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Why the Unlocked U.S. Version of the HTC One is My New Phone [Opinion]

htc one

News flash! Even tech bloggers don’t get to keep devices that are sent to them for review purposes. No sir, we have to pick and choose our personal devices with care just like each and every one of you. Sure, we get to put our grubby little paws all over the newest tech before the general public, but that doesn’t mean those devices hang around for more than a couple of weeks. Once our reviews are done, we tend to ship them back to PR departments before going back to whatever phone we have chosen to be our daily driver. After some time spent with both the new HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, I have made a decision on what that new daily driver should be. 

Since release, the Nexus 4 has been my phone of choice. I’ve even gone through a couple of them, dealing with the fragile glass backside, all for the sake of stock Android that has really come into its own over the last year. The combination of price, hackability, and access to the newest version of Android at all times, made it an easy choice. Sure, it lacks LTE support, but using it as an unlocked phone with T-Mobile’s HSPA+42 network has made me miss LTE very little. I also have thoroughly enjoyed the display of the Nexus 4 along with the general soft feel of the device while in hand. It’s easily my favorite phone in some time – and I handle a lot of them.

But since I do this whole phone thing for a living, spending 6 months with a single device seems like an eternity. So as the HTC One and Galaxy S4 hit stores within the last couple of weeks, I decided it was time to make a decision on something new. These are the only two phones a power user should consider, so thanks to an extended period of time with each to do reviews, I had the perfect opportunity to compare the benefits of each to ultimately make a decision. The unlocked U.S. version of the HTC One with 32GB of storage is it.

Why the One? Why the unlocked version? Why not the developer version? I’m assuming you are asking all of those questions, so let’s answer them.

htc one

First, I went with the One because it may be the only Android device in history to try and tackle what it means to be the ultimate smartphone. We’re talking premium build and design, the best set of specs, software enhancements that you’ll actually use, and a price point that should grab all of your attention. In my review, I was at times very critical of Sense 5.0 from a UX perspective and wasn’t always impressed by the 4MP (Ultrapixel) camera, but the rest of the package is impossible to deny. Plus, most of the software issues can be fixed with third party apps from Google Play.

You know what, though? It was my time with the Galaxy S4 that made me ultimately decide on the One. I was hoping for Samsung’s flagship to blow me away, but all I got in the end was a spec bump with a set of software enhancements that have limited uses (to me at least), all in a package that was too close to what Samsung tried to sell me on last year. Not to say that the Galaxy S4 isn’t a great phone (my review), but as someone who handles them all, a phone needs to do something unique in order to get me to pay good money for it. Since Samsung failed to do that this time around, and HTC came up with something that did on a number of levels, my choice was made.

So why the unlocked U.S. version? Simple. I’m not a fan of carriers or contracts. However, there are plenty of phones that are unlocked that work on networks here in the U.S. (like the Nexus 4), so there must have been something else to get me to go all-in on the One, right? Yes, indeed. For those not familiar, the unlocked U.S. version of the HTC One does something that no other unlocked phone currently does – connects to a U.S. 4G LTE network (AT&T’s specifically). I don’t know how HTC managed to pull it off, but damn, they did. As much as I claim to not miss LTE on my Nexus 4, connecting to AT&T’s uber-fresh LTE network is quite the experience. So with the unlocked U.S. version, you buy the phone outright, then walk into an AT&T store and tell them you want monthly service – so no contract signing here. You then experience their LTE network on a phone with no AT&T branding and without a contract (no ugly flamed-LTE AT&T logo either). There may be a chance that the phone will work on T-Mobile’s LTE network in the future as well, since the phone supports the AWS LTE band.


The unlocked version of the phone also drops in at an incredibly reasonable $575 price and has 32GB of storage. Most unlocked phones, should you import them or use an unlocked re-seller here in the U.S., will run $600+, sometimes even $700+. AT&T is selling their 32GB version for $599 at full retail.

