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HTC One V review


Sibling of the quad-core powerhouse that is the HTC One X, the HTC One V might not boast the groundbreaking array of specs handed to its market-topping counterpart, but it is a handset that will push the boundaries of the lower mid-level smartphone sector.

Hosting a strong collection of innards that push the expectations of the mobile phone's modest SIM-free price point of £230 in the UK and $350 in the US, the HTC One V is the Taiwanese manufacturer's answer to the recent onslaught of boundary blurring mid-range smartphones from the likes of Samsung and Nokia.


The now standard 5MP rear-mounted camera and 720p HD video recording are bolstered by a vibrant display, strong design and Beats audio innards.


Although destined to fall in the shadows of its higher priced, higher specced namesakes, the HTC One V is an impressive pocket blower in its own right. It has a largely smooth, fluid and speedy interface paired with strong hardware and software, which offers an all-round pleasant user experience in an aesthetically pleasing package.

Design 

Sporting a unibody design, the HTC One V has a form factor and aesthetic that arcs back to the hugely popular HTC Legend, with the kinked, curved chinned bottom helping differentiate the smartphone from its wide range of rivals. This quirk could well see it become one of the more coveted mobile phones in its price range.

Although sleek and arguably quite sexy in its appearance, the HTC One V's design and construction isn't without its flaws. The minimalist removable back plate, which helps to enhance the structural rigidity of the HTC One V, provides a definite chink in the brushed metal armour.

Leaving a noticeable seam once slotted into place, it forms a less than reassuring seal with the compact plastic panel. Although it didn't come loose during our time with the phone, it is cause for concern and a feature that failed to offer reassurance and peace of mind.

Despite an aesthetically pleasing kink at the base of the handset - a feature that helps separate the HTC One V from the mass of featureless black candybar handsets - the same elbowed design encourages a lower grip on the phone than normal, which results in a top-heavy feel that leaves it feeling unbalanced and almost disconcerting in the hand.


With a 3.7-inch touchscreen display onboard, the HTC One V is roughly the same size as an iPhone 4S, with this Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich-filled handset lining up at a slender 9.2mm thick and a very reasonable and sturdy 115g in weight.

Thanks to its unibody aluminium build, the HTC One V is by far one of the sturdiest mid-range mobile phones on the market, offering zero flex or distortion when put under unusually high levels of pressure.

This feature not only ensures against unwanted damage and breakages, but also helps distinguish the device as a range leader and sets it apart from the flimsily plastic-backed Samsung Galaxy offerings.

Following the trend of modern phones, the HTC One V, like its One branded siblings, features very few physical buttons, with just a sleep-come-power button featuring alongside a physical volume control. While the volume toggle does fall within the real estate of a comfortable grip, HTC has added enough resistance to the button to ensure that it doesn't become a nuisance and fall victim to irritating accidental presses.

Display
The One V squeezes 800 x480 resolution into a 3.7-inch screen, and it's another Super LCD 2 panel, like the One X. And though it lacks high-definition credentials, with a screen density of 252 ppi it's not embarrassingly grainy. Viewing angles are also impressive, and it fares respectably outdoors. More importantly, though, it embarrasses existing entry-level phones -- a group where quality screen technology has often (if not always) been sacrificed. Sure, it doesn't stand up to the expansive likes of the One X or Galaxy S II, but color composition is excellent (better than the One S, even) and 3.7 inches isn'tthat small. At least, not for a lot of people. We noticed, however, on our two review samples that there was some worrying yellow discoloration on both screens in the top left corner and was especially noticeable when on full brightness white.

Software
Android 4.0 on an entry-level device. HTC's drawn a line in the sand, and it's something that other manufacturers would do well to copy. Even better, the single-core processor seems largely up to the task. Because of the power differences there have been some sacrifices -- and these have mostly come in the form of a watered-down Sense 4 skin. You'll find that while it looks similar, certain visual flourishes such as the full-screen weather animations and globe view within the weather widget have been cast out.

Pinching to view all your home screens at once doesn't have any effect and the 3D transitions between screens are gone too. The keyboard has also been tweaked, losing the navigational arrows found on HTC's larger 2012 phones -- a sensible choice, we say, given the reduced screen size. We've already done an in-depth take on HTC's latest Android skin, but the differences between the One V and the rest of the One series are worth noting. Minor touches, like the ability to "zoom" on text within SMS messages, are still here, while menu and settings navigation is also indistinguishable from other phones running Sense 4. However, the One V isn't compatible with the HTC's Media Link HD dongle and -- like the One S -- misses out on the NFC train, both hardware- and software-wise. Something we didn't catch while poring over the One V's spec sheet when it was first announced is that there's also no digital compass, meaning Google Maps' orientation won't change as you turn to face a different direction.


