HTC One SV Review
The HTC One SV isn’t exactly a new handset, more or a reboot of the HTC One S which launched back at MWC 2012.
That said the One SV arrives sporting a new chassis and slightly differing specifications under the hood, the most of important of which is its 4G capabilities.
The price has dropped recently: available SIM-free from around £250 the HTC One SV is a much more attractive proposition, especially if it gets the software update detailed below.
Sadly contract deals for the One SV are still slightly more expensive on the UK’s only 4G network with EE wanting at least £36 per month for two years in exchange for a free handset.
While price wise there may not be much between the two, the HTC One SV has a significantly different body which doesn’t come close to the premium finish we enjoyed on the One S.
It’s out with the aluminium frame and its ‘micro-arc oxidisation treatment’ and in with a noticeably plastic chassis which actually weighs more than its predecessor at 122g thanks to the size gain round the waist – up from 7.8mm to an almost porky 9.2mm in the midriff.
All that aside though and the HTC One SV still sits comfortably in the hand with the soft touch plastic case providing a decent level of grip on our palm while our fingers were easily able to wrap round the handset.
The power/lock key located on the top of the One SV alongside the 3.5mm headphone jack and the volume rocker switch are both easily reached during one-handed use thanks to the phone’s compact 128 x 66.9mm dimensions.
An added benefit of the re-jigged design is that you can easily remove the back cover of the HTC One SV which not only gives you access to the microSIM and microSD slots, but also the removable 1,800mAh battery – which has been given a slight bump to improve the life of the phone.
On the front of the One SV you’ll notice that HTC has kept its Android touch buttons below the screen with back, home and multi-tasking revealing this handset is running at least Android 4.0.
Sadly there’s no sign of Jelly Bean on the HTC One SV, with the phone being equipped with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich – disappointing considering Jelly Bean has been available for six months now.
However, there might be some good news on the horizon: whilst unofficial, HTC looks likely to be bringing Android 4.2 and the all-new version of Sense to this handset in the near future, which would give it a totally new lease of life and make it a lot more attractive to a number of users.
Above the control tools is the 4.3-inch, 480×800 Super LCD 2 display which while being the same size as the offering on the One S actually has a lower resolution than the Super AMOLED screen – boo!
Screen quality is still pretty darn good but it doesn’t quite have the pop of the display that impressed us so much on the One S, which is disappointing as we’d expect the One SV to be at least on par with its sibling.
Something which has been given a boost on the HTC One SV is the front facing camera which comes in at 1.6MP and sits besides an incredible long ear piece – perfect for those who have trouble locating their ear while on the phone. Phew.
The extra large ear piece isn’t all fun and games though and its recessed nature means it’s a great place for dust to collect, making the One SV look rather untidy once it’s spent some time in a pocket or bag.
Round the back the bulbous circular camera fitting has been replaced with a more refined oval sitting flush to the rear of the One SV.
You get a distinctly average 5MP camera, once again another compromise from HTC on the One SV, with a single LED flash for company, although it will record video at 1080p.
The HTC logo is slightly indented which led us to run our finger over it many times, just because we liked the feeling.
At the base you get a nod towards the One SV’s network capabilities with "4G LTE" emblazoned above the speaker grill, with the Beats Audio technology logo below it, showing that Dr Dre’s fancy music tech is housed inside.
The white back plate does attract marks and we managed to pick up numerous smudges on it after just a day or so.
Luckily it wipes clean with a damp cloth, but when you pull out your new HTC One SV to show off to your mates you’ll be laughed out the pub when you flip it over to reveal grubby finger prints – oh the shame.
On the face of it the HTC One SV may share a similar name to impressive One S, but a number of compromises when it comes to build quality and specifications leaves us feeling a little unfulfilled and with a handset which is closer to the significantly cheaper HTC One V.
You can see how the HTC One SV stacks up against the One S in the video below:
As we mentioned in the introduction the HTC One SV comes running Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, and while we expect an upgrade to Jelly Bean is almost certainly on the cards we’re surprised it didn’t ship with it out of the box.
HTC’s Android overlay is in play as well on the One SV with Sense 4.1 installed – which also isn’t the latest version of the software with the HTC One X+ which arrived last year sporting Sense 4+ alongside Jelly Bean.
