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Does variable HTC build quality turn buying a 'One' into a game of Russian Roulette?

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#1
Zarch1972

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After months of soul searching and reading endless reviews I finally succumbed to temptation and decided to upgrade my Nexus 4 to the critically acclaimed HTC One...

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.

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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.

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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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#2
stirkac

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My One has the same SH35T serial as author's, but mine is absolute stunner. No gaps, overhangs, bad cuts etc... Looks the same as HTC's renders.

I think such bad devices are rare. But chaps who get them return them to the store. I guess the retailers don't want to return otherwise working devices, so they try to sell them again. And the "infinite" circle of bad devices is there. There are many articles about how many Ones HTC sells, and if the problem was so widespread, wouldnt people notice? C'mon mate, you just had a bad luck unfortunately... Demand a new device from fresh stock, and I bet It'll be just fine. And no need t get upset over tiny errors such as power button on the picture... that's on microscopic level.

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#3
flibblesan

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Sorry but when you are paying close to £500 for something then you have every right to expect it to be in good condition. The fact is that a flagship device should never, ever be sold in this kind of condition and quite clearly HTC have some quality control issues. Yes it could very well be a case of the retailer knowingly selling imperfect stock but the stock should never had been in this condition in the first place and if it was then sold as such!

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#4
rovex

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There does seem to be a problem. I havent seen a single HTC One without some sort of flaw. Some are so small they dont matter, but some are just really bad. My first one had huge overhang of the plastic on the bottom. My second had a chunk missing from the bottom speaker grill. My current one was a slight ripple in the plastic around the volume keys.

The other issue is the Camera. It just isnt very good despite what reviews say. Its rubbish in good light.

On XDA there is a definite trend that anyone complaining gets shouted down or told they are too fussy, or in the case of the camera, 'doing it wrong'. Its really sad that you cant raise legitimate issues because of die hard fanboys.

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#5
stirkac

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It's definitely a miss on HTC's side, but considering how cutting-edge this production technique is, I'm amazed they made it. Perhaps they shuld have waited for another generation to perfect the process, but they could have been dead by then without a good device.

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#6
jigjags

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got mine about a month after release and it is flawless ..and i have read reviews of people getting badly made ones so i have checked mine over and over and really close up and can have no complaints.

Hope you get a decent one

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#7
Kelvino9

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I could imagine that all or most review sites get their review devices from the manfuctures directly. And most likely they were handpicked before. That's why most independent consumer review services buy their test subjects from the shops and sometiems get a different (more realistic) result.

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#8
PaulOBrien

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Mine was definitely a sealed retail box, I don't think it was hand-picked...

P

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#9
Voxpop2011

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Those pictures are shocking for a device that costs this much money. I am surprised that you are willing to accept a third handset. I would have asked for a full refund.

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Due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog.

 

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#10
goatee

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Mine was absolutely fine - and the writer of the article has every right to demand a perfect example. With regards to Apple, they do also get it wrong, and people are apopleptic about it, but, they have lots of physical retail stores, in addition to regular phone suppliers, and so getting a replacement is easy.

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#11
svyat

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Obviously, they are just cutting down the costs by loosening quality control. Shipping perfect devices to the press was clearly part of the plan, otherwise it would be just too much of a coincidence.

My wife also received a far from perfect One. It has multiple gaps in the body and the speaker covers do not line up with the plastic. She did keep it, since it's not that bad. I would never had accepted it at that price.

For now I am staying with my One X, since I can't be bothered with the frustration of having to ship the device back to the supplier multiple times. Plus, my One X's build quality is perfect...

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#12
PaulOBrien

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I don't buy the 'shipping perfect devices to the press argument', I think like anything there are some good and some bad.

The One X devices were tighter on QC I think, but then they're a lot easier to manufacture.

P

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#13
Zarch1972

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My One has the same SH35T serial as author's, but mine is absolute stunner. No gaps, overhangs, bad cuts etc... Looks the same as HTC's renders.

I think this sums up the problems completley. Yours, built the same day in the same factory and its perfect. Whereas mine looked like a child was let loose on the machines.

Sorry but when you are paying close to £500 for something then you have every right to expect it to be in good condition. The fact is that a flagship device should never, ever be sold in this kind of condition and quite clearly HTC have some quality control issues.

Might thoughts exactly, their quality control is a mess.

There does seem to be a problem. I havent seen a single HTC One without some sort of flaw. Some are so small they dont matter, but some are just really bad. My first one had huge overhang of the plastic on the bottom. My second had a chunk missing from the bottom speaker grill. My current one was a slight ripple in the plastic around the volume keys.

It does seem a sad state of affairs. :(

got mine about a month after release and it is flawless ..and i have read reviews of people getting badly made ones so i have checked mine over and over and really close up and can have no complaints.

You my friend are a very lucky man. :) (not jealous, honest, LOL)

Those pictures are shocking for a device that costs this much money. I am surprised that you are willing to accept a third handset. I would have asked for a full refund.

I really want a HTC One, there is no way i'm going to get an S4 etc. A perfect One will be fine..... its just finding one. ;)

Mine was absolutely fine - and the writer of the article has every right to demand a perfect example. With regards to Apple, they do also get it wrong, and people are apopleptic about it, but, they have lots of physical retail stores, in addition to regular phone suppliers, and so getting a replacement is easy.

