HTC One Max review: Lack of innovation and attention to detail

HTC One Max review: Lack of innovation and attention to detail

Summary: HTC added a microSD card to the HTC One Max, but then threw on a cover that doesn't close all the way. The One Max is a monster of a phone, but doesn't include monster specs to match the size.

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  • Sprint HTC One Max retail package

    Last month I spent a few minutes with the HTC One Max and left the meeting feeling disappointed with the device. I spent several more days with the HTC One Max and my advice to those who want a high quality HTC smartphone is to purchase the HTC One instead.

    I recently purchased a Moto X and while I love the hardware and Motorola features, using the HTC One Max gave me an appreciation for what HTC has done this year with Sense. It is likely I will be returning the Moto X later this week and keeping my HTC One for another few months.

    Hardware

    The HTC One Max is the biggest in the family of the One and One Mini. I personally think the One is the premier product due to better design elements and optical image stabilization.

    The HTC One Max is wide at 82.5 mm, compared to the One at 68 mm and One Mini at 63.2 mm. It is also very tall at 164.5 mm, compared to the One at 137 mm and One Mini at 132 mm. It fits in my hand because I have larger hands, but still feels awkward and unnatural.

    The 5.9 inch 1080p LCD display looks great with its 373 ppi. HTC knows how to make high quality displays and its nice to see such a beautiful screen on the HTC One Max. The side bezel is similar in size to the HTC One, but seems smaller because some is taken up by the white plastic frame.

    The One Max has front facing stereo speakers, like the others in the One line, and sound even louder than my HTC One. You won't find Beats Audio branding or utilities in the settings on the One Max.

    HTC moved the power button from the top down to the right side below the volume button. The IR port and headphone jack are found on the top. The microUSB port is on the bottom. The left side houses the latch for the back cover.

    Speaking of the back cover, it takes up nearly all of the back and covers the microSD card slot and SIM card slot. Unfortunately, the back cover takes away from the fit and finish of the One Max. Even when fully closed and latched, the upper right corner protrudes out from the back and gives the One Max a cheap feel. This is the same problem I saw during my HTC meeting last month so I don't think it is a rare manufacturing issue.

    You will find the fingerprint scanner on the back, positioned in the center below the camera lens. Unlike the iPhone 5s where you just rest your finger on the home button, you have to swipe your finger down the scanner to activate the functions. You can program up to three fingers that can be used to unlock your phone and also launch an application at the same time. You first need to turn on your phone and then use the fingerprint scanner.

    The scanner is not used for purchases or other applications so has very limited functionality. It kind of fits my finger when I am holding the device, but I found using it to unlock the One Max more annoying than useful.

    HTC included the same camera as found on the HTC One and it takes decent shots in low light conditions and outside. The camera lacks depth and detail, but works well for many situations. I do like the dual camera support and other software improvements so now we just need to see improvements to the camera lens.

    Software

    The HTC One Max launches with Android 4.3 and Sense 5.5 with an Android 4.4 update likely to come in early 2014. The Sense 5.5 update significantly improves BlinkFeed with Google+ support, offline article viewing, and more. You will also find an updated Gallery that includes improvements in Highlight Videos with better content control, more themes, and ability to add your own music to a Highlight Video.

    Since this is a Sprint device, there are lots of loaded Sprint apps on the One Max. Some can be uninstalled and some are just links to download apps. This bloatware includes 1Weather, BaconReader, CBS Sports, eBay, Lumen Toolbar, Scout, Sprint Music Plus, Sprint Zone, and more.

    Like on the HTC One and One Mini, the One Max comes loaded with some enhanced HTC apps. These include email, calendar, Car mode, and TV remote control application.

    HTC also includes an application called Scribble that is designed to allow you to draw and sketch on your HTC One Max. You can choose from one of 15 templates and then use the utility, similar in functionality to the HTC Notes program, to create custom notes. You can then share the note or print it from the One Max.

    Usage and experiences

    The HTC One performs like the HTC One, thanks to the same Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. The camera takes the same quality photos, except for the lack of optical image stabilization, and lacks detail in photos. The camera works great for low light photos and in many other situations, but other smartphone cameras have gotten much better since the One was released and I was hoping to see HTC launch an ultra pixel camera with 8 megapixels.

    The Sprint version of the HTC One Max launches with Sprint Spark support that should eventually give you more access to LTE networks. Spark is only available now in five cities, but you still get a distracting spinning spark icon in the upper status bar ever time an LTE data connection is initiated. It is rather distracting and annoying, yet another failed design element in the HTC One Max.

