HTC may not have had the most successful year in 2012, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. After releasing the HTC One X early in the year, and then backing it up with the One S, One V and the 4G-enabled One XL, the Taiwanese company has partnered with Optus for the One SV.
The second 4G-enabled handset to wear the One moniker, the One SV is a mid-range, affordable handset for Optus’ expanding 4G network.
It doesn’t pack in all the bells and whistles of the flagship One X or One XL – there’s no quad core processor or 720p screen on the One SV. There’s also a smaller 5MP camera and only 8GB of on board storage.
But HTC has made compromises with this phone that make it an attractive option. For a start, there’s connectivity to Optus’ LTE network. There’s also a MicroSD expansion slot, which helps alleviate some of the pain from the small amount of on board storage.
The One SV comes with a replaceable battery too, which is especially useful given the battery draining properties of 4G downloads.
The One SV has a very interesting, subtle design change over other One-branded handsets. The back of the phone is ever so slightly larger than the front, meaning that the sides actually taper out, rather than in.
With most smartphones these days, there’s a real push to make them seem thinner than their thickest points, with narrow edges tapering to a thick point in the middle. The One SV does this to a much lesser extent, but adds a bit of extra real estate to the back of the phone to have the sides easily definable.
When you think about it, this design should fail miserably. But in the real world, it actually works. The tapered sides end up providing a nice angle for fingertips to grip onto while holding the phone, without adding significant thickness to the handset given it measures in at 9.2mm thick.
The 4.3-inch display is only rocking an 800 x 480 pixel resolution. Compared to the 720p magnificence on the One X and the One XL, the step down is noticeable, but hardly offensive. Unless you’re looking at text via the browser, there’s no real cause for complaint with the screen.
HTC has popped the three standard Android touch buttons below the screen , while above the screen sees wide, narrow speaker grill for the earpiece, a tiny 1.6MP front facing camera and the HTC logo.
The top of the phone features the power button on the right of the device and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the left, while the bottom houses the MicroUSB port for charging and syncing the phone. The volume rocker rests on the right hand side, while the left is gloriously bereft of buttons.
The back of the phone is slightly more interesting, with the 5MP camera with LED flash located in the middle of the device towards the top. A small grill at the bottom separates the obligatory Beats Audio logo and the 4G LTE logo, while the centre of the back case is an embossed HTC logo.
The whole package weighs in at 122 grams with the battery inside. Pop off the back and you’ll see that the battery itself can be replaced, while a MicroSD card slot lets you expand on the paltry 8GB of on board storage.
While the overall design isn’t as striking as the flagship handsets from HTC, it still manages to impart its own sense of style, which is welcome for the class of phone that it is.
Despite the fact it was released late in 2012, the One SV is only packing the 4.0.4 build of Android known as Ice Cream Sandwich. There’s no word on when or if the handset will receive the update to Jelly Bean, although given its specifications, it would be a surprise if it didn’t eventually move up to 4.1.
The Ice Cream Sandwich operating system also means that the phone is stuck on the 4.1 build of HTC Sense. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it means you miss out on the neat benefits of Google Now, Project Butter and the battery-saving eco mode.
But even without those improvements, this is still an HTC handset, and you can tell from the moment you go to unlock the home screen. A large virtual ring sits at the bottom of the screen awaiting you to drag it upwards to unlock the phone. You can alternatively drag down one of four applications to the ring to unlock them directly, including the phone app, email, messaging or camera.
Once unlocked, you’ve got the option of seven different home screens, which you can swipe between left and right, although there’s no endless carousel of cycling through all the pages – only three pages to the left and three pages to the right of the main page. Alternatively, you can pinch the screen with two fingers and zoom out to all seven pages and select the one you want from there.
At the bottom of each home screen are the key shortcuts to your main applications. Like much of Android, it is gloriously customisable, but the default apps are the phone dialler, email, messaging and camera, with a button linking to all your apps in the middle.
Below the screen are the standard three Android soft buttons, which all work exactly as expected. Ice Cream sandwich lets you dictate the function of the third "recent apps" button between the recent apps function and the historic contextual menu button.
The notifications bar in Ice Cream Sandwich can’t really be described as anything other than bland. It conveniently offers a shortcut to the settings menu, but any shortcuts to toggle Wi-Fi or Bluetooth need to be added to the homepage via an included widget.
Adding widgets or shortcuts to a homescreen is stunningly simple, requiring nothing more than a long press of the screen. The One SV boots into customisation mode, pushing all your homescreens to the top of the phone and letting you browse through widgets and apps or search for what you want.
