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Does variable HTC build quality turn buying a 'One' into a game of Russian Roulette?
But weeks after handing over the cash I still don’t have HTC’s flagship device in my hands as I don’t seem to be lucky enough to get a good one.
Refined design. Rugged build. Inspired results.
Full metal body. Zero gap construction. And tapered edges that offer a slim but satisfying grip.
The new HTC One is phone design that doesn't compromise.
Unfortunately, i’m finding it difficult to accept there aren't compromises being made on the productions lines of HTC as i’m two phones in and both have been of pretty poor quality.
I knew the phone was coming and I was as excited as a kid at Christmas. The package arrived and I hurriedly removed the box then quickly removed the cellophane wrapping. The smile on my face was that usual geeky tech smile I think we all get as we take the lid off our new toys. Anticipation, excitement. But my joy was quickly soured as I took the unit out of its final wrapping and I was presented with this.
I tried to overlook what I had seen and switched the device on. The speakers boomed just as the should, the screen looked particularly awesome and in the brief moments I played with the camera everything internally about the device appeared to be spot on. But the same could not be said for the outside.
My initial fears were backed up as I took a further look around the device. The more I looked, the more I was disappointed and the more I was disappointed the more I looked. In the end I became angry and frustrated.
It was then that I started to think back to all the reviews I had read. Hold on, where were their tales of woe? Or concerns over build quality?
Well to start off with the iPhone 5 can start blushing because in terms of build quality the HTC One is almost flawless. A precision machined aluminium body is then seamlessly joined to the rest of the phone using a technique which leaves no gaps, and we mean none at all. It’s certainly on a par with Apple’s own standards and even though we've only had a short time with the S4 we’re going to go ahead and say that its got that safely beat.
The One is gorgeous. The aluminum slab's design is both totally unique and somehow still understated. HTC did a really clever job of making the phone's various parts double as its design flair.
HTC crafted the One out of a single block of anodized aluminum, sprinkled with polycarbonate accents throughout. It's incredibly intricate: each unit goes through at least 200 minutes of CNC machine cuts, and the aluminum is etched into channels filled with polycarbonate -- a technique called zero-gap injection molding. Add chamfered, polished edges that connect the sides of the phone to the glass (Gorilla Glass 2, to be specific), and you have a handset with one of the best industrial designs we've ever seen. The amount of detail here is staggering, and it reflects just how crucial this device is to HTC's future.
There's a zero-gap construction at work here as well, which means that you won't find any gaping distance, holes or light leakages to make you feel like you've not spent your hard-earned cash on something wonderful.
I could go on copying and pasting, but I think you get the general idea. Everyone is telling us this phone is top notch in terms of design and appearance.
Before you buy a device you trust reviews and reviewers. Reading the quotes back, its apparent that their models were obviously flawless, but I had no reason to think the unit I bought would be any different. When you do receive something that is below par though, you do start thinking “have I just been unlucky”? Well once you type ‘HTC One build quality’ into Google you soon start to realise that you are not alone. Forums, blogs and YouTube are full of people who've also received bad units. Now I do appreciate that disgruntled folk are usually more vocal than the happy ones, but we aren't talking just one or two people here and its not restricted to certain markets. There’s people from all four corners of the globe having a right old bitch about the quality (or lack of it) of their brand new HTC One’s.
After speaking to a few people and showing them the pictures it was clear that i’d kopped for a pretty bad unit and it went straight back to the supplier.
Whilst it was on its way back to them I discovered you could find out where and when your HTC One was manufactured using the serial number. We’ve all heard the old wives tales “don’t buy a newly released phone for a couple months until they've ironed out all the kinks”, “that first run of units are always terrible until they do”. So I was expecting mine to say built in March or April (directly after release), but I was shocked to discover that my device was built at the end of May in Shanghai, so within a few weeks of receiving it.
Fair play to the supplier, they exchanged the unit with minimal fuss and sent out another one from their stock. Unfortunately that is where the good news ends because whilst it was slightly better than the first, it still wasn't acceptable to me.
It still had the ‘blobbed’ black plastic finish and the cut outs still looked like they were made with a Stanley knife. I checked the serial number and again, it was built at the end of May in Shanghai. Actually, just a few days after the first model.
Needless to say, that One has gone back too and that is where are I am now. Still rocking my old Nexus 4 and waiting to receive my "third" HTC One from the supplier.
I would naively like to think that i’d just had two from the same dodgy batch and everything would be okay if I got one from another batch. But my trawling of forums and blogs in recent weeks suggests that is just a fanciful notion as there appears to be no consistent factor that points to the root of the variable build quality. Different factories, different build dates, same problems.
During this whole episode over the last few weeks I have begun to question myself and have asked if i’ve become too picky in my old age? Especially as I see people willing to accept flaws on their device and saying “its only a little gap on the body” or “the corner is raised a little, but I put a case on it, so I don’t notice”. But hold on here, we are talking about a device with an RRP of £500, not some cheap Chinese import from AliSPAM. Would you expect to walk into an Apple store, had over 500 notes and walk away with an iPhone that looks as bad as my first HTC One did? I think we all know the answer. Surely its not wrong to want or expect) a premium product after paying a premium price?
Its truly refreshing that HTC want to emulate Apple’s design philosophy and build an extraordinarily beautiful device. In fact I can’t help but applaud them for wanting to do so whilst Samsung continue down their plastic path. But HTC must back it up with a ‘consistent’ manufacturing process alongside the most stringent quality control.
You get the feeling that is what is letting HTC down, quality control.
As one disgruntled punter who returned his One summed it up; “unfortunately, the HTC One is a flagship in ambition only”. For the moment, I can’t help but agree.
Imagine the front pages of all tech sites if this was happening regularly with Apple and their iPhones? They'd be apoplectic. I'm really not sure how HTC are getting away with it? The issue certainly seems to be flying under the radar, at least in the press.
Now the cynic in me thinks back to the tons of HTC One reviews I read. How come all the media ended up with flawless versions? Yet Joe Public and I are left to play Russian Roulette with HTC’s variable production lines?
So a good number of weeks on, i’m still Oneless and back at the mercy of HTC and the unreliability of their production lines and Quality Control departments. I'm really not sure what I will do if my third One is another dud.
I desperately want a perfectly built HTC One, but i'm not sure what I have to do to get one? It really shouldn't be this difficult should it?
What about you? Have you had any bad experiences purchasing a One? Did you send one back or did you just put up with the odd niggle?
Or maybe you’ve got a flawless One? If so, please do tell me where you found that four leaf clover.
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