Potential design flaw on the HTC One S, HTC aware of the issue
Cracks on the surface of the One S(ci-fi)’ treated shell?
The HTC One S features a unibody shell made of Aluminium treated to Micro Arc Oxidation. However, it seems HTC overlooked something, resulting in some rather unfortunate cosmetic problems. Put on your science goggles and read on for more details.
The HTC One S might be the perfect device for those who want the meanest, most badass Android device out there, but find the One X too big, or would appreciate a phone body made out of something a bit more tasty than plastic. I myself was about ready to jump on the One S too until I read reports about a rather nasty issue where “scratches” would appear on the device after just a few days. Scratches not caused by wear and tear or accidental drops. It turns out, this issue might be to the nature of the Micro Arc Oxidation process itself. So the question boils down to whether or not this is just an issue with the first batches of phones, or if this issue simply cannot be remedied, leaving One S users out in the cold.
So, just to give you a quick rundown of whats going on here, the HTC One S is made of aluminium treated to a process called Micro Arc Oxidation. This process basically involves treating the aluminium case to a plasma bath and passing 10,000 volts through it, resulting in the material being carbonized, giving it a nice matte look and a ceramic feel while also leaving the case with supposedly significantly increased durability.
Please note that only the black version of the One S is treated to this process (hereby referred to as MAO). The gray version should not be affected by this issue at all.
Now, what is the problem? Quite a few reports have dropped in of cracks appearing after just a few days along the edges of the device. The matte surface seems to be dissolving, revealing what seems to be the light gray aluminium underneath.
Why does this happen? Well its still a bit unclear, but it seems to have something to do with the fact that the MAO process only affects the surface, and that surface is harder than the aluminium under it. The aluminium is more flexible so on edges where there is a certain amount of pressure, the surface will give away. The good news is that this is just a cosmetic flaw. The special aluminium used on the One S (the black version) is supposedly two times harder than “regular” aluminium and hence the durability of the device is not compromised. It makes sense that this only happens after the device has been taken out of the box and used for a bit though. Due to the nature of the unibody construction, any strains or outer force on the frame will cause some sort of flexing which, as described above, could cause the ceramic layer to crack and sheer off. Maybe its simply due to poor quality and control, resulting in contaminants on the surface during the MAO-process. If this is the case, then not all devices would be affected.
For those who might be tempted to think that these scratches are caused by ill treatment from the user might be fascinated by the close-up high magnification pictures of the cracks which show no visible scratches around the damaged area indicating that this is not a result of any impact or other physical abuse.
Even though the issue doesnt affect the phone’s technical aspects, having a brand new $600 phone look like its been abused for a year after just a couple of days careful usage is still a serious problem, one that HTC will have to do something about. If this is what the phone looks like after a few days of usage, imagine what it will look like after a couple of months!
I am no expert when it comes to MAO, but it would be very interesting to see if this issue is a fundamental design flaw or if it could be easily remedied by HTC. Hopefully the issue can be fixed, but if thats not possible, this might be one of HTC’s biggest bloopers yet. What does this say about how HTC handles research, testing and quality assurance?
So far it seems several batches across several regions have been affected.
I definitely urge anyone with a One S to report the issue if they experience it, and if they dont, then reporting that too would be very helpful!
Lets figure this out!
Update: HTC finally got back to me and confirmed that they have received several reports regarding the issue and that they will be investigating the matter.
Update: HTC has released the following statement.
HTC is committed to delivering a high quality product and great experience for all our customers. There have been a few, isolated reports of this issue. The finish on the One S was laboratory tested as being at a hardness similar to ceramic. While that’s hard, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to damage. Regardless, HTC takes quality very seriously and are providing all customers with an immediate fix and we are implementing some small changes to ensure customers do not experience this issue in the future.
Apparently, “immediate fix” means that those affected by the issue can hand in their devices and get a new one. Though there might not be much point to this until batches arrive where the issue has been fixed.
I called HTC’s Nordic service center today and was told that they are working on the issue, and that phones affected will be treated as DOA (Dead on Arrival) cases. They could not give me any good answers when I pointed out that this is a problem seemingly affecting all the black One S devices, and hence a new replacement device would most likely just have the same problem.
I will be investigating the matter further..