Ultimately, the One SV is very much like every other Ice Cream Sandwich-based HTC handset – elegant, simple to navigate and easy to customise. Sure, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean would have been nice out of the box, but it will surely come some day soon.
Contacts and Calling
HTC has long been best-in-class for contacts management on its Android smartphones. One of the early keys to the success of HTC Sense was its ability to seamlessly merge social networking details in with our address books.
As you work through setting up your phone for the first time, make sure you log in to Facebook and Twitter as well as your email account. This automatically gives the One SV everything it needs to create the ultimate contacts management system.
Essentially, the first time you login to the contacts page, you’re presented with the option to sync Facebook and Twitter contacts with your address book. You can sync all your social contacts, or cherry pick only the ones who are already in your address book.
The phone’s software will sort through all your contacts and automatically merge the details of people’s social accounts and personal details, leaving you with a super-contact card in our address book, complete with photo pulled from Faceook or Twitter so you know exactly who you’re talking to.
Thanks to Ice Cream sandwich, the phone dialler doing all the grunt work of managing your contact list. While the dialler is easy to access from every home page, it may not be the default view. That means it might take you a bit longer to find your contact of choice, although the People app does offer direct access to your contacts.
That said, there are a few clever searching implementations within the dialler to make finding the right contact easy, least of all the ability to pin common contacts to the home page.
Editing contacts is also simple thanks to HTC Sense. By selecting the contact and pressing the menu button it is easy to edit individual fields, add information or link the contact card to another contact card.
Contacts groups is included in the One SV, allowing you to send bulk messages to groups of friends, co-workers or family. Conveniently, you can place a widget for each group on the home page to keep up to date with the people who matter most.
It also translates across to email, giving the ability to bulk email groups, as well as view a tab of messages from those contacts.
Using the One SV for making phone calls may seem weird given it’s a vessel for super-fast 4G data connectivity, but the good news is that the handset does an admirable job.
The dialler app defaults to a number pad that takes up roughly half the screen, with shortcuts to people, groups and call history running along the bottom. Above the number pad are shortcuts to favourites and recently dialled numbers, with a scrolling alphabetical list of contacts below it.
Using a T9-style lettering on the number pad, it’s possible to spell out the name of the contact you wish to dial and the phone will automatically narrow down your contact list until you have the right person. This is a wonderfully quick way to find a number, although it can get frustrating if a contact you search for isn’t actually in your address book.
Call quality through the One SV is solid, although once you’ve experienced HD Voice on Telstra’s network, it’s hard to describe the standard connection with Optus as impressive.
Still, we never had any problem hearing people on the other end of the line, nor any complaints from our end of the connection. And you can’t ask for much more than that.
Because you’re prompted to sign into your Gmail, Facebook and Twitter accounts when you first boot up the One SV, the phone is all set and ready to go for messaging before you’ve finished customising the home screen.
Just like contacts and calling, messaging on the One SV is a well designed experience. Whether it be email, Google chat or SMS, there’s not a lot in the way of making it happen.
If you aren’t using a Gmail account, you’ll probably need to activate your email service of choice before you begin email, but the options are varied and simple to setup, and presented to you the first time you press the email icon.
Like pretty much every HTC handset, the included keyboard is a supremely functional affair. It may not compete with third party offerings like Swiftkey for pure accuracy, but it does an admirable job of getting a message across.
For those who prefer living in the future, the HTC keyboard includes a dictation option for typing out messages. It works well enough, only getting a couple of words wrong in our test, but in a step up from other offerings like Siri, will take dictation in real time, allowing you to edit mistakes on the fly.
It’s still got a long way to go before it becomes a better way to input text than typing, but for people without free hands who need to send a message, it’s worth checking out.
If we do have a complaint about the One SV’s keyboard, it comes from landscape mode. The space key in landscape is relatively small, and typers will find they hit the full stop button instead of space with alarming regularity.
Also in landscape mode, it can be tough to see which field you are typing in – on more than one occasion, we began typing a message in the address field, only noticing when we accidentally bumped the ".com" button that only appears on screen in that particular field.
For serial texters, the messaging app integrates seamlessly with the contacts app, allowing you to sent group messages as well as MMS effortlessly.
Conversations are threaded, so you can always stay up to date with your message history. Well, at least you can once you’ve developed a message history on the phone.
And as previously mentioned, Facebook and Twitter come pre-loaded on the phone, so there’s plenty of ways to connect to your social networks. The apps are both functioning and easy to use, with widgets to give you home screen access to the most recent information.