Features
As the lowest phone in HTC's One series lineup, the HTC One V doesn't come equipped with the same powerful components that grace the One X and One S. Even so, the handset runs the same modern software, including Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and HTC's Sense 4 user interface layered over it.

Designed to be less intrusive than previous Sense versions, Sense 4 skips many of the fancy graphics effects, such as the perpetually spinning 3D carousel of home screens and in-your-face weather graphics.

To unlock the phone either flick a virtual ring from the bottom of the screen to the center, or drag icons into the ring to quick-launch major phone functions. Pulling the camera symbol inside the ring for example powers up the One V's imaging system to snap pictures and shoot video without navigating through menus. Other lock-screen shortcuts include the Web browser, text messaging, and phone dialer.

As on the HTC One S, and HTC One X, you have seven home screens to choose from, each ready to populate with app shortcuts and animated widgets. You'll find HTC's classic weather clock front and center on the main screen. One difference though is that tapping the widget's digital readout launches a world clock that lists capital city times in basic text, not the slick 3D globe visual found on the One X and One S.

Hitting the weather portion of the clock does pull up a detailed forecast but the One V lacks the graphics-heavy weather wallpaper that the One X and One S have as an option. On those phones it displays animations in the background and on the lock screen corresponding to current atmospheric conditions.

The bottom of each home screen contains a tab with the same four quick-launch icons shown on the lock screen. I definitely appreciate being able to swap these icons for others or even create and add folders holding multiple app icons. Changes made here are also reflected on the lock screen and placing application shortcuts on top of one another creates a folder.

Sense enhances the browser too, with a Pure Content Reader view that removes ads and displays only the text of a selected Web page. You can also select pages and video to bookmark for later enjoyment offline.

Tapping into the power of Android, the One V has the usual allotment of Google services installed, including Gmail, Google+, and Navigation, plus the Play Store for downloading apps from a catalog of over 700,000 titles. Additionally, Play serves up digital books, movies, games, and music to purchase. I couldn't find HTC's Watch app, however, which hawks its own library of TV shows and movies for rental or purchase.

Useful third-party software on the One V includes the Kindle e-book reader, the Audible audiobook subscription service, and TuneIn Internet radio (a personal favorite). U.S. Cellular injects the phone with its own selection of apps, such as Daily Perks for news and weather, and Mobile TV, which offers both live programming and full TV episodes and movies. Like similar services from other carriers, the service costs an extra $9.99 per month and is clearly designed to burn through your data minutes since it won't work over Wi-Fi.

Camera
Boasting the new minimum camera requirement of the smartphone sector, the HTC One V's inbuilt 5 megapixel snapper is capable of capturing shots with a 2592 x 1944p image resolution, with snaps further enhanced by the phone's incorporated autofocus and LED flash capabilities.
Far more than your standard point and shoot snapper, the HTC One V, like its similarly branded counterparts, has a wide selection of image enhancing software features, with a simple drop-down menu enabling you to give your images a bevy of tweaks and in-shot alterations.
You can choose between greyscale, negative or vintage filters or opt to have snaps distorted, with enhanced depth of field or a pop art-mimicking dots look.
Although capable of producing a selection of visually impressive images, the HTC One V's inbuilt snapper is often a little over-eager, with the handset's touchscreen capture button proving slightly quick on the draw and barely offering the camera time to determine the perfect levels of focus before snapping shut to capture what can at times be less than pin sharp images.
This minor pitfall could quite easily be corrected with the use of a physical shutter button that focuses shots on a half depression before capturing images with a full click, like a standalone camera. But in looking for a sleek, untainted form factor, HTC has overlooked this potentially simple inclusion.
While the lack of a second, forward-facing might, on paper, look like a glaring omission on HTC's part, in reality its only for using VoIP applications such as Skype when such a feature is truly missed.
Although this hardware omission is sure to put some potential users off plumping for the HTC smartphone, on the whole the decision not to plump for the little used second camera is one that has helped keep the cost of the HTC One V low and in a competitive area of the market.
Media
HTC One V review
While the HTC One V's 4GB of internal storage does not attune itself to heavy bouts of video recording and media playing, the 25GB worth of free Dropbox storage makes video a viable option, with all captured content able to be automatically backed up and saved via the more expansive remote storage option.
Pushing media to the fore users are offered a selection of app shortcuts and homescreen widgets to gain instant access to their coveted content with the inbuilt media player lining up as a homescreen option for speedy tune playback.
Similarly simple to access, the easy to locate picture gallery also offers users a small selection of editing options with casual image rotation and cropping on offer.
As with the majority of current handsets, the HTC One V comes packing its own inbuilt media player that is tasked with competing with the likes of the mighty iPod.
Despite the widespread ownership and intense popularity of the iPod, however, this Beats audio-packing device more than holds its own on the PMP front, with its near faultless user interface continuing across the musical means and combining with a selection of strong audio output offerings.
A slightly disappointing omission from the HTC One V is that the handset filled with Beats audio software doesn't come packaged with a pair of Beats headphones to match its internal audio potential.
While the included earbuds are of the cheap and cheerful nature, they do work well with the Beats audio enhancements available when using headphones to offer a more diverse, deep, varying sound than expected that highlights the intricacies of a song.
For those looking to take their choice in music to a more public audience, the HTC One V's inbuilt speaker is of a more than acceptable nature, with the kinked bottom producing the audio output and ensuring that sounds aren't muffled when the handset is placed on a surface during playback.
In terms of video, the 3.7-inch 800 x 480p display gives what you would expect from a mid-range handset, with smooth, strong, clear playback that fails to offer the pop and intricate colour breakdown associated with its larger, higher specced, pricier rivals.
One area where the phone's screen does excel, however, is when combining with the device's ambient light sensor to perfectly attune the display's brightness to the optimal levels based on location lighting to ensure images remain crisp and enjoyable with as little amount of glare as possible.