    The HTC One Max is HUGE and makes the Note 3, HTC One, and Moto X look small. The Apple iPhone 5s looks tiny when placed side-by-side or on top of the HTC One Max. I understand HTC wants to compete with Samsung, LG, and Nokia when it comes to large phones, but the rest of those large phones have better internal specs or unique features (S Pen for example). The One Max is just a bigger One and One Mini with no real need for such a monstrous display in a phone.

    It is definitely a device for the media consumer, but if that is your main usage for such a device then go get a better and much less expensive Nexus 7 tablet or maybe even an iPad mini.

    Pros and Cons

    To summarize my experiences with the HTC One Max, here are my pros and cons.

    Pros

    • Fantastic 5.9 inch 1080p display
    • Long battery life thanks to 3,300 mAh battery
    • microSD expansion slot
    • High quality front facing stereo speakers
    • Power button on right side

    Cons

    • Long, wide, and heavy phone
    • Poorly designed back cover
    • Limited use fingerprint scanner
    • Annoying Sprint Spark connection icon

    Pricing and availability

    The HTC One Max is available now on Sprint for $249.99 with a two-year contract. You can save an additional $100 if you switch your service to Sprint and bring your phone number along.

    The One Max should be coming to Verizon soon as well, but we don't yet have pricing or availability information.

    The competition

    Other large screen phones, greater than 5 inches, include the Galaxy Note 3, upcoming Nokia Lumia 1520, Sony Xperia Z Ultra, LG G2, and maybe even the Google Nexus 5. All of these phones offer something better than the HTC One Max and all are smaller too.

    Specifications

    • Android 4.3 OS and Sense 5.5
    • Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.7 GHz processor
    • 2GB RAM and 32GB flash storage (8 GB consumed by Other, likely HTC Sense bits)
    • microSD card expansion capability
    • 5.9 inch 1080p resolution display at 373 ppi
    • Ultrapixel rear camera
    • 2.1 megapixel front facing camera
    • Fingerprint sensor on the back
    • 3,300 mAh non-removable battery
    • 802.11 a/ac/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX
    • Dimensions of 164.5 x 82.5 x 10.29 mm and 217 grams (7.65 ounces)

    The HTC One Max is huge and nearly double the weight of the iPhone 5s. It really looks ridiculous in your hand and unfortunately the build quality stinks thanks to the back cover that doesn't even latch securely in place.

    The specifications were great for early 2013, but to compete today HTC needs to improve what is provided in the HTC One Max.

    Conclusion

    I wish HTC would have had the people working on the HTC One Max focused on the HTC One II or HTC Two, whatever the successor to the HTC One will be called, in time to launch that device before the holiday season. To make the One Max a killer device, it needed to launch with a Snapdragon 800, 3GB RAM, sealed back like the HTC One with a microSD card slot placed nicely in the side, OIS, and a larger ultra pixel camera. If these were design elements of the HTC One Max, then I would seriously consider picking one up for the media experience.

    The HTC One Max is available now on Sprint and will be launching soon on Verizon. It should appeal to HTC fans, but if we look at their falling market share there are fewer and fewer of those around. I keep going back to my HTC One and haven't yet found a device to knock it out of my hand. The One Max isn't even worth consideration with too large of a form factor and a step back in high quality design.

    Contributor's rating: 7 out of 10

    Further reading

  • Opening up the retail package

  • Back of the HTC One Max

Topics: Mobility, Android, HTC, Reviews, Smartphones

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7 comments
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  • Nexus 7 with an LTE?

    What about a super-thin bezel around the screen. Nexus 7 does not have an earpiece.
    Grayson Peddie
  • If Only Spammers Could Get Caught By Project Honey Pot. :)

    (Pardon my off-topic.)

    Even spambots should be zapped for sure. They just keep cropping up. (Sigh) Annoying.
    Grayson Peddie
  • A bit of a sad phone.

    Without any additional features or upgrades, this thing doesn't stand a chance of selling versus the better built HTC One, much less any of its massive screen competitors. I'm not sure why they even bothered releasing this model.
    BillDem
  • Surprised they just added microSD. BlackBerry had for year

    Despite concerns about lack of innovation @ BlackBerry, they've had microSD for nearing a year. Their Z30 blows HTC out of the water and sales still > HTC
    HenselM
  • shoulda coulda

    This is what I expected your iPhone reviews be like
    Daniel Quintero
  • ?

    WTF! This article doesn't mention it but the One Maxx has a removable back cover but STILL can't swap the battery?! What is wrong with HTC?
    trob6969
  • Gadgets

    We always wanting the best gadgets for us, the speed, the weight, multitasking, value for money, flexibility, etc. But best choose is how we gonna use its gadgets according to our needs.
    george1992