On the fence about buying the One? Read on..
As of late, I've read a lot of debate between whether or not people should ultimately lock themselves into the Verizon One for a couple years (or even shell out the full price retail investment), and I'd like to give my personal insight as to what you should do in this regard, especially if you're "stuck" with Verizon.
It seems as if a lot of people on the forums are not interesting in buying the One simply based on the fact that you can't unlock the bootloader and gain S-Off. The question burning on your mind should be "What exactly am I going to do with this device?"
If you're like me (as in, not a developer, light SDK use, more of a power Android user), you use the resources provided by the developers on XDA to enrich your experience with your device. Maybe you've lightly brushed into making your own custom ROM, and some phones provided kitchens to do this fairly easily, but you're probably not going to make a ROM. You're more so interested in removing all the bloat, using Titanium to restore from your previous device, and maybe fiddle with Root Explorer to get rid of some apps you'll never use. Maybe you'll want to overclock the CPU/GPU, etc., but I imagine the majority of the users interested in root and S-off want to install custom ROMs or barebones AOSP/Google Play edition.
If your intention is to get back to AOSP, you can simply install an AOSP-like launcher by going to the market. The nag on the inside of you will say you want Sense and BlinkFeed removed completely, but all in all, you're going to get the same stock like experience on a blazing fast device. Even if you're going to overclock, chances are you're going to see minimal noticeable gains, mainly at the fact that your benchmark is going to score higher. You're also going to be trying to overclock a quad-core device, which if you've had any desktop overclocking experience, most of the time the processors are developed on a bed of cores (perhaps 6-8, who knows) and the lower performing cores are then locked, which is cheaper than throwing out the entire chip and remapping. Even if the device has exactly 4 cores, the lowest rated core will have to be running at about 1.7GHz. This basically means with 4 cores the chances are slimmer that you'll have a core compatible to run at rates much higher than 1.7GHz, and you'll have stability issues, so you'll end up clocking back to 1.7GHz. Add the fact that there aren't really many programs on Android that are going to have noticeable benefit from overclocking, you're really only going to have done it for the trophy of "I did it!"
That being said, travel back to the fact that many of the people rooting and unlocking the device will not be doing much hard development. This is where I give developers much credit
, because they basically do what a lot of us end users of their exploits and software simply can't do (or have yet to learn how to). That basically means you don't really need S-Off. The main reason you need S-Off is when developers create, it's easier to not have the restrictions locked with S-On. As far to my knowledge, you don't even necessarily need to have S-Off to put custom ROMs on your device, its more at flashing Radios and things that have a higher likelihood of bricking your phone, so why tread that dangerously if you don't have to?
The Stock version of the One already has pretty exceptional battery life in my opinion (5% = 1hr on average), if you happen to like Sense and BlinkFeed (which I personally happen to do although I see it kind of as a novelty) the UI isn't horrible, and you have the option of installing another launcher to rid yourself of Sense. If you're in desperate need to remove the bloatware, you can go to Apps, All, and disable all of the things you'll never use. I realize in this instance, there is still some bloat, but its very minimal, and yes you have the nag of knowing its still in memory, but you won't have to look at it anymore.
To sum up, the biggest gains from Root (higher speeds, custom ROMs/Kernels, extended battery life, no bloat) are things that can be worked around in Stock while you wait for an exploit to come out.
The next question is "What do I physically like about the device?"
Fast forward to the capacitive touchscreen smartphone era, and the playing field has been lifted in the hardware aspect of mobile devices. Back up slightly before slide out keyboards made their way in, and basically the options you chose on your devices were all independent versions of Java or other mobile operating skins. I had a Moto KRZR way back in the day, and to be honest, I liked the UI that Motorola had on their phones, but most decisions were made based on a cosmetic appearance less than an internal system. Even before then I had a Motorola V710, and post that I had a Moto Q for a brief period. Thinking back you can see why Motorola was the king for so long.
But the point is back then you had cosmetic options as opposed to now mostly having hardware and software options. Now your limitations are basically where the standby/power key is located, where the volume rocker is located, where the charge port and headphone jack are located, and whether the front of the phone has physical, capacitive or on screen navbar buttons, and whether or not your device is made of plastic, aluminum, or.. glass (if you're an iPhoner and want to repair both sides of the phone, be my guest, or get an OtterBox or Survivor and completely eliminate the aspect of what the chassis is made of, making the idea of using glass much cheaper than molding a metal back... yadda yadda could go on forever).
To me, in my opinion, the One is physically built better than any phone released. Sure, the phone isn't rugged, but the device makes logical sense in most of the design aspect. The charge port is on the bottom, giving you a tiny bit of extra leverage if holding the phone in hand while charging in portrait mode. The headphone jack is located on the top of the phone, meaning when you're holding it you're not fumbling around with the phone, gives it more grip in landscape mode. The only design flaw I can think of is if you have big fingers, holding and listening to the front speakers as it was intended can be a little difficult, but the sound more than makes up for this. I had a GNex prior to this and I could turn the volume all the way up and barely hear it coming through the front, I'd always end up cupping the speaker with my hands just to let someone else hear in also. With the One, you don't get that, the sound is awesome, and you can show 3-4 people a video and not worry about if they're going to hear what's going on.
The one con
I can come up with is the camera. If your intention of having a smartphone is to use it mainly to share and take pictures, you might want to consider other options. In my personal opinion, a camera on a smartphone is just a bonus to capture things you could've completely missed if you didn't have it with you. Even with the Nokia 1020, you get huge 41MP images but you still get the grainy texture of a built in smartphone camera. No smartphone camera should be substituted for a live digital optical camera.
With the aforementioned comment behind, the One takes marginal pictures. I took one video in Full HD, and while impressed with the quality of playback on the One itself, when I uploaded it to my desktop, it was still alright, but again you have the "built-in camera" feel, which every smartphone is going to have. But the pictures are really what makes the camera lackluster. If you zoom in whatsoever, you'll likely end up with pixelated distortion. My thoughts on their marketing decision for calling it HTC's proprietary UltraPixel camera is just to shy you away from the fact that its a 4 megapixel camera. While you might find higher MP values in the S4 (which is 13MP, I believe), I'd imagine you get the same built in camera feel from the pictures as you would any other digital camera.
The build quality of the aluminum chassis is pretty good, at least on my One. I've heard of others complaining a little bit about some gaps around the edges of their builds, but all in all, its very very miniscule and probably attributed to the completely closed chassis build quality. With light use, the heat expansion and contraction will eventually cause any type of metal housing to warp slightly, which might just pressurize enough to push the edges up slightly. Samsung has been consistent with their plastic build quality and Motorola has edged a little over Samsung in the fact that it was using the Kevlar back and Gorilla Glass, but I personally feel that higher build quality is with a metal phone.
In conclusion, I think ultimately if you've had any interest in the One up to this point, I'd say put a fork in it, bite the bullet and grab a One. You aren't going to be disappointed in the long run, as has been said the development will gain momentum once there's an exploit, and there aren't going to be very much better phones in the near future. If you're leaning towards the Moto X or the S4, go with one of them and try it for 14 days. I personally don't think the X has done anything truly groundbreaking, and if you're going for the Dev Edition/Dev Edition ROMs, it really doesn't matter. $35 restocking fee might seem hefty for a phone, but you're basically renting to try it out, and that's not entirely a bad deal. You might see a couple bigger phones in the Note III and the HTC One Max (T6, unofficial) and Xperia, but that's an entirely different target.
I hope this post will help make things easier for people who are stuck on their decision of phones on Verizon.