Software disappointment aside the HTC One SV at least packs a relatively good amount of power with a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM under the hood.
Coupled with a responsive screen Android runs smoothly on the One SV, allowing us to glide through the homescreens – of which you can have a maximum of seven – and skip through the app draw without hassle.
It’s not quite as zippy as the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 or Sony Xperia Z, but we wouldn’t expect it to be and even though its dual-core processor isn’t as punchy as the chip in the One S, the two handsets are pretty much on par performance wise.
In true HTC fashion the Android lock screen has been dabbled with to include the Taiwanese firm’s famous ring-pull unlock process with four shortcuts allowing you to jump to key apps right from the off.
Anyone who has a soft spot for quick settings in the notification drop down will be disappointed with HTC as with its other handset the One SV doesn’t provide any here, with a link to the full settings menu the only reprieve.
It’s not a critical issue as a widget can be placed on a homescreen giving you control over the main functions such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS but seeing as the notification bar can be accessed from the lock screen it would have been nice to see the controls there too.
Hold down on a blank space on any homescreen and the widgets menu will spring up, with a plethora of HTC widgets alongside the stock Android ones giving you a wealth of choice.
A simple drag and drop will see the widget of your choosing plonked onto the homescreen and a similar action will delete it if you hover over the "remove" icon at the top of the screen.
Apps open swiftly and a handy little feature on the HTC One SV is the ability to use the multi-tasking key as the traditional Android menu button by just holding it down – allowing you to easily access additional settings in applications which are yet to adopt the new button-less operation Google is pushing for.
The multi-tasking menu itself has been given a Sense 4.1 makeover with large portrait thumbnails arranged in a horizontal line giving you a clear over view of your recently used apps.
You can force close apps running in the background by sliding you finger up, over the thumbnail to save on data and battery consumption, as well as quickly flipping between various apps.
Contacts and Calling
The HTC One SV carries on the Taiwanese firm’s strong heritage in the contacts management arena allowing you to seamlessly import details from various sources into one compact list.
Not only is the One SV able to pull in contacts from the likes of Google, Facebook and your email accounts, it will also wiz through them joining up any duplications, such as your friends phone number stored in your Google account and their Facebook profile.
Annoyingly there’s no support for Twitter in this contact love-in, which will frustrate those who prefer the 140 character system over the expansive blue book.
HTC’s system is scarily efficient at matching your buddies up with their various accounts and if it’s not completely sure the One SV will offer up suggestions on accounts which could be joined, which more often than not are spot on.
The "People" app is your one stop shop for all your acquaintances, but this can also be accessed from the "Phone" icon as both lead to the same application, with different tabs displaying depending on which one you’ve hit.
Pictures of your contacts are displayed next to their names in an attractive vertical list, if the One SV has managed to pull one through from an account, and you’ll find it’s not just the photo which has been mined by the handset.
Facebook photo galleries and status updates are also pulled through to contact’s cards, allowing you to get an overview of their life without having to launch a dedicated app.
There’s also a record of all the calls and messages you’ve exchanged with each person – handy if you want to keep track of your stalking tendencies.
Adding a contact is also a piece of cake, just in case you run into a new pal at the bus stop, with a simple "add" button at the top of the screen in the People app taking you to a form to add in various details.
As we’ve mentioned above you can access the dial pad from the Phone and People applications if you need to bash out a number.
Alternatively you can head on over to a contact’s card and tap the number you wish to call them on – all very straight forward.
Signal wise the HTC One SV held up well, although the 4G strength unsurprisingly dwindled the further we came away from London, but thankfully 3G was waiting to take over without fuss.
Call quality was decent and we were able to hear our compatriot clearly on the other end and vice versa – even in busier locations with a lot of noise pollution.
Messaging from emails to texts is second nature to smartphones these days and the HTC One SV is no exception.
Thanks to the Android OS on the One SV you’ve got easy access to various forms of character-based communication.
You’re encouraged to sign in to your various accounts during the first time setup on the HTC One SV – and if you do so you can shoot off into the wonderful world of internet based communications straight away.
The stock Android email and Gmail apps are present, with the former letting you add several addresses in one place and view them in an unified inbox, or separately if you’re really popular.
