a machine gun, and then leaves you alone when it comes to managing them. It creates stacks of photos that look the exact same. Browsing your gallery is a painful experience, there's absolutely nothing enjoyable about using that app.


The Galaxy Note 2 was the best phone I've ever had. I would gladly swap the htc One, with its better specs, for the mighty Note 2, with its gargantuan screen and battery life. 

For now, I will send the htc back and try the new galaxy S4, to see how it fares against the Note 2, which sets the bar for smartphones, in my opinion.

52 comentários:

  1. Your 'review' sucks. You clearly are biased towards Samsung. Try reading some REAL reviews instead of bashing the phone because you can't figure out how to use it properly.

    1. Thank you for pointing out my lack of intelligence. Since you're so smart, could you please tell me how to get rid of the black menu bar without having to root and reprogram my phone? Or how to solve any of the problems I pointed out, since we're at it? I would be very grateful.

  2. I'm not biased, and I agree with this review.
    Left ios and I considered the htc one....
    But it was long off so the note 2 I'm using and love it.

    I personally wouldn't like what I see on the review. =(
    Going to grab tgt-+(

    1. Nancy, completely agree with you - the note 2 is the best phone I've ever used.

  3. wasn't there some mention of the menu bar being disabled with an option to make it a long press on the home key or something

    1. No, there is no such option. Long press of the home key opens Google Now; double tapping opens recent apps. No way to change this.

  4. I can't believe you didn't find power toggles... adds everything you'd want in the notification bar in the right places. And looks better with more customizability than Samsung's.

    1. Download power toggles from the play store. That should be enough response.

    2. I don't think you read what I wrote. Not only I explained I downloaded power toggles from the play store, I also explained why I didn't feel the experience with the app was comparable to Samsung's toggles. I actually began by writing:

      "And please don't tell me I can just get a third-party application to put the toggles there. Because I did."

  5. I stumbled upon your blog after doing some research into the HTC One, as I am considering getting it. I appreciate you putting the work into this to make some of these issues known. I can probably live with some of the issues that you brought to light, but others are definitely good to know. I appreciate you putting this info out there to help people, like me, make a more informed decision when deciding on a new phone. I'm not sure if this will sway me away from the One or not but when I read reviews and forums I'm actually looking for the problems people encounter on a daily basis, which you did a great job of pointing out. Just wanted to say thanks.

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback, I'm glad I could help. :-)

  6. i am a bit skeptical about this phone myself, but i'm also in love with it so probably gonna buy it, i was nervous when i saw your comment, you are returning the phone.. but when i read what you wrote, i was relieved, especially seeing that your main concern was the hedious black bar :)

    now what worries me is the home button responsiveness, that would be something i expect to work smoothly, and i never thought such a phone wouldn't allow to change the system font, it is to be expected...

    don't get me wrong i agree with what you say, even though there might be a workaround for all of these issues, if you are into roms and shit for maximum customization (which i'm not, so i'll go with the factory setting or whatever) but none of these things would be a deal breaker for me anyway, well unless the responsiveness of that button is hardware related, then .. ugh.. but i hope its not common and if so can be fixed!

    1. Thank you for your feedback. The responsiveness of the button is definitely hardware related, but to be honest it wouldn't be a deal breaker for me, by itself.

      If you're in love with the phone, by all means, buy it! It is super fast, the design is awesome and the screen is gorgeous. Battery life is not impressive, but it isn't worse than the average for smartphones.

      It is, after all, a top-end phone, there's a lot to like about it. :)

  7. I think all your issues can be fixed with a custom or asop rom whenever it comes out. The phone itself is not bad aside from say, the disappointing camera. Custom roms should be out in a few days now and your issues will most likely be fixed. The first one can easily be fixed with PIE.

  8. Respostas
    1. Thank you for your feedback, Kevin. I will receive my Galaxy S4 next week and I may post a review here, if you're interested.

  9. Omg, i didnt know about that black bar O_o How is it possible that any review pointed that out?
    Isnt there any way to get rid of it?
    I own a Sgs2 and as u know, it has capacitive button for the "menu", so i havent even imagine about that problem on the One.

    For what u said, the black bar is almost in every app/games?? Its almost stupid.

    1. As I mentioned, the black bar wouldn't be there if app developers had updated their designs in conformity with the latest android standards. If they redesign their apps in the near future, then the problem will disappear. But we don't know when they will do it or even if they will do it, or which of them will do it. Some of them have done it already, but many others haven't, as in the examples I gave.