HTC has also bundled its FriendStream universal social media hub on the One SV, although it becomes convoluted and confusing, and isn’t worth using, to be honest.
HTC has preloaded the One SV with two browsers out of the box – Android’s stock Internet app and Google’s Chrome for Android. Given that the One SV is designed for data speed using Optus’ LTE network, the choice of browser is definitely a good thing, although being constantly asked to choose when clicking a link in an app can be frustrating (until you set one as default).
Ultimately, both browsers do a good job of getting you connected to the internet, although we did find Chrome slightly more responsive and reliable. There aren’t too many differences in terms of functions, although the stock browser does feature a reader mode for taking out images and links from a page for easy consumption, and the ability to save pages for later.
Thanks to Optus’ 4G network, we were getting download speeds around the 27Mbps mark, which far outstrips performance of many PCs connected to ADSL these days. Of course, the Optus 4G footprint is still quite small, so for most people there’s a real lack of advantage in this feature.
There’s also the significant hit to battery life, which we’ll discuss a bit later.
Scrolling and zooming on both browsers is done by the now standard pinching and inverse pinching motions, or double tapping text. It works well, and is responsive, and is also necessary with the One SV’s 4.3-inch screen.
While 4.3 inches is definitely enough to read comfortably, once you’ve experienced browsing on a 4.7-inch screen like the One X or One XL, 4.3 inches feels tiny. The lower 800 x 480 resolution also makes things noticeably less defined than the higher res screens on the larger handsets, but not enough to make this phone unusable.
Given both browsers let you log in to a Google account to have immediate access to all your web-based bookmarks and favourites – well, those stored in a PC or Mac based Chrome browser at least – there is very little barrier to getting online with the One SV.
There’s even a nice little surprise for fans of a full browsing experience (or employees at Adobe), the HTC One SV has full Flash support built in to the handset, so getting a full web experience is a possibility on the device.
You do need to manually activate the Flash player in the menu of the browser though for it to work, but it didn’t significantly do anything to slow the device down.
HTC set a pretty high benchmark for itself with its 8MP camera inside the One X and One XL. The One SV only packs a 5MP rear camera on board – no doubt to keep costs down – but does include the same dedicated imaging chip that the other phones have.
It’s quite obvious though that the image quality of the One SV isn’t up to the same standard as the 8MP sensor on the One X. Photos lack the detail, and are significantly noisier than the better specced phones.
Controlling the camera will be a familiar process for HTC users, with dedicated buttons on the right side of the camera for both still and video recording. Above the controls is a blue circle that operates HTC’s filters, allowing for vignetting, black and white and distorted images while shooting.
The left side of the screen offers a range of controls and settings. A shortcut to flash activation remains on the right hnd side, while the left offers a shortcut to the shooting mode. Options include HDR, panorama and portrait shooting, among others. There’s also a slow motion video option, which drops the resolution and lets budding photographers get creative.
In the centre lies the settings control, which offers a decent amount of control over shooting settings. There’s no manual controls on board, but manual selection of ISO and white balance can go a long way to help One SV users get better pictures.
Holding down the shutter button initiates burst mode, although the shutter speed still struggles with moving objects. HTC has bundled its best shot algorithm to help there though, letting you leave the decision making to an algorithm to select the best photo from a burst shooting frenzy. You can also decide manually, if you so choose.
The dedicated video button on screen when you boot into the camera app means it’s always easy to start shooting. The One SV is capable of recording 1080p footage, but the truth is that the final quality isn’t anywhere near the 1080p you’ll get from a proper HD camera, especially when viewed on a big screen.
The ability to shoot still photos while recording video is a huge bonus, although once again the quality isn’t great. It’s far from bad, and fits the phone’s price point well, but when compared to the 8MP offering in the One X, you just can’t help but come away a little disappointed.
Features like slow motion video recording a probably more gimmick than functional tool, but then again, being able to capture slow motion stumbles of kids and pets could prove hilarious for years to come. At least, that’s what we used it for.
The One SV comes loaded with a paltry 8GB of on board storage for media, which is barely enough for a single HD film. The upside to this news is that HTC has included a dedicated MicroSD slot that lets you expand that by 32GB at a time.
Mind you, 40GB still isn’t a huge amount of space, and 32GB MicroSD cards are still fairly expensive, so it’s important to factor in the cost of buying one if you’re looking at buying this phone.
As anyone with any experience using a HTC device can attest, controlling media is a simple affair. Getting files onto your device is a simple drag and drop affair, unless you want to download HTC’s Sync Manager software, which works like iTunes for HTC handsets. We’d recommend sticking with drag and drop though.
