Features

The One is HTC's current flagship smartphone and as such offers one of the industry's most comprehensive feature sets. In our Connect reviews we focus on a phone's imaging capabilities and features but of course most users don't want to use their device only for taking pictures. For power users the HTC One has a lot of interesting features and functions to play with. Blink Feed, for example, is a Flipboard-style home screen that combines content from a variety of news sources with your social media streams to create a customized content feed. The HTC music players offers a built-in karaoke function and an integrated IT-transmitter means you can use the One as a universal remote control.

Nevertheless, both the HTC engineers and marketing department have put a lot of emphasis on the One's camera app and integrated imaging features. There is too much to look at everything in detail, but below you can see the results of our trials with some of the new and/or more interesting camera features.

On top of the features described below, the HTC's camera app also offers a range of scene modes like we've seen on digital cameras since the early days. Most of those modes, for example the portrait and landscape modes, focus on optimization of contrast and saturation settings, but the Backlight mode (described below) does more than that and lifts the shadows to create a higher dynamic-range image. The phone also comes with a conventional HDR mode that combines three bracketed images into one HDR-exposure. However, on our U.S.-Sprint-version of the device, this mode appears to be broken and produces overexposed results. This issue wasn't fixed even after the last software update we received but we would hope it will be addressed by HTC soon.

Lastly there is a continuous shooting mode which captures images at a rate of approximately 8.8 frames per second. In anything but very bright light, this mode tends to use shutter speeds that are too slow to freeze fast motion and is therefore not well suited for action and sports subjects. However, the good news is that a batch of images taken in continuous shooting mode offers you the same editing options in the gallery app as Zoe movies (see below).

Zoe movies

Zoe movies is a new feature on the HTC One. If you switch the camera app to Zoe mode by tapping on the Zoe icon on the left side of the screen and then hit the shutter button the camera records a three-second HD video and up to 20 still frames. If you download the images to your computer all you get is a mp4 file and a bunch of stills of the same scene. In fact, after recording a few Zoe movies you'll find so many files on your phone's storage that it can be quite a laborious task to sift through them all.

However, on the device itself you can do a few clever things with your Zoes. In the "Living Gallery" they are displayed as a "moving photo" which makes for a much more lively gallery than on other devices but there are a few editing options as well:

HTC Share

In the gallery your pictures and movies are categorized by date and/or location. You can also create events manually and copy your files into that folder, for example a wedding or a vacation. You can then select your 10 favorite videos/stills for such an event and share them as a collage that is displayed on the HTC Zoe Share server. You simply send a link via email or share via the usual social networks. You have to setup an HTC account to do this, but the people you share with don't need an account for viewing.

This is what a collage looks like on the HTC Share website. Click here to see it in its full moving glory.

Highlight movie

This feature creates a highlight movie from up to 13 movies/stills in an event folder. The images and movies are selected automatically but can also be picked manually. Once you've picked the images and movies you want to use for the highlight reel you can choose from six image filter/transition effect/background music combinations to create the final output movie.

To create a highlight movie you select up to 13 of your favorite images/videos in a event ...
 ... and can then choose from six transition effect/background music/ image filter combinations.

Unfortunately, images and movies are not necessarily played back chronologically and there is no option to set the order manually, so you can end up with the post-hike beer drinking displayed before some of the trail action as you can see in the video below. This video was created using the Islandia effect, here you can also see the Avalon and Eifel effects.

Object Removal

Object Removal, like the Sequence Shot and Always Smile features, is available as an editing option for Zoe movies in the gallery app. The good thing about these features is that, unlike on the Samsung Galaxy S4, they remain available as long as the Zoe movie files are stored on your device, so you can always go back and re-edit the files if you are not content with your initial results. The Samsung model offers similar editing options but the final result is generated on the spot, right after you take the picture sequence, and you can't go back for editing later.

Object Removal automatically identifies any potentially moving unwanted objects in a scene, such as the passerby in the example below. You then get the option to remove it and save the final result. The function does not always identify the correct object for removal, but in general this works pretty well. Of course you'll need to be shooting in Zoe mode in the first place to be able to use Object Removal as it is not available for standard still images.

The Object Removal feature identifies moving subjects in a frame that are not part of a scene ...
 ... and gives you the option to remove them and preview the final image.
This works reasonably well but the pixel-level image quality of the saved image is visibly lower than a standard still image.

Always Smile

Always Smile is similar to Blackberry 10's Time Shift feature. Faces are detected automatically in group portraits and you can change the facial expression for each person in the picture individually, making sure everybody is showing their best smile and no eyes are closed. To do this, you tap on the face you want to "edit" and the swipe from left to right to change the expression along the timeline. When you are satisfied you can save the final result.

Tap on each face in a group portrait and select the best smile in the Always Smile editing feature.

Sequence Shot

Sequence Shot creates a composite image out of several frames that include a main moving subject. This is mainly meant for action shots (classic example: skateboarder flying through the halfpipe) but also works for creating "multiple-me" composites like the example below.

When editing a Sequence Shot you can choose from the available frames and get a preview of your final image.
Depending on the scene, this feature is capable of generating interesting composite images but you'll likely find some minor stitching errors and the pixel-level detail is visible worse than in standard still images.

It's worth mentioning that the digital zoom is not available when shooting in Zoe mode, so none of the features described above can be used in combination with the zoom. Given how much the HTC's digital zoom decreases image quality this is probably a limitation most users can live with.

The same features available for Zoe movies can also be applied to image batches that have been captured in continuous shooting mode.   

Night Mode

The HTC One comes with a Night Mode that can be selected in the menu but we found it less useful than similar implementations on other devices. The Night Mode on the Samsung Galaxy Camera, for example,  takes three frames in rapid succession and combines them into one, averaging out the noise and thus creating a cleaner image than you would get in standard shooting mode.

The HTC's Night Mode does none of that. In fact, we are not entirely certain what exactly it is supposed to do and the function not being documented in the manual doesn't make things easier. In the typical night scene below which we captured in both standard and Night modes, there is no difference between the images. Use of night mode is documented in the EXIF-data but all exposure and image settings are identical.

When we took another set of images in our very dark studio it seemed that Night Mode simply caps the ISO used at around 760 and reduces shutter speed in order to achieve a sensible exposure. In standard mode ISO is increased instead to maintain a minimum shutter speed of 1/15 sec which results in more image noise. This effect only kicks in in very dark environments and given the slow shutter speeds, the use of a tripod is recommended.

Night Mode Off, ISO 780, 1/15 sec
Night Mode On, ISO 780, 1/15 sec
 Night Mode Off, ISO 886, 1/10 sec
 Night Mode On, 759, 1/9 sec