HTC One (M7) review

Ultrapixels, Zoes, Blinkfeed and more: HTC is going all out

HTC One review
Editor's Choice
Yeah, but is it THE One?

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BlinkFeed is HTC's attempt at moving away from the traditional homescreens of old on Android phones and bringing users something that will make the HTC One (and other models in the range) a little more unique.

The feed is a simple interface that borrows heavily from the Live Tiles of Windows Phone, which HTC is a main contributor to. The tiles are various sizes though, which makes things a little less repetitive for scrolling through to 'snack' on content.

The idea is a really sound one: giving a mish-mash of content, be that from curated news feeds on certain topics, videos shared from the HTC Zoe camera app or social network updates from your buddies.

HTC One review

There's an interesting rhythm to the content, as while news is clearly the most 'snackable' of all on offer (rather than hearing what TV programmes your friends are watching at that point) they obviously wane at certain times of the day, meaning you're left with a sea of Twitter updates.

We were initially very sceptical about BlinkFeed when we were told all about it from HTC before the One launched - but the Android 4.3 update fixes many of these.

For instance, the feeds are grouped by topic, and while you can now add in feeds from outlets you like, the quality of the images and overall mix still leaves a little to be desired.

It's actually rather hard to add in your own feed, as if you use the search functionality you're met with a mix of content, from tweets to other sites linking to your search term, rather than just the RSS feed you probably want.

You have to go online, find the link and then tap it to add it to the Blinkfeed list, which isn't ideal. At least once this is done you can easily access what you want to see, and we have to admit the tweet/link/article mix HTC provides is pretty entertaining.

HTC One review

Similarly, there's no 'learning' involved here either, so you can't vote up or down certain topics, or exclude certain people from being shown on the timeline.

Again, we're not too bothered about this latter feature as BlinkFeed is actually pretty adept at getting things right, using data from Facebook and Twitter to see who you interact with regularly. Turning off retweets would be welcome though.

But more interesting than all of that is that BlinkFeed actually works much better than we thought it would. In the months we've been using the One we found that time and again we returned to the feed to just get a feel for what's going on rather than opening the specific Flipboard, Facebook or Twitter apps themselves.

This won't be the case for many of you, as it's a pretty subjective feature, but spend the time to curate it and you'll reap the benefits.

We particularly like the fact that tapping an article will show the picture and text in a reader-style mode, without the need to open the browser.

HTC One review

It would be nice if this downloaded more quickly or cached over Wi-Fi (although you can auto-refresh the feed) as sometimes we're left waiting for more than a few seconds to read an article. Otherwise, all ace.

This has been partly addressed in the Android 4.3 update, by allowing a Read it Later functionality (or you can save it to another app, which is nifty).

There's a pleasant 'snick' when you pull down the most recent story to refresh the feed, and in a move taken from Apple, you can tap the top of the screen to get back to the top of the list when you've gone a little too deep into your BlinkFeed - something that we only found by accident when we realised that scrolling all the way back up to the top was going to take a LONG time.

With the Android 4.2 update you can also press the back button to allow the same function - it's a good move from HTC as it's a very intuitive gesture.

The overall UI is incredibly pleasing, not just because of the different sizes of the tiles. The weather and clock at the top of the app are a strong replacement for the traditional widget we're used to from HTC, and offer the information just when you need it.

On top of that the slight pull down from the top of the list is a natural gesture to get you to the settings and ability to customise your feed - it's touches like this that show HTC has stepped things up with the One.

This is also the place to search through the current feed, which is actually a hugely valuable too. So often we want to mention something we read, but can't find it instantly. A quick BlinkFeed search will find all mentions of that term in news, TV or among your friends' missives, and brings a more holistic feel to the listing.

HTC One review

It's a shame that BlinkFeed isn't present on the lock screen, but given you can disable the lock screen altogether (a feature we're surprised hasn't been offered on more phones) it's not really needed.

Over time, you'll find your dependence on BlinkFeed will diminish as it becomes a mobile commodity - it's not a bad thing, but because you can't customise it very well at all, it's not very addictive. This is mitigated slightly with the newer changes, but it still needs work.

The method of choosing categories is overly complex and while we like the improved options and results, there's so much more to come here. Also, not being able to turn it off from your home screen (not that we'd want to) is going to irk some users.

Overall, we were very impressed with BlinkFeed compared to the hopes we had for it; there's still a lot to do in terms of making the app more personal, as well as being able to choose and exclude the feeds and friends you get information from, as some news 'sources' are nowhere near such a thing.

However, on multiple occasions we found ourselves reading really interesting articles that we wouldn't have done previously, so for that reason alone we have to give BlinkFeed a big thumbs up as a USP on the HTC One.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.