It's tough to review a phone that doesn't stand out from the crowd. On the other hand, when the crowd is made up of great phones from HTC like the Droid DNA, One X+ and One S, it's not really a bad thing. That's what you have here with the HTC One SV -- a great little phone that blends in well with the rest of HTC's current offerings.
Here in the states, the One SV is exclusive to Cricket. While that's good news for Cricket customers, it means that this one probably won't get the exposure that it would if it were on a bigger carrier. It's also a chance for HTC to cut corners on the budget phone they built for the budget carrier. Thankfully, they didn't.
After using it for a bit, I'm left with the impression that the One SV is a better built One S -- and that's no easy feat. You can tell that plenty of time and money went into the design, and rather than skimp on features to make a new mid-range device HTC has built it from the ground up to offer a great package with slightly more inexpensive internals. It's a method that works well. See how well after the break.
On the outside
Outside is where the One SV really shines. As Phil mentioned in his hands-on above, we heard some awfully good things about the design of the One SV, including a remark that it's better designed than the Nexus One. Of course, at first I thought that was some sort of Android nerd blasphemy just like most of you do. But I've got to tell you, after fondling this thing for a bit I think it's spot on. The One SV is built with three different materials -- polycarbonate plastic, glass, and what appears to be brushed aluminum. We'll start with the front of the phone, because that's where you'll spend the most time looking.
It's a solid sheet of glass, labeled "scratch resistant." We can all assume that means Gorilla Glass, but it's important to remember that nobody has said so in an official capacity. We'll stick with "scratch resistant" until we hear otherwise. The cut out for the earpiece is perfectly aligned with the speaker, and you'll find the front facing camera, light sensor and proximity sensor under the glass up top. There's also a two-color notification light built into the ear piece speaker. At the bottom, you have the same three button layout we see on all the One series phones (back, home, and open apps) done u in glowing red versus the standard white we see everywhere else. All of this is well done and there's no sloppy fit or finish, but the impressive part is the edge of the glass. It's rounded and sloped, which creates a seamless feel where it meets the metal frame of the phone. Hardly an engineering marvel, but things like how the glass edge feels is important if you're clutching your phone in your and all day. On the One SV, it feels great.
Jump to the back of the phone and you have a single sheet of polycarbonate plastic done up in HTC's typical soft touch finish. It's gently curved, and also has a finished edge that feels seamless where it meets the metal frame. Combined with the glass edge, it really does feel like a seamless design while you're holding it. The back is a bright reddish orange color, and the cut-out for the camera and machined holes for the speaker are all nicely aligned and look great. The camera assembly is flush with the back, and centered. Pop the back off, and you have a removable 1800 mAh battery, a slot for your LTE SIM card, and a microSD card slot. We don't know why some devices get removable batteries or SD cards while others don't, but the One SV has both.
The frame that holds the entire thing together is either brushed aluminum, or another material that someone spent a lot of time on to make it look and feel like brushed aluminum. It's a seamless ring around the entire phone, and all the ports, holes, and controls are placed inside it. At the top you have a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a noise cancelling microphone, and the power switch, just like the rest of the HTC One line. The right side of the phone has the volume rocker switch, and the bottom holds the USB port ad another pinhole microphone.
There are no surprises, and nothing exactly exotic about the way the One SV is built, but I have to tell you it really is the nicest-feeling phone HTC has ever offered.
On the inside
Let's start with the biggest let down of the whole phone -- the 480x800 resolution. The LCD2 screen is beautiful. If you have no issues with the lower resolution nobody could blame you, but in a time when everyone is pushing out 1080p handsets, WVGA phones seem to stick out like a sore thumb. Other than the resolution, the screen is great -- it appears to be the same excellent panel used in the One X, which is a very good thing. I wasn't too put off by the low screen resolution, but the fact that I knew it was low is something I couldn't ignore -- the placebo effect works in reverse as well.
Things look a little pixelated and jaggy if you get in really close.
The rest of the specs are what you would expect, and would have been considered top-end just a few months ago.
