“That’s huge!” This is the first thing people say when you put out the HTC One Max, the third smartphone in HTC’s One family of devices. While the HTC One has a 4.7 inch full-HD display and the One Mini a 4.3-inch HD, the One Max boasts a 5.9-inch full-HD 1080p display. Friends, family, acquaintances, over and over again say the same word: “Huge.”
One evening, though, after a handful of folks had done their laughing about the Max (because guffawing and laughing are other things that happen when the hilariously large Max is pulled from a bag or coat pocket), one woman shrugged off its size.
“Women just throw their phones in their bags. It doesn’t really matter if it’s big or not.”
It was a good point, and a critical one for the One Max.
If your ideal phone is one that fits in your front pants pocket, you could stop reading here. But if size isn’t an issue—if you enjoy a big, bright, beautiful display and what it facilitates—then the One Max is a phone to seriously consider.
I’ve traditionally been in the first camp. When the One Max arrived on my desk, “ridiculous” may have been a word I said out loud. But the Max has swaying power. In David Pogue’s 2012 review of the Apple iPhone 5 (the 5S has the exact same dimensions), he called it “well on its way to becoming a bookmark.” At the time, I read it as high praise, and the remark stayed with me. But after two weeks with the One Max, I began to think: Who wants to look at photos on a bookmark?
It’s the combination of the Max’s camera and display that will make me sad to return it, particularly at this time of year. It’s what you grab for when you want a great shot, even in the low glow of holiday twinkle lights.
HTC has explained that the Max has an UltraPixel camera and that it has developed a sensor with the “largest pixels available in a smartphone.” If you’re demanding specs, the Max has a 4-megapixel camera. But its pixels, “the most light-sensitive pixels on a smartphone,” HTC said, enable each to capture 300 percent more light than competing 13-megapixel smartphone cameras.
Simply put, it takes great photos that you will want to look at, on its crisp, bright 5.9-inch full-HD display, over and over again. And still better, the Max makes photos seriously easy to share.
The phone makers have all been trying to address the matter of photo sharing. If you go to a party and take 10 photos, what is the likelihood that more than one other person will see more than the one photo you posted to Instagram?
HTC’s Video Highlights feature is an elegant answer to the problem. Go to the Gallery app, tap Events, tap on an event (photos the phone has grouped together, understanding that they were all taken around the same time), and then slide the bar at the top of the app to Video Highlights. The Max can grab images and video and almost instantly combine them into a 30-second film that can be emailed, texted or shared via social media apps, among others.
A user can choose exactly which photos to include, choose a theme and select the music—or let the Max do it. My nephew came over to make a gingerbread house with my daughter, and I took about 20 photos and two short videos. Normally, afterward, I would have mailed one or two photos from the day to the grandparents. With the Max, I created a 30-second video of the day, including lunch with my sister- and brother-in-law and the toddler dance party that followed, in literally about 7 seconds. I emailed it to a few people, and they’ve emailed it to others, and everyone related to those two kids is loving content that, without the Max, they wouldn’t have seen.
Other Key Features
There are three other key things to know about the Max. One is that HTC continues to invest in what it calls BoomSound technology and the Max has two strong, front-facing speakers. I would put it on the counter playing music while I made dinner, and there was no issue of volume or clarity over the noise of pots and clattering dishes and various conversations.
HTC One Max Is Huge, Which Isn’t Always a Bad Thing
It also has a fingerprint reader on its back, below the camera lens, that brought to mind the volume rocker on the back of the LG G2 (another very big phone). From the user experience, it works just like Apple’s TouchID, and its placement makes sense. It’s right where one’s forefinger lands when one picks up the Max. But after a few times of feeling irked that the reader wasn’t reacting, or was reacting too slowly, I realized that I was instead stroking the almost identically sized and also very smooth camera lens instead.
On the next version, HTC might want to put a textural element around the reader to make the two more distinguishable without a glance.
Finally, the Max also runs version 5.5 of HTC’s Sense user interface, and it includes some very good updates. For one, BlinkFeed—the updating news panels on the Max’s home screen—can be customized to a greater degree but also done away with completely.
The ability to more easily share the Video Highlights I mentioned and new features within that feature come, thanks to 5.5, and so do things like the ability to include Google+ and favorite RSS feeds in the BlinkFeed, to make GIFs from HTC Zoes (three-second video captures) and to save stories in BlinkFeed to “Read Later.”
HTC also deserves props for a tiny lever on the phone’s right side. Gone are the days of breaking fingernails, trying to pry the back off a phone to get to the SIM. Push the lever and the Max’s back panel pops off, revealing a clearly labeled SIM. (The Max is available for the Sprint and Verizon Wireless networks.)
Everything Else About HTC One Max
The Max has the same look as the other One devices—the aluminum matte finish, the curved back. (I think the depth of the curve adds to the initial impression of the Max being gigantic, though it does make it comfortable in the hand.)
It measures 6.5 by 3.2 by 0.4 inches and weighs 217 grams, or half a pound. The operating system is Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) and there’s a very speedy 1.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm processor powering it. Also included are Near Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth 4.0 and Long Term Evolution (LTE) connectivity, plus a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera with an 88-degree wide-angle lens.
This is a really nice phone (ah yes! call quality is as nice as to be expected) with some excellent features.
Again, its size makes the One Max not for everyone. But for those it leaves out, HTC has two other smaller One models it would like for you to meet.