HTC has bundled a bunch of music related apps onto the One SV, all living within a dedicated music folder. Intelligently, the folder itself scrolls into a "recently played" list to offer faster access to your tunes.
Included with the free apps are SoundHound, ZDigital and TuneIn radio. Downloading other music apps like Spotify will see them moved automatically into the same music folder as well, showing a base level of intelligent organisation that makes it worth using.
Like every handset coming out of Taiwan wearing the HTC badge, the One SV has Beats Audio included in the handset. The equalising may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s not compulsory either. Users of Beats headphones will surely enjoy the feature the most.
Music playback can be controlled from the lock screen, with simple play, pause and rewind buttons accompanying album artwork when listening to music. A music widget can also be set up on a home screen so you don’t need to manually enter the Music hub every time you want to listen to some tunes.
There’s a wide range of file support, including .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, and .wma, which covers pretty much all the bases. You can create playlists on the go using the contextual menu key next to the album artwork, and set tracks as ringtones within three basic steps.
In other words, this is a solid music experience – as good as it gets outside of the iPhone, really.
While HTC has seemingly nailed the music experience, the video experience is a bit of a mess. For a start, there is no dedicated video application on the device – instead, all videos are added to the Gallery app, under a video subgroup.
The problem with this approach is evident when you have a large amount of videos on your device, like a season of a TV show, for example. There’s no way to quickly and easily discern which video it is you want to watch, instead you are given a tiny thumbnail of every video on the device.
Fortunately, the Play Store is filled with better video management files, so downloading a new one should be among the first steps taken by all new owners.
Playing back video is a significantly better experience than discovering videos. Playback buttons are easy to find, scrubbing to the location of choice in the clip is easy and a dedicated Share button rests on the bottom left of the screen.
There’s even the ability to capture still shots from a video recorded on the device. But even with these features, a freshly downloaded app from the Play Store is a much better option for controlling and watching videos on the One SV.
If a steady stream of mobile data is an impossibility, you’ll be happy to know that the One SV has an FM radio built-in. It requires a pair of headphones to be plugged in to work, but otherwise is simple to navigate and tune.
Of course, if you don’t have regular access to a mobile data connection, you should probably question why you’d be interested in purchasing a 4G-enabled handset.
Either way, the inclusion of TuneIn radio largely renders the FM option obsolete, although there is admittedly a market that enjoys the buffoonery of breakfast radio.
The Gallery app is home to all the pictures taken with the One SV’s camera, and while it sucks for video, it’s quite functional for stills.
Photos can be organised by album, with a drop down menu also providing access to social photo sharing sites like Facebook, Dropbox, Flickr and Picasa. Within each service, there is the ability to share photos as well as view them full screen on the One SV.
For services like Facebook, you can view comments on your pics as well.
Battery life and connectivity
Stuffed inside the One SV is a removable 1800mAh battery. That’s the same capacity as found in both the One X and One XL, and as anyone who read our reviews of those handsets will realise, this means that the One SV has some battery life issues.
Of course, this is nothing new for any LTE-enabled phone. Manufacturers are yet to perfect the combination of LTE handset battery life, and while we wait, we’re left needing a Micro-USB charging cable strapped to our hip like a lasso on a cowboy.
On a slow day, we managed to stretch almost 18 hours from the battery, doing nothing more than the occasional email check and Facebook update.
But on a typical day’s usage, the battery was gone by about 5pm. That consisted of regular email, some web browsing, social media, camera usage and a little bit of Fruit Ninja.
What’s more, that was outside the LTE network. Connect the phone to 4G, and we were struggling for juice by 3pm.
It’s quite the conundrum, really. 4G is super fast and super convenient for browsing, but it’s the bane of battery life. You can toggle LTE on and off, but that’s far from the most convenient way to do things.
Outside of LTE, the One SV has all the standard connections you would expect from a mid-range handset. Wireless-N Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC are all inside, alongside GPS and GLONASS satellite connectivity and a digital compass.
A 3.5mm headphone jack and MicroUSB are the only obvious connections on the outside of the device, with a MicroSD card slot on the inside above the battery.
The inclusion of features like Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC hold the phone in good stead for the next two years. Although there are few services currently available to take advantage of them right now, both NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 are expected to take off in a big way over the next few years.
Optus itself has entered an arrangement with Visa to begin offering contactless payments using NFC from this year, so having the feature on board is a welcome addition, even if it won’t be used much for a few months.
