Someone asked me the other night about the HTC One and why I hadn’t gotten one. While mostly it’s due to my money going to the diaper fund for a newborn, and having a newborn in general (it does not leave me a lot of time to play with new expensive tech), a lot of it has more to do with my fairly long history with HTC, and my learned wait-and-see approach.
For almost the last two and a half years, I’ve written about the HTC EVO line, covering the original HTC EVO 4G, the EVO 3D, and the EVO 4G LTE. There were some other EVOs thrown in there, too, but I didn’t bother with them. I’ve also owned a couple HTC Windows phones in the past, and probably have owned a total of seven HTC devices in succession.
However, most of my experiences are with the HTC EVO on Sprint. While your carrier experience may vary, my expectation is that your phone manufacturer experience will not, as it doesn’t seem to matter what model phone HTC has put out so far. The HTC One might as well be the HTC EVO 4G LTE 2.
So while this may seems like an incredibly negative piece, it’s more a “buyer be informed” based on what’s happened to me.
Buy the product you’re shown, not the potential of what it might be.
With the original EVO 4G, EVO 3D, and EVO Design 4G, Sprint captured us with the promise of WiMAX 4G. It’s coming. For about a year we heard that it would be everywhere shortly. Then it was discontinued, leaving all the phones that didn’t have access to WiMAX to linger on the overloaded 3G network.
HTC updates generally break a lot of things, fix a couple.
In 2012, the EVO 4G LTE came with Android Ice Cream Sandwich, and it was good. We expected that sometime shortly after the release of Android Jelly Bean, it would be ported over and released by HTC, and that it would be great.
We were somewhat wrong. Lingering bugs persisted five months after the release and have plagued the EVO 4G LTE. Navigation functionality is still hit or miss for owners of the device, and it just isn’t being addressed with any sense of urgency, as it’s not HTC’s flagship product any more. With one of the recent updates in March to the HTC EVO 3D , Swype was damaged and didn’t get fixed for over 45 days. It was a simple fix that shouldn’t have been required in the first place, if any reasonable testing had been done.
In short, don’t expect updates to make the phone better; expect them to make it more annoying, as HTC apparently doesn’t do very decent testing. While some of these may be carrier specific, the last big EVO 4G LTE update we had significantly more bugs found in one day than you would expect from software that should have been tested thoroughly.
HTC responds with lawyers, half statements, and delays.
With the original EVO 4G, there was the Carrier IQ scandal, in which HTC threatened to sue a developer who found code capable of logging key presses. From October of 2011 until January 2012, a series of Stooge-like finger-pointing between HTC, Sprint, and Carrier IQ went on, with all three issuing one half statement after another.
The U.S. Congress stepped in to the matter at one point before the whole thing imploded and Sprint removed the CIQ software from its devices. The removal also broke some things.
More recently, HTC sent a C&D order to someone for hosting RUUs and custom ROMs. When asked to issue a clarification on the issue, HTC issued a half statement saying it supported the community but didn’t really answer anything that was directly asked.
HTC will mock your last HTC phone.
The “wouldn’t it sound better if it were facing the right way” commercial that the HTC One is using right now is pretty much what everyone in the EVO line said from the moment they saw that the speakers were on the back. Why is it back there? That’s not a good design. We know that – and have for years.
HTC or your carier will throw the model name away.
There was the HTC EVO 4G, a masterpiece of a device. Shortly after, HTC took the EVO model name and slapped it on the Shift, which we didn’t even bother covering. Then there was the EVO View 4G, which was an HTC Flyer tablet that had the word EVO stuck on it.
Following was the EVO 3D, which combined some of the greatness of the EVO 4G with the camera of a myopic mole man; there was the EVO Design 4G, which really didn’t take off for most; them finally there was the EVO 4G LTE, which didn’t really feel like an EVO at this point.
Don’t forget the side-branding, where Sprint took the EVO 3D, threw it on Virgin Mobile, and sold it as the EVO V 4G.
Basically, the name EVO was diluted from the greatest achievement of what a phone could be, into “hey, look what we can slap our brand name on.”
You’re not getting high speed when promised, nor a promise.
If the carrier you’re looking at doesn’t have high speed data for 4G in place, it’s not going to be there when the store clerk thinks it is. I’ve been living mostly on Sprint 3G since the purchase of my 4G LTE. It’s been coming next month for a very long time.
I pay a premium price for unlimited data usage, but 10 minutes on WiFi will get me a lot more than a day’s worth of Sprint 3G.
Want to root the HTC One? Good luck with that.
HTC in general requires that you use the HTCDev website to unlock your bootloader. HTCDev has been known to be down days at a time, or simply not work. And this is actually a pretty common experience.
Once you manage to register and choose to unlock, bye bye phone data. It’ll be erased for security reasons that anyone who’s played with Titanium Backup could probably have gotten around with twenty minutes of work and a computer. You’ll also need to install an ADB toolkit on your computer, have a working email that accepts strange .bin attachments, check that you know that you might have voided your warranty (probably haven’t), and when that’s done you’ll have an unlocked bootloader.
This will allow you to flash ROMs and kernels on some devices, and on others you might find you have to jump through several hoops to flash kernels. I freely admit I’m not in the know of how this works on the One.
An unlocked bootloader, at least on the EVO series, did not mean you could flash radios or kernels, so updating the radios and firmware to whatever the carrier wanted you to run required returning to stock and doing an OTA. An embraced community had a lot of steps to take that they shouldn’t have, considering an app should be able to do all of this in one button press.
Your phone is not HTC’s concern after it has been purchased.
At least not on Sprint. You can expect maybe one OS upgrade, and a couple of patches.
This is not particularly an HTC specific issue, so don’t think I’m picking on it. Hardware manufacturers sell hardware. The carrier sells service, and it subsidizes the hardware to get you locked into contract. There’s no third element that says either have to pay for software upgrades.
Your kernel source, please?
Once a new update to the ROM is released, HTC is required to release the source to the kernel. However, you can expect to wait three months for something that could be up and distributed before the ROM OTA hits.
This is why, when the developer edition of the One was announced, I wondered why nobody had spoken out and asked if it really was a developer edition, or if it was once again a “develop three months behind” edition.
HTC produces the best phones.
What, wait … after all that seeming negativity, I’m saying something positive? Yes. HTC produces the best looking and feeling phones. Well, that’s my opinion at least.
While other manufacturers are better in one or two areas, HTC generally nails all of it in my opinion, for manufacturing quality and what it needs to do. I’ve had seven HTC phones, and I’ve worked on several Samsung devices, and I really enjoy them as well – but HTC feels better.
While the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a kick-ass phone, it’s not the best all around. It shines bright in some areas and not in others. I’d go with the One on this one. The S4 needs a body job or a case to feel right.
Are there any better alternatives?
Possibly. Honestly, I can’t keep up with what every manufacturer is doing that’s bad for customers and development. It’s not HTC specific, although I do hear about it mostly in connection with HTC’s name.
For most of you, you’re looking for a phone that takes pictures well, plays games, and won’t be an outdated hunk of metal in six months. HTC provides that, although in six months there’ll be other phones and they’ll blow your phone out of the water.
Don’t expect the company to be a saint (probably none are) and truly support development and developers. If you come with the right expectation, you’re probably going to be happy with them. I’m pretty sure they don’t kill kittens, and they do make One hell of a phone.