Google insists the Gmail app has to appear on all Android phones and while it’s an excellent client for dealing with your Gmail address it’s a shame you can’t add your other accounts to the app and do away with the other completely.
Back over with the standard email app and while it may not be quite so feature-packed it’s still an intuitive and easy to use system which allows you to add your Gmail address along with any others you may have, meaning you can do away with the official client if you so wish.
The ability to quickly switch between inboxes or view them in one feed is great for productivity and something we enjoy using on any Android handset, not just the One SV.
Text messaging is the standard Android affair with a bit of HTC Sense glitz thrown on top for a slightly more unique layout although it won’t out fox anyone familiar with Android, or anyone who has used a smartphone in the past.
A handy feature in the messaging app is the ability to increase and decrease the text size by simply pinching and zooming – perfect for those with poorer eyesight or if you want to see a whole message at once without having to scroll.
If you’ve got a soft spot for social networking then the HTC One SV comes preloaded with the official Facebook and Twitter applications, plus Google+ is also onboard for the super trendy among you.
HTC has always been one of the better manufacturers when it comes to keyboards and the board on the One SV follows in the famed Sense footsteps of handsets past.
However we did find it a little cramped on the One SV, but that may be because we’ve been using the Galaxy Note 2 recently and our fingers have become accustomed to its massive screen.
With a 4.3-inch display there is plenty of space on the One SV and we did get used to the layout after a few days, although eventually we buckled and downloaded the trusty SwiftKey keyboard which we find outperforms any other Android offering.
Web browsing is one of the key features on the HTC One SV as after all it is a 4G enabled handset – one of a select few currently available in the UK.
Of course only a handful of cities actually provide 4G at the moment, for the rest of you outside these high-speed hubs you’ll be stuck with good old 3G.
If you’re conscious of eating through your data in next to no time then you’ll be pleased to learn that the One SV also features Wi-Fi, allowing you to jump onto your home, office or McDonald’s network without fear of racking up a huge bill.
The One SV sports two browsers out of the box with the stock Android offering accompanied by Google Chrome, which is only available on handsets running Ice Cream Sandwich or higher.
If you’re lucky enough to be housed in a 4G area then as you’d expect web speeds are impressively fast, with full-fat TechRadar loading in under five seconds, banners and all in both browsers.
You get similar load speeds over Wi-Fi as long as you’ve got a decent signal strength, while 3G browsing appeared to be variable adding a few seconds to the speeds witnessed on 4G.
On the whole there’s little to choose between the two browsers on the One SV, with Chrome offering a lighter colour palette over the stock app’s black hues.
A key feature which is missing from Chrome however is the ability to save pages for offline reading – something the Internet app provides along with a reading mode, which strips out all the adverts and images from an article leaving with you an easily digestible page of text.
Text automatically reflows in both browsers allowing you to happily read articles without have to scroll sideways as well as down, and both can sync with your Google account allowing you to access bookmarks stored in the cloud.
Websites look good, but not great thanks to the lower resolution display HTC has decided to lump in the One SV, but text is still perfectly legible once zoomed in.
Luckily HTC seems to have resolved the shut-down issues which plagued the One S browser when you flicked through sites too quickly, with no force closures witnessed during our One SV review period.
Adobe Flash is a dying art form and is not supported on the HTC One SV which is not a huge problem (or surprise), but may infuriate those of you who still frequent flash-based sites.
The HTC One SV comes equipped with a 5MP camera which is disappointing considering for the same money you can pick up the One S which not only has a better screen and faster processor, but also an 8MP snapper.
Thankfully there is a single LED flash round the back with gives the One SV back some credibility but the promise of 1080p video raises our suspicions over quality, but more on that in the next section.
Something which has been given a bump on the HTC One SV is the front facing camera which is now 1.6MP making for smoother, clearer video calls and more in-depth vanity checks – lovely.
The camera application can be accessed easily from the default shortcuts on the lockscreen as well as from the icon in the app list, opening up in a jiffy meaning there’s hardly any time to wait before you can get snapping.
HTC has waved its Sense wand over the application giving it a different look and feel to the stock Android offering, but it’s beautifully simple to use.
You get large shutter and record buttons on the right of the screen, with a link to the gallery below and the effects menu above.