      Alternatively, you can root your phone and try to find a custom rom that fixes the problem, but I never went down that road, so I can't give you advice on that. I want my phone to work properly out of the box, having to hack a phone to make it work is not appealing for me.

  10. Hi Sonat,

    I am completely agree with your points but I think your choice to select the device was wrong. Note2/S4 is the perfect device for you. There are are few people who like to use phones with basic android features i.e.without having too much layers.

    Samsung does put lot of layers, customization on original OS and they try to put as many features as possible. I own Xperia Z and i have seen NOTE 2/S3. Those devices have great features and there always is an option for everything. for ex. for normal COPY/PASTE operation - Note 2 has clipboard kind of stuff..

    I really missed those shortcuts present at the top of notifications of samsung phones but sony does have an alternate and surprised to see that there's nothing in HTC. That's pity.

    I guess u like to have options and yes samsung is the perfect device for you. S4 is incredible and my dream device would be -HTC One's Body with S4's machinery.

    Samsung make great software but none of the Galaxy device can beat the ONE's look. Waiting for your S4 review.

    1. Thank you for your feedback, Samgram. I agree that Samsung could definitely learn from HTC when it comes to design. I also agree that Samsung keeps adding features when they should probably work on improving existing features and creating a more seamless interface. I'm not a fan of touchwiz's design, but I like that I have a lot of options.

      I should receive my s4 next week. I will make a post after I've spent some time with the phone.

      I also considered the Xperia Z, but gave up after reading several reviewers disappointed with the screen and performance. What is your opinion? Do you have any complaints?

  11. Found out your blog while googling about two soft key layout on One, man you are spot on with the short comings of this weird layout, which could potentially be a deal breaker for thousands of people like me. I used only Sony phones so that power toggle thing is not that much of a concern to me( as there is no such thing in Sony), though my friends using Samsung's always mock me while handling mine. Also read somewhere that htc logo on the front can be doubled as a soft key by doing some shit of a geek work. Finally a well written real-life review of a phone, which i found no where. Keep doing the best work

    1. Thank you so much for your encouragement. That really meant a lot. I will post a review on the Galaxy S4 very soon, in case you're interested. :)

  12. You actually hit on a problem that other reviews have ignored. I thought I'd finally found a way of the hated iOS platform from the initial reviews of this phone, but now I'll have to take a closer look at it.

    It probably kicks the crud out of my garbage iPhone 4S, at least, so that's one way to look at it...

    1. Hi, thank you for your comment. I never owned an iPhone, so it's hard for me to make a fair comparison, even though I used iPhones sometimes. One thing needs to be said: the HTC One is really fast. Nothing makes it stutter.

  13. Great review of the shortcomings of a great phone, which I own. My biggest complaint is the responsiveness (or lack of) of the two bottom softkeys. The home and back buttons are more often unresponsive than otherwise. Very frustrating.

    I like Go Launcher a lot, but that menu bar is persistent and never goes away. I emailed the dev and got a promise for them to look into it. Seriously considering returning during my buyers remorse period.

    I appreciate well thought out, well written reviews such as this.

    1. Dear Marlon, thank you very much for your comment. I will post a review of the Galaxy S4 very soon, if you're considering swapping phones.

  14. Good review pointing out the flaws in the phone, think I'll still get it. It's one of the most beautiful phones on the market now, its fast, and I can live with things such as the black bar. Anyways, with any phone I've had I ended up jailbreaking/rooting it to customize it to my liking :3.

    1 question though, in the app drawer, isn't there an option to change the grid from 3x3 to 5x4 or 5x5? I saw this in someones video review.

    Anyways, great review, thanks!

    1. Hi, thank you for your comment. It is true: you can change the grid size in the settings - and you should, since the default size is absurd. I still feel it's a big waste of space having the fixed dock and clock in the app drawer.

      If you intend to install a custom rom, I believe this may become a great phone. Despite its flaws, all the compliments that have been made to this phone are still true.

  15. A paid blog!
    You can yourself think. If a user returns his phone and he is so pissed why would he even bother to make a blog bout it.
    Shame SAMSUNG!

    HTC ONE is Awesome. I have a NOTE II also. But any given day, I will prefer One to NOTE(unless i need the SPEN)

    1. Hey Prateek, thank you for your comment. I do like Samsung phones and don't feel the need to hide that if it's my blog and my opinion. This was my first HTC phone and I felt it was a downgrade. I didn't insult the phone, I said exactly what bothers me about it. So, at the end of the day, everything I said is still true.

      I wish Samsung paid me just because I like their products, but I doubt they could run a business by using such strategy.