Maps and Apps
For people who need to get around, there are a couple of options available on the One SV. As part of Ice Cream Sandwich, there is the always excellent Google Maps pre-installed, offering the latest mapping from Google for fast, easy access.
Google Maps really is a step ahead of everything else on the market, offering free turn-by-turn directions, relevant points of interest and streetview imagery to help you find exactly where you are going.
Getting a pinpoint on your location is fast and speedy, thanks in part to the phone and in part to the LTE connection. The only downside to using the app is that it will put a real dent in the phone’s already limited battery life.
If for some reason you prefer to pay money for map apps, HTC has bundled its Locations app on the device. For $35 a year, you can enjoy an app dedicated to navigation, with a solid collection of POIs like speed cameras and ATMs. It isn’t the most reliable satnav in the world, but choice is a wonderful thing. At least you get a seven day free trial of the software to test it out first.
Frustratingly, Optus also bundled its Go Places app on the device, in among all the other bloatware the telco has included. After updating the software and agreeing to the terms, the app informed us it was no longer available and to call Optus for more information.
Instead, we decided to try and delete the app, but like so many carrier added programs, it could only be disabled, not deleted. That’s very frustrating for users looking to maximise the paltry 8GB of storage.
Go Places isn’t the only piece of Optus bloatware on the device. Also present (and not able to be deleted) are an A-League app, the Optus App Store, Optus Games, Optus Music Shop, My Optus, Optus Ideas, Optus Now, Optus Smart Safe, Optus Zoo, Optus Pics and Vids, Socceroos, Optus SocialView, and Optus TV and Video.
Of all of them, only My Optus offers any practical use, giving access to your current call and data allowance balance.
Optus’ decision to preload the phone with an incessant collection of rubbish apps is not surprising, although it is disappointing.
Outside of bloatware, there’s a selection of both useful and useless apps preloaded. HTC’s partnership with Dropbox continues to the benefit of the consumer, and having Facebook and Twitter pre-loaded is always a win.
A dedicated Flashlight app, which turns the screen into a light, can be useful at night, while ladies will love the Mirror app, which turns the phone into a mirror for checking makeup and pimples.
Polaris office is welcome for business folks, and Notes lets you record voice notes quickly, and the Car app lets you set the device up for easy use while driving – so long as it’s docked. You don’t want to be breaking the law by playing with Car mode while driving.
Of course, the true beauty of the Android platform is that there are hundreds of thousands of apps available on the Play Store to purchase or download, allowing users to customise their experience with the types of programs they need.
2013 is going to be a big year for Optus. The company’s second largest Telco has been putting a lot of time, money and effort into improving its network and rolling out 4G to the country.
Part of that process is delivering devices that can take advantage of LTE speeds, which is what the One SV is all about. But unlike Telstra did by using the One XL as its flagship LTE handset, Optus has instead opted for a mid-range HTC handset to join the 4G Galaxy S3 to try and sell the network.
The phone does an admirable job, and is mostly worth the asking price, but we expect Optus to drop some premium handsets in the early stages of this year as it attempts to steal mindshare away from its largest rival.
It’s impossible to deny that the One SV is a delightfully well constructed phone. Nice to look at, comfortable to hold, it’s a testament to HTC’s engineers they could create something so unique yet so similar to the company’s flagship handsets.
Having a replaceable battery and MicroSD card slot does away with most of the complaints about the One X and One XL. It doesn’t fix all the problems though, especially with only 8GB of storage on board.
But the best thing is easily LTE. It’s faster than many home’s ADSL connections, which will make it the de facto browser of choice for some people. If only Optus’ network was more ubiquitous.
Pretty much all LTE phones are suffering from a disease, and that disease is poor battery life. Unfortunately, there’s no known cure aside from bigger batteries, a treatment HTC decided to avoid with the One SV.
The copious amounts of Optus Bloatware is frustrating, especially as it can’t be deleted from the phone entirely. Disabling each app helps, but better would be the ability to delete entirely.
And although it fits with the pricing of the device, the camera feels like a step down from camera on other One branded handsets. That’s because it is, but it still makes us sad.
The One SV is a great phone for what it is – a mid-range device designed for LTE connectivity. The phone makes performance sacrifices for affordability, which helps open LTE up for a wider audience.
Unfortunately, the One SV doesn’t do enough to try and make up for the battery drain of LTE. Only packing an 1800mAh battery in the device makes the faster network speed feel like a poor compromise.
There’s no question that a higher-specced device, like the iPhone 5, HTC One XL or 4G Galaxy S3 offers better performance than the One SV. But if budget constraints mean these handsets aren’t actually an option, the One SV is a decent option.