There are 15 effects to choose from including distortion, vignette and greyscale allowing you to create a unique photo.
Camera scenes such as HDR and panorama are also supported on the HTC One SV and you can easily toggle the flash by hitting the button in the top left corner of the screen.
A digital zoom lets you get closer to the subject you’re shooting, but quality dramatically diminishes so we’d recommend leaving the slider well alone.
Picture quality as you may have already guessed is a little lack-lustre, especially when you compare the snaps against those taken on rival handsets.
Photos lack clarity and colour and you’re left with results which wouldn’t look out of place on a budget handset – but the HTC One SV will set you back over £300. Poor show.
You can tweak the effects, scene modes and variables such as white balance and contrast but at the end of the day it is what it is – a poor camera on a phone which is demanding more money than it possibly should.
Disappointing camera aside the HTC One SV surprises when it claims it can shoot full HD, 1080p video.
To say we were sceptical would be an understatement but low and behold dive into the video settings in the camera app and there it is: Video quality Full HD (1920×1080).
HTC has decided to do away with the unnecessary camcorder icon which adorned the app list on previous handsets and only served to turf you into the camera anyway, with the redesigned camera app making it very easy to start recording.
There’s no messing about with a toggle switch to flip flop between camera and camcorder – instead the record button is right next door to the shutter key, give it a press and the red light comes on. Simples.
An HTC staple and something we wish more manufacturers would pick up is the ability to take photos while recording with the shutter button staying on screen with the record key during filming.
It seems such a simple system and can come in very handy, and we’re pleased the One SV hasn’t missed out on this feature.
Something you don’t see too often on smartphones these days is the ability to capture footage in slow motion.
First pioneered by the LG Viewty the technology has been seemingly swept under the carpet by the majority of manufacturers but HTC is bucking the trend including the technology on the One SV and a host of other devices.
Video quality, considering it’s supposed to be 1080p, isn’t great with the HTC One SV struggling to track moving objects smoothly and the overall effect looking a bit grainy.
With a 4.3-inch screen and Beats Audio technology the HTC One SV has the makings of a media mogul.
Unfortunately the One SV lets itself down massively when you take a peek at the internal storage. 8GB. Yes you’ve ready that correctly, just 8GB. Now consider a chunk of it will be taken up by the operating system and you’re realistically left with around 6GB.
Luckily there’s a microSD slot hiding under the rear cover of the One SV capable of supporting cards up to 32GB in size so all is not lost, but we can’t help feel we’ve got off on the wrong foot here.
HTC has a lovely little deal with cloud storage firm Dropbox and anyone who purchases on of the Taiwanese company’s handsets automatically gets 25GB of free storage – handy for keeping your documents and photos backed up – which the One SV can do for you in the background.
Getting content on and off the HTC One SV is all pretty simple, connect the phone up to your computer with the supplied USB cable and you’ll be dragging and dropping to your hearts content.
A one stop shop for all your musical needs on the HTC One SV? Well that will be the cunningly titled Music app then.
Not only does it give you access to any songs you may have lovingly copied onto the One SV there are also links to other apps including SoundHound, TuneIn Radio and 7Digital – all of which come installed on the phone out of the box.
And if you prefer using different music apps most, if not all will appear in this hub as well once you’ve installed them from Google Play.
We’ll kick off with the standard music player which offers up a no nonsense set of tools including play/pause, skip, shuffle and repeat – so all your favourites.
On the player screen you get a large image of the album art with the straight forward controls beneath.
The party trick up the sleeve of the HTC One SV is the Beats Audio technology hidden inside which activates itself when you plug in a pair of headphones.
Dr Dre’s wizardry gets to work beefing up your tracks, enhancing the bass and giving a pleasing audio experience even with the average set of buds provided in the box.
All the main audio formats are supported here including MP3, WMA, WAV and AAC – so you shouldn’t have too much trouble porting your personal collection across to the One SV.
The SoundHound app allows you to find out what tune is playing on the radio as the app listens to a snippet of the track and then searches its vast library of songs in a few seconds to tell you what you’re listening to.
7Digital is an online music store allowing you to purchase and download tracks straight onto the HTC One SV.
