The HTC One V is the third member of the new HTC One Android range, offering a smaller screen, slower processor, less memory and a boring old black plastic case. Not a great selling point, eh? But you still get Android 4.0 and HTC's superb Sense update in a slim, solid case, making it a decent cheaper option.

 

What is it?

HTC's throwback to the olden days, offering the same old "chin" hardware design we knew and loved from the company's legendary old HTC Hero, only now updated to feature a 1GHz single-core processor and a 5-Megapixel camera sensor also capable of recording 720p video footage, plus almost the same "Ice Cream Sandwich" Android OS and HTC Sense 4 skin as found in the excellent One X and One S.

 

Who's it for?

Well, let's not beat around the bush. It's a cheaper, less powerful option, for those who don't want to pay the asking prices of the One X and One S, but still want the very latest Android software and HTC's user-friendly way of managing the interface.

 

Design

It is very reminiscent of the old HTC Hero, with a nice, chunky chin helping it fit the hand well. It's been given a slightly brushed finish around the front, which looks more stylish than HTC's oft-used bland shiny black, while the back of the One V has been roughened a little for grip.

It also comes with the rubberised top and bottom back ends we saw on HTC's phones of last year, and there's a couple of big plus points here for those not won over by the One X and One S -- you can open this one up, put in a normal-sized SIM and your own SD card. Although the battery's still sealed within the case.

As with HTC's other new Android phones, you get just the three capacitive touch buttons beneath the display, which are Back, Home and the new Android 4.0 multitasking/recent apps menu, plus a micro-USB connector, 3.5mm headphone jack and volume up/down toggle.

 

Using it

The HTC Sense interface has been tweaked ever so slightly over the one that powered the HTC One X and One S. Instead of the custom HTC horizontal recent apps list you get the standard Android 4.0 vertical list, which actually makes very little difference to how you use it.

The touch screen is an LCD model so it's nice and bright, also very sensitive in use. The backlit buttons work well too. It's a nice bit of kit.

The only problem we had is with the web browser and camera app. While both feature the same software as found in the One X and One S, the lack of RAM (512MB here) and/or processor power means the One V feels a little slower. The continuous shooting mode bogs the camera down a little, so it's not quite the same killer feature it was on the two more powerful HTCs.

Android itself is great, though. The Sense skin feels fluid and fast, apps install and open promptly, and the five Home screens move around well. We just found ourselves wishing there was a smidge more power to make the camera operate as well as it did in HTC's other new 2012 models.

 

The Best Part

It has to be the price. The One V is listed at around £220 or so on the SIM-free retailers, and considering you're getting the same software as found in the One X and One S with just a little less horsepower, it's a very impressive package for that money. Networks are already giving it away on contracts, too, from around £20 per month.

 

Tragic Flaw

We had problems managing embedded videos and Flash content. Whether it's due to the lack of processor power or memory or some other random mystery, YouTube clips got themselves stuck in endless buffering loops, where we'd hear sound but not get the video to play. If you do a lot of that sort of thing, it might be a big source of pain.

 

This is Weird

HTC's updated Sense interface is slightly different compared with the software that arrived on the One X and One S. You only get five Home screens here, there's no pinch-view overview showing you all the screens, plus HTC's Watch film service is not pre-loaded as it was on its more powerful models. So the software is a little slimmer, but all the big, core ICS features are in, so there's no need to worry about missing out.

 

Test Notes

The boring old black plastic finish feels, ironically, more solid than the custom materials used in the One X and One S. The One V's very tough and impervious to damage, thanks to the awesome power of rubbish old plastic. This is made from the same stuff they used in car dashboards throughout the 1970s, you know.

The lock screen's not quite as impressive as it is on the One X and One S. You still have the same system where the four Home screen dock icons can be quick-launched from the lock screen, but the photo, share price, social widgets and others have been removed.

The display's good and sharp. Despite running at a relatively low (for 2012) resolution of 480x800, the smaller 3.7" screen means text and icons are still very sharp and readable. Web words look good, photos bright and clear, plus it's usable outdoors if you whack it up to maximum.

The 5-Megapixel camera's output isn't quite as sharp as the results that explode out of the awesome One X and One S, but you do still get the fantastic continuous shot option and the chance to choose your "Best Shot" from a custom preview screen. 720p is the max video setting, with clips emerging bright and at a stable frame rate.

 

Should You Buy It?

Despite being the cheapest and smallest of HTC's 2012 threesome, the HTC One V is still a good smartphone. The camera software's very advanced, HTC's interface polished and smooth, while the modest 1GHz processor just about keeps everything running well, as long as you're not a heavy user of Flash web content.

It's also surprisingly nice looking for a supposedly cheaper model, with that revisited HTC chin and its brushed finish giving the One V a nice style all of its own.

Considering it's being offered on some very, very cheap monthly contracts, the HTC One V would make a great mid-range option for someone looking to upgrade an older, clunkier smartphone to something with this year's newest version of Android.

HTC One V

- Screen: 3.7" 480x800 LCD
- Processor: 1GHz single-core
- Storage: 4GB, SD card
- Camera: 5-MP rear camera with LED flash
- Connectivity: HSPA/3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
- Ports: microUSB, 3.5mm headphones
- Battery: 1500mAh, non-removable
- Price: £225 off network