HTC’s conscious decision to focus on premium design for its HTC One flagship may come with an unintended consequenc: reception problem if the phone is held a certain way. Though we haven’t been able to confirm if the problem affects all global and U.S. releases of the HTC One, we have found–and are able to repeat–the problem on at least two Sprint Nextel HTC One units, one in the San Francisco Bay Area and another in the New York Metropolitan Area.
With an aluminum back, HTC decided to help boost reception by injecting plastic into its design components. On the silver model, you’ll find strips of white plastic running across the top and bottom of the phone, which isn’t too different from what Apple is doing on its aluminum-clad iPhone 5. Moreover, the white plastic continues on the sides of the phone as well.
It seems, then, that this may be related to the placement of cellular antennas on the white plastic joints. On the Sprint unit, I’ve found that when I grip the phone so that the back of the device is ensconced by my palm, signal strength noticeably drops. Sometimes, the drop is only marginal, with a few bars dropping off while other times, I go from near full reception to just 1 bar of service, showing a much more significant drop.
I’ve consulted with my colleague Josh Smith, who works out of the Midwest with an unlocked HTC One that has an AT&T Mobility SIM card, and Smith says that he didn’t experience any issues related to receptions when he tried to replicate the problem. Xavier Lanier who has the AT&T-branded HTC One says that he’s been able to repeat the issue, and antennagate only mildly affects the AT&T model whereas it is more pronounced on the Sprint model, as you can see in the video below.
My colleague Shawn Ingram, who has a similar HTC One on the East Coast was able to re-create the problem. Ingram has further isolated the issue to the lower left corner of the phone.
“It’s the bottom left corner, where the white bar meets the edge of the phone,” Ingram informs me after testing my hypothesis of a potential Antennagate crisis for the HTC One. “Just putting one finger there will take off a few bars.”
This isn’t the first problem related to reception for the HTC One, at least on Sprint Nextel’s network. Late last week, we had reported that in Sprint markets where 4G LTE towers are live but where Sprint has not announced an LTE launch, the HTC One was stuck connecting to Sprint’s older and slower 3G network and could not connect to LTE. Again, in San Francisco, I had both the Sprint Galaxy S4 from Samsung and the HTC One side by side and the Galaxy S4 was able to hop onto LTE without glitch while the HTC One chugged along on 3G; San Francisco has live LTE towers but Sprint hasn’t announced official LTE service here yet.
And HTC is no stranger to Antennagate either. Though Antennagate was coined originally to characterize Apple’s iPhone 4 reception issues, HTC’s unibody design phones also suffered those problems, including the HTC HD7 running Microsoft’s mobile OS and the HTC Sensation 4G for T-Mobile running Google’s Android OS. HTC had refuted reception issues behind the Sensation 4G despite videos on the Internet proving otherwise. More recent devices like the HTC One X was also reported to suffer from reception issues depending on how you held your phone. The One X is a surprise since that phone uses a unibody polycarbonate design, which is far friendlier to to cellular radio reception than the metal construction of the other mentioned HTC phones and the HTC One.
We’ve reached out to HTC for comment and an official statement, but as this issue was discovered over the weekend, HTC has not had time to respond. We’ll update this post once we hear news from HTC. We’re also continuing to investigate if other carrier variants of the HTC One suffer the same reception issues as our Sprint units.
In the interim, if you’re an early adopter of the HTC One, have you suffered any reception issues based on how you hold or grip your phone? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter and be sure to include which variant of the HTC One you have. In the U.S. the HTC One is available on AT&T Mobility, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile USA.