Most songs will set you back around 99p, while albums mostly range from £5 to £9.99, which is generally the going rate on most music sites.
It sports a similar layout to Google Play which means anyone who’s used the Android app store before won’t find it difficult to navigate round the 7Digital app.
Finally TuneIn Radio gives you access to hundreds of internet radio stations which can be browsed by music genre, ensuring you’ll always be able to find music that you want to listen to.
The 4G connectivity inside the HTC One SV means that streaming the stations is a breeze with no buffering or lost connections – however the same can’t be said if you’re on the move as mobile signal is never reliable.
A FM radio also sneaks its way onto the One SV which requires a set of headphones to be plugged in to act as an antenna, letting you listen to the radio in the classic way without the need for a data connection.
At 4.3-inches the display on the HTC One SV is a suitable size for watching video on the go, sadly though the resolution isn’t as great as you’d expect from a smartphone costing over £300.
There’s no dedicated video player app installed on the One SV, so you’ll either have to download one from Google Play or route around in the gallery app to find the clip you fancy.
The HTC One SV supports MP4, WMV, H.263 and .264 video formats as well as AVI, so make sure your clips comply with one of these before copying them onto the handset.
The video player provides the basics with play/pause, skip and scrub controls, but you also have the option to lock the controls to avoid any unwanted finger presses plus you can turn capture mode on if you want to grab a shot of your favourite scene.
Beats Audio technology is on hand to boost the sound if you’re listening via headphones or speakers plugged into the 3.5mm jack.
Video playback isn’t too bad considering the lower quality screen HTC has slapped inside the One SV and we were able to watch a movie comfortably on the phone.
On closer inspection you’ll notice the detail isn’t as good as on rival handsets boasting better screens, but for the casual watcher the One SV will suffice.
Google’s Play Movies app comes pre-installed on the One SV giving you access to a library of films available for rent and purchase.
Prices do vary but most rentals are around the £3.50 mark, while purchases will set you back around £10. This falls pretty much in line with other services, but DVDs can be picked up for less online for selected titles.
Not content with letting Google have it all its own way HTC offers its own video service in the form of Watch.
Watch offers up a slightly different selection of movies and price wise it’s very similar to Play Movies, give or take a few quid here and there.
The Watch app is not quite as pretty to look at, but its basic layout is easy to navigate and there’s a clear distinction between buy and rental prices.
If you fancy yourself as the next big Hollywood director then you’ll want to check out the Movie Editor app, allowing you to crudely cut, chop, paste and compile your clips into one lovely video complete with audio, pictures and text.
It’s certainly not as full featured as a desktop software package, but it works well and can be fun for the odd quick mash up.
Photos are stored in the gallery app, where you’ll also find your movies and the HTC One SV uses the familiar Android thumbnailed layout for easy browsing.
If you’ve transferred high-res snaps onto the One SV than its 480×800 display won’t really do them justice if you fancy showing them off to people as colours can appear weak and detail not overly crisp.
You can easily share media stored in the gallery with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Picasa, while various messaging options including text and email are also present.
There are some basic editing tools incorporated in the gallery app on the One SV, allowing you to crop and rotate your photos as well as add some simple effects.
The 13 effects you have to choose from are not particularly ground breaking with options such as vintage and over exposed to pick from, but it’s better than nothing and very simple to apply.
Battery life and connectivity
The HTC One SV comes with a removable 1,800mAh battery which can be easily accessed by peeling off the plastic rear of the handset.
It’s a pretty decent size especially when you consider the screen isn’t overly taxing and the fact the One SV is packing a dual-core not quad-core processor.
The size translates into life quite nicely with the One SV easily seeing out a whole day even with moderately high usage which included phone calls, texts, web browsing, several Twitter and Facebook updates, camera action and a couple of YouTube videos.
If you’re more frugal with your usage you’ll make the battery last even longer and we were able to squeeze out just over two days doing the bare minimum on the One SV.
Obviously if you whack the screen on full brightness and run a video for hours on end the battery life will start to suffer and you’ll be reaching for the charger before the day is out, but for general use the HTC One SV is sufficient.
We’ve already touched on the fact that the HTC One SV rocks up with 4G connectivity, it makes a pretty big deal of it on its rear declaring "4G LTE" for all to see.
