HTC One Max, an Android Phablet with a Fingerprint Sensor

| Analysis

HTC announced Monday the One Max, a giant 5.9-inch Android smartphone with a fingerprint sensor conveniently nestled on the back of the device. The fingerprint scanner allows users to lock and unlock the screen, and, "quickly launch up to three favourite applications by assigning an individual finger to each."

HTC One Max

HTC One Max - The Fingerprint Sensor is That Square Thing on the Back

Fingerprints

We don't cover many Android device launches, but this is the first Android device to ship with a fingerprint sensor since the release of the iPhone 5s in September. Accordingly, the One Max is getting a bit more attention than it might have otherwise.

Allow me to point out up top that Apple didn't invent fingerprint scanning, and it wasn't the first company to bring the concept to smartphones when it released the iPhone 5s. Motorola did it with the Atrix in 2011, though that device didn't gain much traction. Accordingly, HTC isn't copying Apple by offering a fingerprint sensor on the One Max.

Apple was the first company to get it right—Apple's Touch ID is a convenience feature with hooks into the hardware and software in ways other companies are going to have a hard time matching, and that includes HTC. I'll happily bet dollars to donuts that few people remember the One Max for this feature or use it longer than a few days.

For one thing, the sensor's placement on the back seems silly to me, and allowing users to assign app launches to up to three fingers is one of those features in search of a problem. No one is going to use that. Of course, this isn't a review—I haven't tested this or even held a One Max in my hands, but I'm comfy with the prediction.

What users may remember the One Max for is the 5.9-inch display, which makes it one of the largest smartphones on the market. HTC has been struggling to compete with Samsung in the Android market, but the One Max may find adherents in the phablet fan club.

Nuts, Bolts

The display is a full 1080p display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. At 5.9-inches, it's big enough that watching movies could be practical. HTC doesn't talk much about the display, however, and it remains to be seen if it comes with the usual tradeoffs larger smartphones tend to have in terms of color and other issues.

The device is powered by a quad-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor, which isn't the most powerful processor on the market, and it comes with either 16GB or 32GB of storage (expandable via a microSD slot). It has a very large 3300mAh embedded battery to power all that display, and it offers up to 28 hours of talk time, according to HTC.

In addition to saddling the HTC One Max with proprietary features no one wants ("HTC BlinkFeed™, HTC Zoe™ and HTC BoomSound™), the device also comes with Sense 5.5, a new version of HTC's interface that sits on top of Android—4.3 Jelly Bean in the case of the One Max.

HTC, like Samsung, slathers its idea of how users should interface with Android on top of the operating system. It's a product of both companies being desperate for a way of differentiating their Android products from competing Android products, but in my opinion both of them should leave it to Google. Stock Android for the win every time if you're going with Android. Your mileage may vary.

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Comments

paikinho

“....it remains to be seen if it comes with the usual tradeoffs larger smartphones tend to have in terms of color and other issues.”

What exactly are these tradeoffs? I am a bit clueless on the problems with color or other issues. Could you clarify this a bit for me?

skipaq

This phone is just so small the touch sensor could not fit on the front. Also, you missed one great feature of this design. If you assign the right finger to launch the camera you get bird photos due to the sensor proximity to the lens. Let’s see anyone top that.

Lee Dronick

Good one Skipaq!

wab95

Bryan:

Is it ‘phablet’ or ‘phallic’? At this point, I’m no longer sure, but I’m confident that Freud would have a field day with this preoccupation with size in the android smartphone world.

As a simple physician, I only wonder at what point do larger screen sizes challenge ergonomics to the point of strain and a new class of injury (remember carpal tunnel; how many had heard of it prior to computer keyboard use?). I only half jest.

furbies

How will the fingerprint sensor work if the HTC is in a case ?

Bryan Chaffin

paikinho, Super AMOLED has received criticism about using them in direct sunlight, problems with some colors, and general short lifespan issues. Tim Cook spoke to this when he said there were significant tradeoffs in the displays being used in phablets, and that Apple wouldn’t release a phablet until it could offer the same high quality experience one gets on the iPhone.

I’m not sure HTC is using Super AMOLED on this device, however. As noted, the company didn’t specify much of anything about the display.

furbies, I imagine that cases for this device would take the sensor into consideration, just as iPhone case makers (especially the waterproof ones), are having to take the iPhone 5s’s sensor into consideration.

Andhaka

Bryan, HTC does not use Super AMOLED screens, but Super LCD 3.

The color quality and gamut are very high and I can assure you that the screen in the HTC One I bought to replace an aging 3Gs (I’m pretty sure they’re using the same kind of display for the One Max) is amazing in every aspect and quite good even under direct sunlight (with all the limitations LCD displays still have under sunlight).

HTC is the only manufacturer with phones in the iPhone quality category as of now. wink

Cheers

Andhaka

Furbies, the same way the camera works. With covers made specifically for the HTC One MAX and with a hole where the sensor is. wink

Cheers

Paul Goodwin

It would seem that to get your finger on the sensor correctly, you’d have to flip the device over to get the position correct. Then you can’t see the display to tell whether the sensor accepted the fingerprint. So you flip it over to the display side. wab95 - there’s another repetitive stress syndrome source. PFT - Phone Flipping Trauma.

All day long flipping it to see whether your app actually started. I don’t think so. Unless the sensor was very forgiving about finger position, I don’t see this as working very well. Seems like the odds of your finger being in the right position every time would be low.

Paul Goodwin

I suppose I shouldn’t poo poo it before someone tests it though. But to me it’s too big to be a practical phone and too small to be a good tablet.

Bryan Chaffin

Thanks for the info, Andhaka. Very good to know.

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