  16. i read your review and you hardly come across as balanced and objective to me. i'm sure many others feel the same

    if you created your blog to write this specific review because you felt strongly (negative) about this phone, then it was in vain because in the end it ended up being more of an expression of your love for samsung products.

    1. I'm not trying to be balanced. I'm just giving you my personal opinion. You can take it or leave it, no need to get angry over it.

      You can't accuse me of not being objective, since any owner of the HTC One can confirm that everything I said is true.

  17. Sorry my dearest Samsung that I cheated you with the HTC!
    You're still love of my life, my everything.
    HTC was so bad to me, treated me so bad.
    I was a fool, didn't realize that the One is only using me.
    HTC smelled and had black under the nails. You're much better than the One. You are my universe, my new born Galaxy. Love you baby! :'(

    PS-Barely wait for the next episode, in which you remorsefully going back to your S.
    Hope that, at the end everything will be ok for you.

  18. Thanks for the write up. I'm on an iPhone 4S now and am really swaying towards the HTC One and S4. The thing is, I consider the camera very important in my phone. I use it as my main way to capture vacation pictures (never bring a P&S anymore). I love almost everything about the One, but the camera is making me very hesitant. Did you dislike it that much? And how are you liking the S4's?

    1. Hi Kevin, thank you for your comment. I was very disappointed with the lack of detail in the One's photos. Forget about zooming in or cropping. I have to say that since I returned the one, htc released a firmware that improves camera performance. I never tested the camera with the new firmware, but there's not that much you can do about detail with a 4 megapixel sensor.

      Regarding the s4, I have to say that the only 2 things that impressed me about the phone were its screen and its camera. The s4 takes amazing pictures in good lighting conditions.

    2. You may want to check out this article:

  19. When are you publishing your S4 review, I have been checking this blog daily! Great review, completely changed my mind on the HTC ONE.

    1. Hi, thank you for your comment. I already started writing the review, but I've been very busy with other stuff. Thank you for pressuring me, I will try to post it till the end of the week.

  20. Hi Thank you for the great review. At the moment I have a Note 2 and I think it is great! Probably the best phone I've ever had. It meets all my needs.
    Anyway, the only downside is that I feel I cannot operate it with one hand only and this has become quiet frustrating when travelling. Do you have any tips? Also, could you please cover this in your next review as I am considering selling my Note 2 to get an S4.

    Thank you for your very honest approach in your reviews, I feel that sometimes when reading other reviews it does not fully highlight the day to day operation and it is all focussed on specs.

    Great Job!!!

    Thank You

  21. Hi there Sonat. I'm thankful I've read this post about HTC one. I'm hoping for your asap response.. Since I'm about to buy either Xperia Z, HTC One or Samsung S4.. And right now, before I had read your blog, I was already putting HTC One on top of the list.
    Well, first my concern is about the camera... You prefer S4's rather than HTCone's? Even in low-light? So it's not really true about the "Ultra-Pixel" stuff?
    Second, what's the major drawback about HTC One that makes it "Never" the best smartphone of 2013? So, what's the best smartphone for you (or superphone)?
    If you would suggest me a smartphone, based on your experience, what would it be? My first concern is the quality of its camera... then the form (how it looks, physically). Then how fast it processes (does it lag too much?), etc...
    Thank you again... I'd be waiting for your reply.
    And if it's not too much of a hassle for you, you can e-mail me your reply here (i might fail to read your response here.)
    Thanks again man!

  22. I also returned my HTC One. The most obvious problem is that the buttons are often not visible unless it's dark. I use the back button a lot on my HTC Desire and it's ridiculous that HTC's new flagship smartphone has no means of making it easy to use. I'm not expecting the back button to be physical but at the very least it should possible to set it to be always backlit as you can with Samsung's Galaxy phones.

    I have other grumbles including:
    - the useless HTC logo which should surely be the home button (better to be physical like the Galaxy S4)
    - the lack of a multitasking button
    - the BlinkFeed homepage which cannot be removed, forcing you to add panels for your apps
    - Oh, and that black notification bar

  23. I agree with everything on your blog, pitty I only found it after I bought the HTC one.
    the camera is VERY dissapointing, specially low light images....
    And the phone also gets really hot sometimes, to the point I have to turn it off so it cools off.
    The screen also flickers when changing from dark to white....And it isn't a defect...3 phones I've checked do the same...something I wasn't expecting from such powerful phone...

  24. Hello

    Thank you for this review, I am currently using a very old samsung, a galxy gio, and I am in the process of swapping phones.