Of course the One SV doesn’t stop there though, all the usual suspects are present and correct including Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and A-GPS making sure you have all the core connectivity options at your fingertips.
You can turn the HTC One SV into a Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing devices such as your laptop and tablet to use your mobile data connection which is super speedy if you’re in a 4G area.
Make sure you keep a tab on your usage though as you may see your data allowance drained in a matter of minutes if you get too carried away, so we advise you use this feature sparingly – if at all.
Maps and Apps
As the HTC One SV is an Android device it comes fully equipped with the excellent Google Maps and Navigation applications, ensuring you can always find your way home.
The One SV managed to locate us almost immediately after clicking on the maps app, and that was with Wi-Fi turned off.
It did take a few seconds to narrow down our location, but we were very impressed with the speed in which the phone managed to triangulate our whereabouts.
Maps loaded swiftly over 4G and we were able to pan around smoothly without any sign of hesitation or lag, which made the mapping experience an enjoyable one.
Detail isn’t as pin sharp as on other handsets boasting higher resolutions so from a relatively zoomed out view on a busy area of the map it can look a little messy, but zoom in and everything becomes clearer.
The 4.3-inch display is a good size if you are planning on using the One SV as a in-car sat nav, with it clearly showing all the information you need without taking up too much of your windscreen.
The One SV was able to keep locked on our position even in busy built up areas and the clear instructions helped us to our destination in no time at all.
We’ve already covered the various social, media and mapping applications which come pre-installed on the HTC One SV, but that’s not all.
HTC has handily pre-loaded the SV with a handful of other applications it thinks will help you in your day to day life, and if they don’t then you always have access to Google Play which offers hundreds of thousands of apps for your delectation.
First up on the bundled app parade is the ultimately useless EA Games offering which is nothing more a link to five games, four of which are only trials – you’ll be better off checking out the games section in Google Play.
An HTC staple is the Flashlight app, allowing you to utilise the LED on the back of the One SV and use it as a torch – perfect for when you’re stumbling home at 2am and need to see where you’re stepping.
Be warned though the flashlight will drain the battery quite significantly if you use it for too long.
Another HTC favourite is the mirror app which allows you to check out your fine self by using the front facing camera. It’s not an app we found ourselves using, but we sure it’s a life saver if some eye liner needs to be applied at a moments notice.
Polaris Office, PDF viewer and Notes are all on board to aid working on the go, plus the basic News and Weather app keeps you up to date with the main headlines and wind chill factor.
Thanks to the dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM inside the HTC One SV games run smoothly on the handset.
We were able to play the rather graphically intensive Temple Run on the One SV without issue, although the game didn’t look as good as it does on other handsets with colours a little washed out and detail not as crisp.
Hands on gallery
The HTC One SV probably should have offered more than it does. It drew us in with its promise of 4G connectivity and a name which resembled the great One S, but we ended up feeling a bit disappointed.
The main selling point for the HTC One SV is its 4G capabilities and to be fair it handles this very well.
Internet browsing speeds were impressive, app downloads swift and we could update Twitter and Facebook in a flash. It also performed well as a portable hotspot for our laptop as we hurtled along on a train.
Battery life was another thing which impressed us and it’s not very often we get to say that. The One SV happily lasted a day and with careful use we could stretch it to two before we had to start locating the charger.
The price. The HTC One SV costs the same as the One S which sports a better processor, screen, chassis and camera and although it may not be 4G enabled there’s an awful lot of compromise for little gain here.
It’s disappointing to see a smartphone launching now which is still running Ice Cream Sandwich, as Jelly Bean has been established for a while and HTC has already launched a handset which runs Android 4.1 out the box – the One X+.
We can’t help but think the HTC One SV has been rushed out to capitalise on the 4G rollout which is picking up speed in Europe and this phone is looking to cash in on those desperate to have the latest technology.
That’s not to say the One SV is a bad handset – if HTC had priced it closer to the One V instead of the One S then it would be a very different proposition, unfortunately it’s not and that’s the main issue we have.
It’s good to see another proper mid-range handset enter the 4G fray, but the Taiwanese firm has got its sums wrong on this occasion and ultimately that’s going to make the HTC One SV a difficult one to shift.
By John McCann, TechRadar