Maybe the title for this post is a touch dramatic, but we’ve been talking about this for a while now. HTC is at the beginning of their trek to rebuild their brand identity. While all Android manufacturers make a variety of handsets, you can usually count on a Premier line of handsets that consumers can identify with. Samsung has been branding “Galaxy” into our brains for years now for example.
This is only the first year of devices where HTC has badged “One” across all carriers. Even Sprint’s fetish for “Evo 4G LTE Pro Touch 3D LMNOP” product names has finally succumbed to the fact that consumers shopping an alternative handset to the iPhone or Galaxy S4 wanted the One. Not something JUST LIKE the HTC One. Nope. Just the HTC One please and thank you.
While the One Mini hasn’t performed as well as many would’ve hoped, it still succeeds in continuing the brand message of a unified platform, a family of devices you can count on HTC to continue supporting and producing. Now they’re adding another One to the line up, the HTC One Max.
It’s all about recognition. You can spot an iPhone from a mile away. We understand that look. HTC is trying to create the same visual identity. Aluminum construction, front facing stereo speakers, and a large Aperture-Science-style “eye” of a camera on the back. That is the look of a “One” device. The One Max continues in this aesthetic, adding a larger screen to the line up and a fingerprint reader under the camera.
The 5.9″ 1080p screen is slightly larger than the 5.7″ job on the Galaxy Note 3, an interesting role reversal as the Galaxy S4 had a slightly larger screen than the regular HTC One. The One Max is larger in every dimension than the Note 3, not only because of the larger screen, but those Boomsound stereo speakers add to the overall length of the phone.
Interestingly enough the One Max is powered by the Qualcomm 600 series quad-core found in the OG One, and not the 800 series chipset which is popping up in the LG G2 and Note 3. From hands on time, the 800 is more powerful, though it’s hard to see much of a performance advantage in day to day tasks. Whether to balance the larger screen, or to provide better power management, some might find that processor choice a little curious. The 600 is a very solid performer, and it’ll be a long while before it struggles with future apps or games. Phablets are audacious devices though, and you want to be able to talk about bleeding edge hardware, high end specs and numbers and benchmarks. HTC’s processor choice here is entirely reasonable, but it means they lose out on a talking point.
The fingerprint sensor below the camera thankfully doesn’t add any additional bulk to the face of the phone, and it allows users to unlock their handset with a swipe. I’m fairly sure this style of security will prove as defeatable as the iPhone 5S proved to be, but as a consumer deterrent, it could be handy.
While the 4MP UltraPixel sensor from the One is returning, the One Max sadly the camera lacks optical image stabilization. It’s that feature in my opinion, more than ANY other (including resolution), which improves the camera experience. The HTC One still has my favorite camera on any Android handset, but when playing with the One Mini, I didn’t enjoy video or photo output nearly as much. That’s somewhat understandable on a mid-range handset, but it’s cringe inducing on a premier phablet. Lacking OIS, I fear camera performance on this beast will be closer to the One Mini than the One.
The battery built in is 3300 mAh, and when paired with the slightly less powerful processor, should mean very good battery life. I would expect to see HTC’s Power Saver controls on board as well, which should improve run time for those who wish to manage that. The back cover is now removable, allowing access to a memory card slot. I’m really happy to see this return. The One Max tops out at 32GB of storage built in, but that can get eaten up quickly these days by power users, especially with HD video, which is gloriously watchable on screens this size. Adding another 64GB via MicroSD card for movies, music, photos, and other media means your on board storage should stay safe for huge games and apps.
Also announced is a handy new flip cover case. The power case protects the huge screen, and also folds up to act as a stand for the phone. Pogo pins connect the One Max to a built in 1200 mAh battery which should add another 30% to the phone’s run time. It’s a power user affair though, as the phone is already large, and adding the case means squeezing in a hair more bulk. Probably not a combo which will look flattering in a pair of slacks.
Lastly, when purchasing an HTC One Max, HTC will throw in 65GB of Google Drive storage for two years free. It’s always handy having a little extra cloud to fall back on for storing files, backing up photos, videos, and docs while on the go.
And that’s the jam folks. HTC has re-joined the phablet wars. While I think this is definitely a win from a branding and marketing perspective, visual consistency and familiar software, the phone itself seems like an interesting set of compromises. The most obvious competitor to compare it to is of course the Note 3, but HTC will also have to face down phones like the Optimus G Pro, and soon Nokia will be walking into the large screen arena with the Lumia 1520. The One Max’s initial release will be on Sprint and Verizon, and we’ve not heard anything official about GSM carriers AT&T or T-Mobile. No exact dates or prices, but you should be able to get your hands on one later this month.
Full PR and specs list after the jump!
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