By Edward C. Baig
NEW YORK - These haven't been kind times for HTC. The Taiwanese handset maker's phones are operating in the shadow of Samsung's Galaxy devices, not to mention Apple's popular iPhone.
HTC hopes to change that reality with the new flagship HTC One that the company unveiled Tuesday at events staged at the same time in New York and London.
I've spent some time with the thin and stylish aluminum handset, and like what I've seen so far - though as usual I must reserve judgment until I've put it to the test.
For starter's, HTC has devised an attractive home screen called BlinkFeed that is meant to bring a stream of constantly updated news, social feeds and other entertainment content front and center while keeping the icons for your apps in the background. The company says you'll be able to glance at information from more than 1,400 media sources, including AOL, ESPN, MTV and Reuters.
HTC has also revamped its camera software with a clever feature called Zoe, to simultaneously capture a few seconds of high-definition video and still images, all at the press of a button. By dragging an onscreen slider, you can pick an image when your subjects looked their best. The Zoe software will also automatically create a little 30-second highlight reel from your video footage and stills, with transitions, effects and backed by a musical soundtrack. It appears to be a well-done touch.
The company says the camera has been designed to take in more light than traditional camera sensors but I haven't had the opportunity yet to take more than one or two pictures.
Speaking of music, the phone has two forward-facing stereo speakers and a dedicated amplifier that sounded loud and clear during a brief demonstration - the company refers to it as HTC BoomSound. And HTC also includes fun karaoke software with lyrics fetched online from Gracenote.
HTC takes advantage of infrared to turn the phone into an interactive remote control for your television. You enter your TV provider and location and the device will show icons for all the shows currently airing. I didn't test the feature, but you're supposed to be able to tap an icon to launch a show. The first iteration of the TV app will not let you schedule a DVR recording.
I was impressed by the 4.7-inch full HD 1080p display. (Techies should take note of the 468ppi resolution.) The phone runs the Jelly Bean version of Android and can tap into the fastest 4G LTE networks. The device will be available in silver or black and comes in 32 GB or 64 GB versions. The battery is not removable.
HTC expects to start selling the phone worldwide in March at more than 85 mobile operators. In the U.S., the list includes AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, but notably not Verizon Wireless, which recently launched HTC's Droid DNA phone. No pricing was announced.
I'm eager to spend more time with the device, which leaves a strong first impression. But whether the HTC One reverses HTC's fortunes in a hotly contested market remains to be seen, of course. Samsung is expected to soon launch the next version of its own Galaxy flagship.