HTC Butterfly review: The droid monarch
The Butterfly leaves no doubt about how important it is to HTC to reclaim lost ground in the smartphone game. The device is good-looking, blazing fast, and has the best display in the business bar none. Those are the right boxes to tick if you're after impulsive buyers and power users alike, and the Butterfly has enough to keep you interested well past the introductory phase of your relationship.
The curved display is a real usability boost, and most welcome too in a 5-incher. The HTC Butterfly also delivers on the social networking end, with Sense UI offering probably the best integration of various image-sharing and media-streaming options.
Yet, mentioning Sense UI, we cannot overlook the fact that it's not able to keep up with the impressive hardware. The lack of shortcuts in the notification area is a glaring omission and the launcher generally doesn't offer as big a set of exclusive features as its main competitors.
Stuff like smart stay/wise screen or split screen multitasking might not be game changers, but they are genuinely useful features that make a difference to the user experience and HTC has nothing to offer in response. We would also have appreciated more advanced equalizer options (especially given the previous partnership with Beats audio) and an up to date task manager, but that's nitpicking.
Anyway, none of these issues is big enough to weigh against the fact that the HTC Butterfly is the most complete smartphone package currently available on the market. Besides, more than a few dozen custom launchers are available in the Google Play store and many of them will easily address most of the Sense UI's deficiencies.
So if you value direct functionality and media consumption, you'd certainly be tempted to pick the HTC Butterfly over the Sony Xperia Z if the two are priced equally. That's an achievement in its own right, but it's based on a couple of assumptions that might prevent yet another HTC flagship from fulfilling its potential.
The biggest issue the Butterfly has is no fault of the smartphone itself, but rather how you would go about getting your hands on one. The smartphone is only officially sold in a few Asian markets and Russia, while Europe is left waiting for the arrival of the HTC One, and the US is stuck with the DROID DNA, which offers laughably low non-expandable storage.
Importing one is always an option, but both compatibility with local networks and the resulting higher price make it one most will likely frown at. Another trump that the Xperia Z holds is its IP57 dust and waterproof certification, which might be enough to tip the scales over the Butterfly even if the latter is available where you live.
Another direct rival to the Butterfly is the Oppo Find 5, which comes closer to matching the brilliant display of the HTC flagship. The budding Chinese manufacturer hit the ground running and produced a smartphone that can easily trade blows with the big boys, and while the Find 5 doesn't really offer much over the Butterfly, it matches it or comes pretty close all over the field, which combined with the attractive pricing make it the better value-for-money offering.
The thing is the Find 5 is even harder to get than the Butterfly, and even though global release plans have been confirmed, it might take too long to still be relevant.
As the 5" 1080p invasion continues, last season's chart-toppers are steadily sinking into oblivion. The jump from 720p to 1080p might not be as big as the one from WVGA to 720p, but the overall user experience has moved forward nevertheless, making the Galaxy S III, the HTC One X and the LG Optimus G no longer in the conversation as have-it-all-alternatives. They can be had at a bargain price though.
It seems then that the HTC Butterfly is a well though-out product that could have easily been a must-have during the first half of the year. However, with the new One (formerly known as M7) just around the corner, it seems that HTC were only using the Butterfly as a demonstration of power, and will instead focus all efforts on its successor.
This might explain the minor software gaps on the Butterfly - the company just saw it as an interim step rather than the ultimate goal. And that might be as good indication as any - if a player that good sits on the bench, imagine how great the star striker will be. What's important for HTC is that a flap of the wing may've put the wind right in their sail.