    I care the most about is speed (how fast is a web page loading, how fast is the GPS/Maps updating etc...), a thing a lack at the moment.
    I got to your blog because on one review I saw as a FOOTNOTE that there are no conectivity shortcuts. Now this would be a dealbreaker as far as the HTC One is concerned. If I long press the power button will I have the option for using GSM Data for web? or a shortcut for this? There are not native pull down - activate WiFi options?
    I honestly do not care about the camera, but after reading about the lack of connectivity shortcuts I am considering an S4Mini

    Have a nice day

    1. Hi, you can always install 3rd party apps to have connectivity toggles, but I don't consider any of them as functional as Samsung's.

  25. Hi, you are very articulate for a non native english speaker *assuming since a lot of screens are in another language*

    I have an s4 and like you, am bothered by the screen smearing. I was considering the note 3 but I have a feeling that it will have the same smearing issues of the s4.
    So I am interested in the note 2, however the lack of PPI has me feeling that I would not the like the switch from the 448 ppi of the s4 to the ~267 ppi of the note.
    In your experience, do you find us using a lower ppi screen after using a high ppi screen to be a jarring transition? I dont like the smearing but It is not nearly as bad as it is made out to be. Its only noticeable on dark over light scenes, or vice versa. I compared the screen of the iphone 5 with the s4 and the iphone 5 screen wasnt exactly blur free either.
    I dont know what to do, does the note 2 have the similar screen smearing?

    1. Honestly, every time I look at my girlfriend's note 2 screen, I get impressed. It looks gorgeous and its size is amazing. I think the transition is not jarring at all. The Note 2 has absolutely ZERO smearing and it's actually much faster than the s4! The only meaningful downgrade you'll have is in camera resolution, in that department, the s4 is king. But the s4's huge photos also take a lot of memory space and take a long time to upload, so there are downsides to them. All in all, I think you could never regret getting the Note 2 unless you consider its size unmanageable - and that may very well be a significant issue.

      Finally, one last note: I don't believe the smearing will be there on the Note 3. They've been using the pentile matrix on the S models for a while, but they use the conventional rgb matrix on the notes. That's because the notes have a massive battery, so they don't need to worry so much with power efficiency.

      This means that the Note's display technology has been consistently sharper than the S model's.

    2. Honestly, every time I look at my girlfriend's note 2 screen, I get impressed. It looks gorgeous and its size is amazing. I think the transition is not jarring at all. The Note 2 has absolutely ZERO smearing and it's actually much faster than the s4! The only meaningful downgrade you'll have is in camera resolution, in that department, the s4 is king. But the s4's huge photos also take a lot of memory space and take a long time to upload, so there are downsides to them. All in all, I think you could never regret getting the Note 2 unless you consider its size unmanageable - and that may very well be a significant issue.

      Finally, one last note: I don't believe the smearing will be there on the Note 3. They've been using the pentile matrix on the S models for a while, but they use the conventional rgb matrix on the notes. That's because the notes have a massive battery, so they don't need to worry so much with power efficiency.

      This means that the Note's display technology has been consistently sharper than the S model's.

  26. Thank you. I have decided to keep the s4 after spending a little time playing around with a Note 2. I will definitely be getting the note 3 or 4 when my next upgrade is due, however. I definitely noticed a difference in screen clarity when I compared my S4's screen to the Note 2's. The S4 clearly has the sharper display, but I also have very good vision and consider myself a videophile.

    The Battery life has been excellent, I only use about 30% brightness + power saving though. Still handily beats my old iPhone 5, I am very pleased with my transition to Android. I also regularly use the supposed gimmicks on my S4, including airview and the IR blaster.

    I would also like to add that your commentary on the HTC One was very helpful. It probably saved me the money and headche, and disappointment of returning my s4 for one, as I was considering. It is a shock how crappy that phone actually is, the battery life too. I will probably be sticking with Samsung because I am a fan of OLED and their designs.

    I look foward to more blog entries,

    Jack from California.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Jack, I really appreciate it.

    2. Hey its jack again,

      the note 3 was announced and it looks great. However the ppi is noticeably less than the S4, and it still uses the pentile arrangement. Over the month+ that I've had the s4, I can confidently say that it's the best phone I've ever had the pleasure of owning. The size is just right, as its still very much usable with one hand, and not crampy feeling with two hands. Im very happy I didnt wait on a note 3, although I do really like the updated specifications of the note 3 and the new faux leather back. I'll probably get the note 3 or 4 next year when my upgrade is due, as there is very little point in buying one at an unsubsidized price of $700+
      US dollars when I already have a phone I'm happy with. I look forward to your review of the note 3 (if you are going to pick one up)
      jack from san fran