And last, why didn’t I go with the developer edition? I considered it, since it comes with 64GB of storage and would have cost me just $75 more, but in the end, I still switch phones quite often and rarely care about the bootloader of my phone being unlocked. My phones need to run stock for the sake of news coverage on Droid Life, so having an unlocked bootloader wasn’t really a benefit or negative for me personally. And while I haven’t checked yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if HTCDev is capable of unlocking this phone anyway.

But like the developer edition, I’m expecting to see the unlocked version get updates faster than any other version of the One, simply for the fact that it’s not tied to carrier. You’ll notice that unlocked phones in the UK seem to be updated regularly, while all carrier versions are months behind. That shouldn’t be an issue with this phone nor the developer edition because HTC gets to release updates on their schedule without approval from anyone.

As you can see, there were several factors that went into my decision to make the HTC One my next phone. I get one of the most premium made smartphones on the planet, connected to AT&T’s brand new LTE network, at a reasonable unlocked phone price and with no contract. In the end, I think the fact that it’s unlocked and works on LTE was the deciding factor, though. Now, hopefully Google follows their lead and does the same thing with the next Nexus. I’m already missing Android 4.2 and will be itching for my Nexus 4 come Google I/O.

The unlocked and developer editions of the HTC One can be purchased here.

  • Vanshaj Bhaskar

    Can i get updates after unlocking AT&T htc one ???

  • Vanshaj Bhaskar

    Can i get update after unlocking AT&T HTC one ??

  • virg1505

    This article largely influenced my decision to get this phone. I’m on AT&T in the southwest; I got the phone, activated it and immediately noticed that it has very poor signal quality, not only LTE, but in general. Compared to the AT&T branded one – which get’s great signal in my area. Visits to AT&T, calls to AT&T and htc have not resolved the issue. Very bummed.

  • Veridor

    Looks like they’ve raised the price on the unlocked version to $599: http://www0-shopamerica.htc.com/cell-phones/productdetail.htm?prId=41589

  • n900mixalot

    How can you just omit the LG Optimus G Pro? I’d definitely consider one of those before ever touching an HTC phone again. And how does the HTC One STILL come with 4.1? Warning sign number one. And the firmware update being unevenly released? Warning sign number two.

    Watch out.

  • ArmandoSanchez8233

    Hold on a second, where did you purchase an HTC one for only $575?

  • Too bad both the unlocked and the dev edition are backordered until May 31.

    HTC will gladly take your web order and not bother to tell you this until you call.

  • James D

    I couldn’t agree with your opinions above more. I have the Developer Edition and finally own a smartphone that I deem as the best convergence of technology and style that is on the market at this time.

  • JT

    Just had to send the unlocked HTC one back to HTC. THe unlocked version will not connect to T-mobiles LTE 4g network

  • Kirk Winterrowd

    I agree. I have a Nexus 4 but ordered the unhlocked HTC One early this morning after staying up late and reading as many reviews as I could as well as watching videos. Mine is on backorder unfortunately, but I was told that they are getting more in stock today so I am hoping for an update with a change in status to shipping. I did check out the S4 today, and as you said, it is a great phone but it just didn’t “wow” me either. I think this HTC will do the trick for awhile.

  • Robert MacDonald

    Okay I called AT&T corp stores and im being told u cant have a month to month at&t account prepaid and use any phone thats a hspa+ or lte device. So were are you able to do this at?

  • Spoken Word™

    Kellex, dude…. You don’t know how HTC got an unlocked One on AT&T LTE? Simple, they make a version of the One for AT&T! LTE is almost as locked down as CDMA and thus you won’t be seeing unlocked LTE phones on any carrier unless that carrier also offers that phone. This was all covered at length when LTE started rolling out and there was hope that Verizon and AT&T would offer interoperability. There’s still hope when Verizon switches to VoLTE.

  • Kate

    So is there absolutely no way to get the one on Verizon? I’ve heard of a couple ways but don’t know enough to know of they are possible.

  • Martin Jofre

    Where can I get the phone for $575? Expansys and Amazon have much more expensive prices.
    ThanksAmazon: $814.99 Expansys USA: $739.99

  • zUFC

    What I would love to know (which no one is talking about) is the radio on the Samdung. I know it not out on VZ yet but they still should be able to tell. My old S3 was unusable. The reception was the worse of all my phones! I had to get the DNA just to eliminate the million dead spots I had with the S3. They always had and seem to always will have bad radios. I can’t even think of the S4 unless those days are over. But haven’t heard a word about it. anybody else?

