I thought we had something special: quality control and the HTC One
I’ve been a huge HTC fan ever since I first saw the original Touch Diamond in person. I knew someone who had just come back from Taiwan, boasting about how he was one of a fortunate few to have the device. I fondly remember the packaging proudly displayed on his desk. The phone itself looked so alien, as if a cut of amethyst crystal was dipped in ebony lacquer. It looked and felt unlike anything at the time.
Yet the $850 tag left it way out of reach for my mortal hands. The cheaper Touch wasn’t enough to pull me away from another Palm device (I though PDAs were the coolest shit ever), so I continued doing dumb things on PalmOS (novelty apps and some kind of fake WebOS launcher) with Centros and Treos and the like, waiting for the day where HTC would make something gorgeous for the US. Many HTC devices came and went. I didn’t have the vision to see anything in Android 1.x at the time, so I passed on the G1, MyTouch, and the Droid Eris (the rather homely VZW equivalent to the Hero).
Then finally the HTC HD2 came out for T-Mobile. Windows Mobile was already outdated at the time, and Josh Topolsky gave it a scathing review, but I was willing to put up with familiar start menus and ActiveSync. I got it on launch week and I’ve been using for three years, flashing every new version of Android from XDA. For three years nothing convinced me that I needed a new phone. I had a brief stint with a Samsung Focus but I didn’t like it better than the HD2. I simply didn’t care for (was a fanboy against, same thing) the iPhone 3GS, 4, and 4S; thought nothing of the Galaxies (Galaxys? How about Galaxy Ss?); and ignored HTC’s later, iterative offerings (the Thunderbolt, ‘nuff said). HTC had given me a perfect device, and I was running the latest Android software. I really had nothing to complain about.
Now I’ve established that I am no shill hired by Samsung or Apple, I’m going to pick up the pace and move on to my problems with the HTC One. I sprung for the One for two primary reasons; it left an impression similar to the one Touch Diamond and HD2 had left, and because it matched my Retina MacBook Pro better than the iPhone 5 did, speaker grilles and all (I guess the latter isn’t really a primary reason, but it’s kind of nice).
My initial impression is that it was everything I wanted in a new phone. Great feel in the hand, stunning appearance, and snappy performance. I was making fun of how outdated my relatives’ iPhone 5s looked in comparison (because everyone loves that). And then I started noticing some details. There’s an uneven gap at the top of the device, which has been brought up on the Internet ad nauseam. Okay, I thought, I’m cool with it, because the only reason I even noticed was because of how seamless the rest of the phone is. It runs a little warm. Not a problem. I’ve lived in Arizona for many years; I’m no stranger to heat. The battery life is not so great. Eh, it’s fine, coming from a phone that barely lasted six or so hours.
I was willing to put up with a lot of compromise. But then I get a message after I’ve gone to bed, and as I check the notification in my dark room, and I notice a Jackson Pollock spatter of stuck pixels across my screen. That might be hyperbole. I guess it works if he used a fountain pen instead of a paint-seeped brush. I paid full price for this phone, so with some sense of consumer entitlement I wasn’t willing to put up with stuck pixels. I futilely tried to "unstuck" them with some app but it was hopeless. So I sent it back the next week, trying my luck in pursuit of the mythical, flawless One that many have claimed to have.
I’m no foreigner to patronizing reps, but I don’t understand why they have to be so, I don’t know how better to say this, douchey about things. It’s one thing to not be able to empathize with the issues I’m having, but it’s another thing to shrug them off and make me feel a bit schizophrenic (I know my writing reflects this, with all these asides, but bear with me). But if someone’s ten-minute power trip makes him feel better, then by all means, go for it. Take note forum denizens, because the truth is, I really don’t care whether or not you’re willing to put up with these defects. My goal isn’t to convince you that you shouldn’t, but to tell you that some people want better.
Much to my horror, I come back with a new One that, while free of some of the same problems, presents an assortment of new ones. There’s a camera assembly that’s so misaligned, I was afraid that the lens would be covered by the black surround. The images captured would exhibit a large purple spot in the center. The gaps were much smaller, but the microUSB port was already chipped. The power button and volume rockers were all stuck on an angle. The screen visibly wasn’t flush with any of its surrounds. Worst of all, there were still stuck pixels.
What’s most intriguing is the different battery performance the new device has. It gets through more than a day with at least 30% power remaining, and runs cool to the touch. It’s almost a completely different phone in this regard. I believe the inconsistency in battery performance directly correlates to the differing battery rundown results between reviews.
I know that a few dead pixels are within tolerances for high-resolution displays; however, there are some claiming that their Ones are free of dead pixels. I’ve had to replace my Retina MacBook Pro’s screen twice, once for ghosting, and once for mura, but in all three screens this laptop has contained, in all 15 million total pixels illuminated, nary a single pixel was dead or stuck (and believe me, I checked).
So maybe I’m just unlucky, but luck shouldn’t replace quality control. "Control" is half of the term. Which leads me to my final point. Fanboys, cover your ears. The HTC One is bad quality. It is one thing to shoot for beautiful finishes, exquisite materials, and elaborate manufacturing processes. It is another thing to execute them poorly, and to ship off the missteps in retail boxes hoping that people won’t care or notice or bother.
HTC no longer plays a price game, nor an availability game, but intends to compete toe-to-toe in the brutal flagship wars. And while it may win with the press, the techies, and the window-shoppers, it does so with a hefty sacrifice. It’s clear that HTC is willing to let a few have a bad experience here and there, and I just happened to be caught up in one. The HD2 gave me the sense (heheh) that they really cared for me, but that’s testament to how good of a product it was. It made me feel like they wanted to please people on an individual basis, like the few from Taiwan who proudly brandished their Touch Diamonds to their envious acquaintances. The One has snapped me out of this impression, reminding that I buy a commodity with millions of others, and that, to them, my experience is just a stuck pixel on a slab of millions.
I’ll still give it one more exchange. For old time’s sake.
TL;DR: I got two faulty HTC Ones and I’m disillusioned. Imagine a sleazy 80's romance with me screaming at my phone. "I thought you loved me, HTC!"