The big One: HTC’s 5.9 inch One Max reviewed

To remove the back, you have to pull down on a switch location on the top of the left-hand side.

The strange thing is, this location is more commonly associated with the mute and lock switch on the iPhone than a back removal system. Looking at it first hand, we thought it would mute the phone, but no, it just releases a catch on the back to remove the metal back.

This seems to us as a silly decision, especially when people — yes, we asked some — seem to think this switch controls a function of the phone, like lowering the volume all the way or locking the device.

Apple has done a good job of making this element known as the lock or mute switch, and so it seems rather silly for HTC to come in and redefine this element, especially on such a big phone.

If you’re used to the lock switch on an iPhone and you come into the HTC One Max, you’ll have to retrain yourself into not hitting the switch on the side, as all it will do each time is spring that rear cover open, which may not be what you intended to begin with.

HTC’s fingerprint scanner also comes with some flaws. Two, to be exact.

The first is its location, and sitting directly under the camera lens might look good from a design point of view, but from a usability one, it’s just insanely stupid. To use the HTC One Max fingerprint scanner, you have to wipe your finger over the scanner, and since you’re generally doing it while you’re staring at the massive screen of the phone, that means doing it by touch.

With such a big size on the phone, however, you almost always inadvertently rub your greasy finger all over the camera lens and then the fingerprint scanner, or constantly touch the camera lens when you’re trying to touch the scanner.

It’s all a bit messy, and grubby, and if you try to take a picture afterwards, expect to need to wipe down that camera lens.

There’s also the problem of the fingerprint scanner, which in theory, is a good idea. Just like how it works on the Apple iPhone 5S, HTC has engineered the HTC One Max so that you can unlock the phone with your fingerprint. You can’t buy things from the Google Play Store like you can on the iPhone, but you can pair different fingers with shortcuts for different apps so they load when you unlock using that finger.

Just not in the dark. For any of these things.

We set up our One Max for the fingerprint lock, and while it worked most of the time pretty easily in daylight, it struggled at night and in darker places and just refused to work.

You scan your finger in a place with less light and the phone just won’t see it. You scan your finger again and it doesn’t see it. You do it again and again and again, and eventually the software just gives up and asks you to type in a long password — more than a couple of digits, we tried — that it had you enter when you setup the damn fingerprint system.

We have to ask: if you can’t unlock your phone with your fingerprint in darkness and are forced to sit there entering a long string of characters just to wake it and check what’s going on, what the hell is the point?

This incredible uselessness in darkness means you can’t use the fingerprint technology in a darkened movie theatre, walking the streets at night, or even — as we discovered — sitting in bed with the bedside lamp on.

All up, it’s best if you just don’t use the fingerprint scanner, because while daylight works a treat, night is just one giant wad of “why did I bother to turn this on.”

HTC’s choice of camera seems like a bit of an under-achiever now as well. On the HTC One, the Ultrapixel was a standout device, and even though it was only technically 4 megapixels, its ability to replace details in the scene quickly, as well as its low-light shooting capability made it among the best of the camera modules in any device.

But that was in April. It’s the end of November now, and we don’t expect HTC to just recycle its camera technology for a flagship phablet. Rather, the company should be improving on it, releasing a better Ultrapixel camera for a bigger device.

That hasn’t been what’s happened, though. HTC One Max owners will still get the excellent camera out of the HTC One, and it’s a top camera even if its megapixels aren’t remarkably high, but it’s obviously not the camera module it could have been.


While the idea of a bigger One makes a lot of sense, especially to those who prefer bigger screens, HTC’s implementation of it leaves us wanting.

It’s almost as if the company took a half-hearted approach, literally recreating the HTC One but in a bigger form. While that means the One Max is essentially as good as the One, it doesn’t come off this way, mostly because it’s the end of the year, and it feels more like the company has recycled technology and added a bigger battery and screen, rather than throw in new stuff that makes it more competitive with other devices currently being released.

Take the 5.7 inch Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which has as good a battery life, is almost as big, and yet come with a Snapdragon 800 processor, which offers much more performance than the Snapdragon 600 processor used in this handset.

And that 4 megapixel Ultrapixel camera is nice, but half a year later, HTC could surely put something better in, offering more value to those deciding to jump to such a big and heavy phone.

That’s the problem with the One Max: while it’s still a good device, it’s nowhere near as good as it could be, and generally just feels like yesterday’s phone recycled into a big phone.

If you loved the HTC One but wanted it bigger, that’s exactly what the One Max offers, with just as much speed, loud sound, and one of the most sturdy constructions you’re ever likely to see.

But it’s not the best it could have been, and if you consider this, we’d advise you to shop around to find the perfect device that fits your hands and needs.


Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Solid aluminium body with plastic edging; Power button placement is good; Excellent battery life; BoomSound speakers are very loud; Supports microSD; HTC Sense 5.5 is an improvement on the past generation, and you can now turn off BlinkFeed;
Heavy; Fingerprint scanner is in a silly location; The fingerprint scanner has severe problems running in darker environments; Ultrapixel camera hasn't improved at all; Back removal switch is in a silly place, and resembles more a mute or lock button; Processor isn't quite on the same level as competing premium phablets;