  • Nice

  • Tim242

    Hahaha @all of the downvotes everybody is getting for not drooling over the one. That shows true butt hurt fanboys. Hahaha

    • n900mixalot

      Because HTC are total crap. Peter Chou is a complete and utter moron. It’s like the HTC One is a young child with so much potential but his parents are smoking crack all day instead of being productive and responsible parents.

  • dylan84

    I love my One X, but I think i will be buying a One very soon.

  • riclex

    What about the battery life? Last I heard, it was really bad and thats probably the only thing keeping me from buying this device

    • That’s why I’m so in love with my Galaxy Note II. Battery lasts me forever.

  • Not going to downgrade to a phone that is not up to date out of the box and has that trusty HTC track record of never updating their phones. I will never buy anything but a Nexus from here on out!

  • Bionic

    X phone

  • Azaraith

    I joined the One club w/ the 64GB dev. edition. Went with the dev. edition primarily for the 64GB + unlocked, but bootloader is good too – I know the regular phone can be unlocked too, but it’s actually exactly the same price and the dev. edition comes without any AT&T logos and gets updates straight from HTC. Plus it’s 64GB and I can use it with T-Mo as well, with a few caveats re: LTE.

  • Nitin Varughese

    At&t prepaid plans don’t have access to LTE right?

    • Jack

      they have if you get plan with 4g

  • Elliot S

    Lets say I wanted unlimited web, calling and messeging. How much would this cost? could I put a T-Mobile no contract sim card in there and use there 50 a month unlimited everything plan?

    • Jack

      you can use it on tmobile no contract plan and the unlimited everything plan $60 +10 tax so it would be about $70 a month

  • The main reason you give for getting an unlocked phone is that you don’t want a contract. However, you are choosing AT&T, which does not give a lower monthly fee for bringing your own phone. I would argue that by buying unlocked, one could choose to use TMobile, saving a lot of monthly fees. The only thing that I dont understand is why the HTC unlocked won’t run on TMO LTE. That is a deal killer for me. I’d rather get a AT&T phone and enjoy savings of $375 upfront (less their outrageous $36 activation fee) 🙁

    • I hadn’t heard that it won’t work on TMO’s LTE. That would be very important to me. Source?

  • Jack

    htc one is the best phone on the planet right now you made the right decision like i did. i went to the store and check both of them out and the Samsung s4 was laggy and not responsive as it should be and not as fast and touchwiz is getting old and all the new features useless the design of the s4 is worse than the s3 more cheap looking with the patterns. at the end of checking both out i choose the htc because htc one is 0% laggy its very smooth and very fast sense 5.0 is fresh air. htc one has all useful features, and it shows htc worked hard i see big change in htc this year they didn’t just make a phone or
    upgraded a phone they worked hard. they build it from the ground up this
    time. i can tell you they fixed every know issuse with htc phones in
    the past they fixed all the issuse thats what impressed me the most. htc is doing there own thing and working hard unlike lazy brands who only keep upgrading there phones with no changes.

    • btod

      Thanks for the pretty thorough observation. Helped seal the deal for me. I’m glad htc fixed the issues that plagued them in the past.

  • Dee

    Will this work on Boost Mobile?

  • Zach Armstrong

    Now if only it was a LTE Nexus I would be all over it

  • Justin Winker

    I’m interested in getting the Unlocked version, but does anyone know if you can connect to AT&T’s LTE through StraightTalk? I haven’t found any info on it yet.

    • Tech Pro

      No. Straight Talk ATT SIM only has HSPA+ 4G.

  • Nazzi_Muhammad

    Nexus 4 is the one for me. Ha! Is the One really $250 better than the Nexus 4? No.

  • If you dont have frodo fingers NOTE 2>> htc ONE

    • n900mixalot

      There is NO comparison. Someone above said they were trading their Note 2 for the HTC One. Lunacy. Unless the Note 2 is too much phone.