Something old, something new. The design of the HTC One V harks back to a recent favourite in the HTC stable, while still delivering the latest smartphone features we expect.
When the HTC Legend first hit the scene, there was something genuinely unique about the chin-like curve at the base of its face. It was instantly recognisable as something different; a phone from a little known company running Android software, that few in the mainstream were familiar with at the time.
The chin is back on the HTC One V, and with it, a wave of nostalgia. HTC has moved on a great deal since the Legend, and this is obvious in several of the design choices on show here. The use of anodised aluminium both looks and feels fantastic, and is, for those keeping score, the same material on the back of the new iPhone 5. Powering on the phone reveals numerous HTC advancements too, but more on this later.
The chin is still in!
The true stand-out feature in the One V is its 3.7-inch display. Despite this handset launching on a AU$30 Optus plan, the screen is comprised of the same outstanding Super LCD 2 panel found in the HTC One X — only smaller. Colour reproduction is as good, the contrast is as strong and there is more than enough pixels to deliver a sharp, crisp-looking image.
Without the distinctive shape of the design, there isn't much to separate the One V from either the One X or One S. The positioning of all external ports and switches is mostly the same. The major difference is that SIM cards and SD memory cards are slotted in a compartment at the base of the handset, and that the One V uses standard SIM cards, while the One X uses micro-SIM.
User experience and performance
HTC leaves nothing out of this version of its Android-powered firmware. Those who choose a One V over the larger One X get the same features and pre-loaded options. The One V runs on Android Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0.3), with HTC's Sense UI version 4 on top.
While egalitarians will heartily welcome the fact that this user experience is the same as the more expensive models, we wonder whether it would have been worth stripping out some of the more graphically intensive parts of the Sense UI, to deliver a smoother user experience. The One V is powered by a single core 1GHz processor and 512 RAM, which is not too dissimilar to the specs in the HTC Legend of two years ago. The result is a user experience with plenty of rough edges and dips in frame rate, and you'll find that some of the cooler looking apps on Google Play won't run as well as you might expect. If we assume that more powerful hardware was out of the question, it would have made sense to tax the weaker hardware less.
In fairness, it's not like the One V struggles with everyday tasks. In fact, your first impressions of the phone will probably be that it is quite snappy when you zip through the home screens and open and close the apps drawer. You'll notice the lag when launching some of the core apps, especially those that plug into a database of information, like the address book. HTC helps disguise the lag when exiting apps with a slow cross-dissolve animation, which is a smart move.
On the plus side, battery life is solid — much better than we saw with the One X. This might seem difficult to believe, given that HTC opted for a 1500mAh battery, but with its smaller screen and lower powered hardware, the HTC One V stays on longer. It's six-hours and forty-three-minutes of continuous video playback is amongst the best results we've seen from a smartphone this year, and its five-hours of web browsing on a Wi-Fi connection is respectable.
Like the excellent screen, the camera in the One V is basically the same as the camera in the One X, just smaller in scale. It features the same HTC ImageChip for photography, giving it features that you won't find on other phones at this price point. The best example of this is Burst Shot; the ability to take eight consecutive photos in a burst, then choose the best shot to keep in the gallery. This is one of the advanced features HTC heavily advertised around the One X, and you can have it here for half the price.
More importantly, the image quality is good — not amazing, but solid. The colours in most of our photos are mostly fine, though they tend towards a cold, blue-ish hue. The camera's auto-focus was quite fast and responsive, though the camera is obviously lacking any image stabilisation. Many of the photos we took came out slightly out of focus, requiring us to re-take these shots several times to get a usable image. We also found that the position of the camera lens in the top corner of the phone meant that our fat fingers snuck into several photos, too.
(Credit: CBS Interactive)
(Credit: CBS Interactive)
(Credit: CBS Interactive)
Storage is a key element in a smartphone. By definition, a smartphone relies on the applications you have available to install on it, but without storage, you won't be loading many new apps.
HTC, for some reason, has decided that the One V really doesn't need much in the way of internal storage, and doesn't include a micro-SD card in the box with the phone either. You may read that there is 4GB internal storage, and while this is a decent amount, the system shares this storage for its installs, leaving you with just over 1GB to use for your stuff. This definitely won't go far after you transfer some music onto the phone.
There is a micro-SD card slot, though, so it would be wise to factor in the cost of a memory card before deciding whether the One V is for you.
The HTC one V is an impressive package for its price. For AU$30 a month on Optus, you can choose between the One V, the Motorola Defy Mini or the Motorola Razr V for an extra AU$5 a month. If it were up to us, we'd choose the One V. The quality of its screen stands out, its camera is best and we still hold HTC's Sense UI high in our esteem. The Razr V has more power, though, if that's more important to you.