HTC Announces the One, Shakes Up the Mobile Photo Market with ‘UltraPixels’


The “ultrapixels” that were rumored earlier this month have arrived. HTC announced its new flagship smartphone today. Called the HTC One, it features new camera tech that aims to shake up the world of smartphone photo snapping.

The UltraPixel Camera in the HTC One features a new sensor that captures 300% more light than the traditional sensors found in most smartphones. It’s a 4MP 1/3-inch CMOS sensor that uses larger pixels than most smartphone sensors (2 micron, up from 1.1-1.4 micron).


Coupled with a 28mm (35mm equiv.) f/2 lens and an ISO range of 100-1600, the camera module in the phone delivers solid low-light performance for flexibility in capturing life’s memories.

There’s also a 2.1MP front-facing camera on the front of the phone that can be used to capture 1080p HD video. A new processor in the phone allows for continuous autofocus with speeds of up to 200ms.

Wired pitted the HTC One (left) against the Samsung Galaxy S III (right) in a dimly lit restaurant setting.

Wired pitted the HTC One (left) against the Samsung Galaxy S III (right) in a dimly lit restaurant setting.

To cut down on blur, the HTC One uses multi-axis optical image stabilization systems in both the front- and rear-facing cameras, allowing for sharper photos and smoother footage.

HTC is introducing a new feature called HTC Zoe, which allows people to capture high-res photographs that “come to life” as three-second video snippets. This turns ordinary photo galleries on your phone into a “motion gallery of memories.” Other features included in the phone/camera are 360-degree panorama creation, time sequencing, and object removal.


Aside from the photo-related features of the phone, there’s also a solid zero-gap aluminum unibody, a large 4.7-inch 1080p screen, and Android Jelly Bean.

When rumors of the UltraPixel camera emerged in early February, the main thing being said about it was that it would resemble Foveon’s design of three stacked sensor layers. However, the company’s announcement today largely focused on the size of the pixels, and mention of the Foveon-esque design was nowhere to be found in the official press release.

You’ll be able to pick up an HTC One from various mobile companies and retail outlets starting in March 2013.

Update: Here are a couple of comparison photos showing the same low light scene photographed with the HTC One (top) and with iPhone 5 (bottom):


Image credit: Product and pixel size images by HTC, comparison and camera photos by Alex Washburn/Wired

  • Jon Woodbury

    Love this news! Bigger photo sites mean better images. It’s about time for the Android market. iPhone’s larger sensors made a huge difference in quality. It’s exciting to see phone makers really focusing on camera quality, not just size.

  • Sean Lancaster

    And this should signal the end of the smaller consumer grade point and shoot cameras.

  • Billy

    3-second clip of posing for a photo? Sounds more like “motion gallery of awkwardness”.

  • MarvinB7

    Seriously! :D My Droid X has an 8 MP sensor, but it’s the most grainy/noisy mess in low light. Utterly worthless. I’ll gladly take 4 MP and better image quality.

  • Robert Di Lorenzo

    Finally. Pixel quality over pixel count! It’s about time.

  • wilmark johnatty

    Finally some sense in camera phones. This is one of the biggest gaps in smart phones, A good smart phone has to replace a decent point and shoot, and this is certainly a step in the right direction. Google with its NExus Line and Samsung hasn’t got this message yet, and it is quite obviously one of the reasons to choose an Iphone despite the aged and yesturdayness of the iphone interface..

  • Bryce Guse

    DOES THIS MEAN THE MEGAPIXEL RACE IS OVER?!?!? *sheds tears of happiness*

  • Mike

    AWESOME! This means I have Uberpickles in all my cameras!

  • eraserhead12

    considering this is HTC, we should take this news with a grain of salt. all their previous phones’ cameras are like two years behind their competitors. It’s painful having a 2013 phone whose camera can’t even compare to an iPhone 4..

  • Ariel Caudis

    if u want better pictures, just buy a good camera not a phone, simple as that

  • five2five

    Are we sure the sensor captures 300% more light than regular sensors? It seems more likely that one “ultrapixel” would capture 300% more light than a regular, smaller pixel. Or perhaps they mean that when you combine the fast lens, image stabilization and slightly larger sensor, you end up collecting 300% more light than a regular cameraphone would.

  • Thanassi Karageorgiou

    or “gif” lol

  • Igor Ken

    or a different phone ;)

  • Igor Ken

    iphone’s interface is classic…. not “out aged” … if you change that UI, people will stop buying them, too difficult to use xD it’s like changing the way you order at McDonalds… or changing their logo… impossible to deal with for their clientele, imho.

  • Igor Ken

    The new HTC phone features a solid zero-gap iphone5esque aluminum unibody. Come on. (But hey, at least it looks good .. )

    super skeptic on this camera.. I don’t trust htc with cameras anymore… nor I trust android phones with OS stability…

  • Igor Ken

    if they have patented it and will start suing every other brand that introduces the same technology in their camera phones, then it won’t signal anything.

  • John Shafer

    Not until camera phones start including optical zooms and better controls.

  • John Shafer

    No – Ariel is right. I just compared the image quality of my Galaxy S III with the Samsung Galaxy Camera, which has a standard point-and-shoot sensor. Even though I don’t think the Galaxy Camera is that great, it was still way better than my Galaxy III phone – plus, it has a real optical zoom lens.

  • Mike

    Patent what, exactly? As if this pixel area is an amazing breakthrough in manufacturing sensors. Nope…they just ordered a low MP BSI sensor from who knows what company. Big patent there, eh?


    Incredible – that looks like a BlackBerry Z10.

  • phil

    Since when does the iPhone come with an off-camera flash? My iPhone has never taken a photo like that, making me think that the example HTC photo is equally as rigged.

  • John Adkins

    LOL, looking at the comparison pics taken with the HTC and the iPhone 5, it doesn’t seem that much better. The way the article was written, you would have thought it would have been like comparing a Nikon D4 and the original iPhone. Still, a step in the right direction I guess.

  • Igor Ken

    there can certainly be a patent to the usage of this exact or similar technology IN the cellphones/smartphones… damn apple sued samsung or who else for using slide to unlock in a smartphone… everything is a patent war opportunity in the world of smartphones and tech.

    Don’t you read the news?

  • Igor Ken


  • Igor Ken

    Actually I was hoping I made the point pretty obvious, but I was talking about the quality expectancy that you have from a camera that is inside a PHONE… I don’t know why you would expect better or equal quality from the pictures of Galaxy SIII and Samsung Galaxy Camera … just I don’t know.

  • nuffinn

    The past few years low light pics has been one of the biggest complaints of ppl that value the cameras in these phones. Its a big step in the right directions. WP fanboys always mention the Lumia 920 camera. The One might can hold its own vs that.

  • Uriah Romero

    I was surprised when I read about how good the camera on the HTC One is, since it seems so small. One of the features I’m most excited for is the 1080p display that comes on the phone. After getting a look at the Droid DNA display, I think the HTC One’s display could be great for watching movies and shows on. I am an avid streamer, and considering I like to watch my shows while I’m headed home from work at DISH, I’d love to watch on a full HD display. A screen like that paired with the DISH Anywhere app, which lets me stream my live and recorded shows anywhere I am, should make for a good combo.