Yes, Apple do have their stores for easy swaps, but I really doubt there are the same level of issues on Apple devices. I know tons of people with iPhones, iPads etc and theres not a blemish on them.

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#14
Michelle My Belle

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In reply, my experience.
I bought my first HTC ONE around 3 weeks ago (sim free/Carphone Warehouse).
I like to use Carphone Warehouse because they will happily replace the unit up to 28 days from purchase date.
It cost me a little under £500.
I was really pleased with the general look of the device.
After a day, I realised that the screen was 'very slightly' raised on the right hand top corner, when I ran my finger over it.
I also noted what I failed to spot in the shop at the time of purchase - that the back of the device sits completely sealed with the plastic edging – zero gap. The front however does not - in various places. So you see what looks like a thin dark hair like line instead of a complete gapless (zero gap) seal.
I took the unit back and it was replaced - I noted that the second unit was a little better but still had a gap where the front meets the plastic side wall but this time it was localised to the left side corners. At home, I later noticed that the hole for the self-cancelling in call audio feature was also sub-par.
I have to stress this unit, just like the first, performed flawlessly but I started to take note of comments (Google) about suspect build quality/zero gap!
I took the unit back and it was readily exchanged for a 3rd (3rd time lucky...).
This HTC ONE replacement was a definite improvement - but still had gaps around the micro USB socket and the power button and also the lower left corner.
Obviously I couldn't get the staff to undo every single HTC ONE box to find a 'good' one (they can't sell a phone with a broken seal to the box).
I decided upon a refund.
Today I think, was I being too 'picky'...
I really want the HTC ONE it looks great. I guess I can try again in a month or so but it really shouldn't be like this.
I've also noticed that xda have stamped out just about every thread that details poor build quality on the HTC ONE - this is a shame because the subject needs 'airing' and I'm grateful for the chance to report my experience as a reply.
I'm now left wondering are there any completely flawless production units (build quality/zero gap) - I've seen no photo evidence of perfect fitting units anywhere other than the usual press shots/pre-production units.
I know what I want - just not how to get it.

MMB.

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#15
Voxpop2011

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This is very poor. You can get a runing car for £500.

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Due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog.

 

Badinternet.jpg


 


#16
paholman

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I feel your pain. I'm on my second HTC One. The first I bought the day before I went on holiday, the white one. Used it on holiday and took some excellent pictures and video on it (I'm very pleased with the camera). Then on the way home, I noticed the screen gap at the top on one side. You could run your finger nail down it. Now, I'd been abroad for two weeks, so when I got home the 14 day money back/grace period had gone. I looked on t'interweb and found many unsatisfied One owners regarding this gap and build quality, with some saying the black one doesn't have this problem. I went to Carphone Warehouse to exchange it and I had a different experience to "Michelle My Bell" above, They just weren't convinced this was a fault. They checked their demo unit, same issue, and they also opened a black version in the shop and this had the same problem, in fact, the quality on that one was very poor, plastic blobs, visible glue down one side, sim tray was not flush, power button lop-sided and the gap issue. The guy just would not accept that was a fault. They said they could not swap it for a black as it's not "like for like" and it's over 14 days old, so the system wouldn't let them. They said I could have another white one, but only if I promise not to try and return if that had the same problem. They weren't going to open any more boxes to check the build so I said I'd take it further up the chain. They made me think I was making a fuss over nothing, despite the fact I paid what I feel is a large amount of cash for a SIM free version, no contract, superb quality phone and wasn't happy with the sub-standard one i'd received. In the end, I had to call their Customer Services to get them to approve a black replacement on their system Once they did, I went to a diff Carphone Warehouse branch and finally got the replacement phone, which fortunately for me, and them, happened to be a flawless one when they opened it. I dread to think what they'd have said if that one was crap too.
I still have the white box and charger as they weren't allowed to give me the black box due to their returns policy. Instead they gave me a receipt to show the IMEI number change.

I'm frustrated not only because of the after sales service I received from Carphone Warehouse, but with HTC too as they're advertising a supreme build quality that is just not evident on the devices in the shops. I can understand the odd duck every now and again, but if most of their devices are like this, something is wrong, and they should be recalled. The fact they're cellophane wrapped is seen as good as it's not been touched since leaving the factory but this restricts the shops from checking them before sale. It's as if HTC are skipping Quality Control in order to meet the large demand. I even called HTC, and they made out they'd never heard of the "gap" issue. A quick google search on "HTC ONE build quality flaws" and there's loads of unhappy customers but they're either dismissing these as the minority, or somehow they're unaware of the problem, which I found very hard to believe.

Another reason I'm a bit gutted is if I come to sell this in the future, I now have to explain why it's a black phone in a white device's box and why the IMEI numbers don't match.

It's a shame this has happened. It's a great phone, brilliant in fact, but I agree with the author of this article, it's russian roullette to find a flawless one. Even now, although I seem to have found a rare decent one on the outside I'm a little paranoid that I may still find I hit one of the other, internal faults that have been reported such as faulty speakers, dead pixels etc. I've not got piece of mind at all which you can accept when buying pre-owned, but not when buying brand spanking new from a retailer.

EDIT: Oh, and while I'm on my soap box about HTC, why is 4.2.2 update taking so long, eh?

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#17
Zarch1972

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I feel your pain. I'm on my second HTC One.
.....
It's a shame this has happened. It's a great phone, brilliant in fact, but I agree with the author of this article, it's russian roulette to find a flawless one.

Its not just me then. :(

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