- Sense 4.1 (Android 4.0.4)
- 5.04 x 2.63 x 0.36 inches (128 x 66.9 x 9.2 mm)
- 4.30 oz (122 g)
- 4.3 inch S-LCD 2 display
- 480 x 800 resolution @ 217 ppi
- Light sensor, Proximity sensor
- "Scratch resistant" glass
- 1800 mAh battery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor at 1200 MHz
- 1024 MB RAM
- 8 GB storage
- microSD and microSDHC expansion
- 5 MP camera (f 2.0, BSI sensor, auto focus, geotagging) with LED flash; 1920x1080 (1080p HD) recording
- 1.6MP front camera
- A-GPS, Glonass, Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11 b/g/n Wifi
Early tests without LTE show an average battery life. You can make it through the day, but have very little juice to spare when it's all said and done. Call quality was fine, GPS, Wifi and Bluetooh all performed as expected. Cricket's limited LTE footprint means that we weren't able to test, but we expect performance similar to the EVO LTE while using LTE.
Why look -- the Sense 4.1 software on the HTC One SV is just like the Sense 4.1 software on all the other One series devices!
All kidding aside, that is a 100-percent true statement. The same Sense experience you would get from the top of the line One X+ is what you get from the One SV. That's a good thing, and we love to see HTC stay consistent across devices on the software side. That means you have the same fancy weather application and widget, the same social integration, the same Dropbox, Evernote and SkyDrive built-in features and the same general look and feel. That is how you build a brand, and HTC is on the right track here.
Of course, everything you don't like about Sense is going to be there as well. A handful of power-users will be looking for ways to strip half the features out of the phone, but we're betting that most people who pick the One SV up will like what they see, and what they can do with it.
Besides HTC's built in applications, you have a few from Cricket in the application drawer as well. The good news is that nothing is too invasive, and most of it is actually useful for the people who will pick this one up. You have account tools like Cricket Backup and My Account, a couple of games (Uno and Block Breaker 3), and most interesting -- Muve Music.
The cloud versus local storage argument has been done to death, and if you fall on the local storage side Muve Music was made for you. As part of your monthly plan from Cricket, Muve Music is a portal to millions of songs that you can download right to your phone for free. Since you have an SD card slot, that means you could put 32GB worth of tunes that you can access when you have no connection on it. It's a cloud-based anti-cloud solution that's well done with a rich Android application for the front end. Besides searching for and downloading your music, you have plenty of tools to discover new songs and a social aspect if you're in to that. Cricket has a great thing here, and my short time with it has me feeling it's better than other alternatives like Spotify. Of course, being limited to Cricket customers is something we can't ignore, but it's another great reason to consider the One SV if you're looking for a new phone.
This is one area where the One SV didn't live up to my expectations. It's not the megapixels (they almost never matter, never mind the hype), it's not the camera hardware (f 2.0, BSI and ImageSense just like my One X), but something in the mix puts this one in the "good" camera category instead of the "excellent" category. Stills are acceptable, yet have a little more noise in low light that we see from some other phones, The video, however, leaves a lot to be desired. It seems to have a hard time focusing, and the color is pretty drab. It looks acceptable on the phone itself, but once you extract it and watch on a high resolution monitor you see that it's lacking.
Of course as a camera in your pocket that you can whip out to grab a quick picture or video, the One SV works just swell, and delivers performance as good or better than any other mid-level device I've had a chance to play with. I was just expecting more, like we see from other phones in the One series, and didn't see it here.
The bottom line
The single best thing about the One SV is the $349 off contract pricing. When combined with Cricket's very cost effective (read cheap but full featured) monthly service plans getting this one is a no-brainer if you can get good Cricket service. The phone is built like a tank, looks absolutely stunning (if you can handle the red) and performs well above it's budget friendly price tag.
We love to see disruption when it comes to the carrier death grip we seem to have in the US. Cricket and HTC have joined together to alleviate that a bit, and I wouldn't be afraid to recommend the One SV to anyone looking for a premium experience on a budget.
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