Sometimes the sheer number of smartphones (especially Androids) in the world just boggles my mind.
Just when I think I've seen it all, someone sends me a phone that makes me remember why I appreciate what I get to do each week.
I've been testing the HTC One (mine was provided by Sprint, $99 with a two-year contract) for the past few weeks. It's a fine example of getting a design just right.
My personal choice is still an Apple iPhone 5, and I am always a tiny bit delighted when I take it out of whatever case I'm using and just look at the phone.
I got that same feeling with the HTC One.
Its design features a striking front with a 4.7-inch screen flanked by strips of aluminum at the top and bottom that are covering two Beats Audio speakers. The back is curved and also made of aluminum, while the sides are a white plastic, but it's not cheap-looking at all.
The HTC One is a substantial feeling phone in your hand. From across the room, it's obvious the One is not just another plastic Android phone.
The One is powered by a 1.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2 gigabytes of RAM and 32 or 64 gigabytes of storage. There is no external memory card slot.
The screen is a Super LCD 3 with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, which is 468 pixels per inch. It's covered in Corning's Gorilla Glass 2.
It uses 4G LTE for data and also has Bluetooth 4.0.
It can act as a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot to get up to eight of your devices connected to the Internet.
The phone's dimensions are 5.41 inches by 2.69 inches. At its thinnest point on the edges, it's 0.16 inches thick.
The One weighs just a bit over 5 ounces.
The rear camera is a 4-"ultrapixel" model, an HTC term that means the camera sensor has bigger pixels than other smartphones. HTC says the camera has 300 percent better light capture. Better than what? I'm not sure.
The pictures do look very good, even in low light, as the camera also has an f/2.0 lens and optical image stabilization.
If you're a camera geek, the digital photo website DPreview.com has a 10-page review of the One's camera system at http://bit.ly/11pZn47.
HTC is proud of its audio system, which uses something it calls BoomSound with Beats Audio.
There are two front-facing speakers and a built-in amplifier. The sound is certainly better than most smartphones I've used.
The HTC One shipped to me with version 4.1 of Android, but according to AndroidCentral.com, updates to version 4.2.2 have started rolling out to users.
I could really get used to the HTC BlinkFeed software, which turns the home screen of the One into a Flipboard-style mix-up of tiles that originate from your social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter) and from your favorite news feeds. There's always fresh content, and since you've selected the sources, it's usually relevant to your interests.
Phone calls were clear and loud enough. The response of the phone to navigating, scrolling and other gestures was speedy.
The HTC One is a top-tier smartphone, worthy of being in the same sentence as the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4.
-Pros: Great build quality, sturdy, good-looking design
-Cons: Older version of Android, but that's being fixed in the next few weeks
-Bottom line: The One is among my favorite phones. It's my favorite Android phone of 2013.
-Price: $99 with two-year-contract
-On the Web: http://www.htc.com
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