Maps and apps
Thanks to the handset's Android operating system, the HTC One V comes pre-installed with a hearty array of applications - the majority of them noticeably of the Google ilk - such as the Google-branded Places, Gmail, YouTube and Google+.
Thanks once again to its Android branded innards, the One V plays host to Google's much loved and ever present Google Maps software with free to utilise navigation options landing to get you from A to B.
Whilst not the quickest handset on the market to lock on to GPS signals, once connected the Google filled device continues to impress with simple to follow route and accurate location details.
Far from limited to Google-owned and branded apps, however, the HTC handset sports the more popular app-based services as standard, with the likes of Facebook and Twitter featuring from the box to fulfill the likely needs of consumers and remove any fuss around getting the device fully attuned to your wants and needs.
With an expansive array of app-based content available to download via the newly named Google Play Store, formerly the Android Market, HTC One V owners are presented with a hearty array of tools, games, ebooks and utilities, both free and paid for, that can rival the formerly dominant iOS App Store.
Again with the many plus points let down by a few small niggling irritations, the HTC One V's Android-based app services and features are not without fault.
A few apps cause an unnecessary fuss if left to their own devices when the handset falls into sleep mode following a period of inactivity.
A prime example of this is the much loved and free to download game Temple Run.
While running smoothly, if a little sluggish at the start, during the game if left open with the handset not being used, waking the phone from its sleep mode will see users greeted with a combination of blank screen issues, freezing and a stilted recovery that can take a prolonged and infuriating period of time.
Battery life 
HTC One V review
With HTC yet to offer any expected standby and usage battery times for the One V, the 1,500 mAh battery that features inside the curved chin design of the phone writes its own expectations.
It offers a reasonable amount of on-the-go juice, with standby times running into the days. But heavy usage will, as with most recent smartphones, have the HTC One V on its knees well before the end of the day.
Charged via a standard micro USB connector, HTC has failed to make the One V user-friendly while charging, since the cable running into the lower left side of the phone prevents you from getting any sort of comfortable, well balanced or manageable grip on either side.

Connectivity
HTC One V reviewA complete oversight on the part of the manufacturer, this seemingly small faux pas quickly becomes a major irritant, with the charging cable severely restricting the usability of the handset during its required daily power boost.
More successful on the connectivity front, the smaller sibling to the HTC One X boasts impressive 3G and Wi-Fi connection prowess.
The handset offers strong signal across a broad range of locations when using a cellular network and solid access to the web and a host of internet-dependent applications when connected to a Wi-Fi network.
Running a lot of the connectivity controls behind the scenes, the smartphone enables you to connect to pre-registered Wi-Fi networks with virtually no fuss.



Wrap-Up
I began this review by calling the One V 'cheap and cheerful', and that's exactly what it is. There's no doubt that this is an entry level smartphone - the specs sheet will tell you that - but with some careful refinements to Sense, HTC has managed to produce a phone that runs the latest version of Android well and doesn't cost a bomb.

If you're on a budget, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the One V over similarly priced competitors. Off contract, the One V is a good £100 cheaper than the One S, and £200 lower than the high-end One X.

If you buy it with a pay monthly contract deal, you can get it for free from £25 with truly unlimited data on Three UK. If you want to shave a little off that price, then you can get it for £20 a month, also with unlimited internet, but you will have to pay £69 up front for the phone.