HTC One Google Play edition

'Compatibility' isn't always a guarantee of the best experience

pasadenabill posted in the forums with a question:

I bought the HTC One Google Play Edition because I wanted an unlocked phone for when I travel overseas. I am a longtime T-Mobile subscriber and after getting the GPE I immediately noticed that it would not connect to the 4G network very reliably. Thinking this was a possible local network issue, T-Mobile loaned me a T-Mobile version of the HTC One to use side by side. In most cases, the T-Mobile version had good or full 4G connectivity, but the GPE version did not. When it does not, it gets very slow 2G service.

I am able to get 4G about 1/3rd of the time but I can be sitting right next to someone with T-Mobile HTC One or a Galaxy or iPhone and they have full 4G service.

T-Mobile says that the unlocked phones are missing some code that only their phones have. I don't know if that is a line of BS or not, but I am hoping someone on the forums can tell me what is up before I start complaining more to the CEO of T-Mobile.

We can absolutely see how this can get confusing and frustrating, and the information provided by T-Mobile, Google and HTC on the matter doesn't always make things clear either. In the end it basically comes down to the incompatibility of what radio bands the HTC One Google Play edition supports and the radio bands that T-Mobile is operating its network on. Read along after the break for a complete explanation.

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T-Mobile HTC One

Although they may share the same name, the HTC One sold by T-Mobile and the HTC One from Google Play actually have miniscule hardware differences between them. One of the biggest differences, and the one causing an issue here, is that of the radio bands.

T-Mobile operates its network primarily on two bands — 1900MHz and the combination of 1700/2100MHz commonly referred to as "AWS." The carrier has traditionally used 1900MHz for EDGE (2G) service, with AWS doing the heavy lifting for HSPA+ (3G or sometimes "4G"). As it moves through the transition to LTE, T-Mobile is cutting back on EDGE service and moving HSPA+ to 1900MHz, leaving AWS wide open for LTE to flow on.

While at first glance both phones seem to support the same frequencies and have radios to access EDGE, HSPA+ and LTE on T-Mobile, there's one big missing component on the Google Play edition HTC One — 1700/2100MHz (AWS) for HSPA+. The frequency list, as seen on Google Play:

GSM/EDGE/GPRS (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
3G (850, 1900, 2100 MHz)
4G LTE (700 MHz, AWS)

With the above frequency list inside of your HTC One Google Play edition, it is technically "compatible" with T-Mobile's network. ("Compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. Check with your carrier for details about coverage," according to Google Play.) In many parts of the country, T-Mobile offers EDGE and HSPA+ on 1900MHz, as well as LTE on 1700/2100MHz AWS and in those areas folks with the HTC One Google Play edition will have the same experience as someone with a branded T-Mobile handset.

T-Mobile SIM cards

Unfortunately T-Mobile is still in the middle of this transition towards putting HSPA+ on 1900MHz in many markets across the country, and in those areas your Google Play edition device will operate much the same as any unlocked AT&T handset that doesn't support AWS or the iPhone 4 and 4S (as a common example) sold by T-Mobile. In these cases your phone just simply doesn't have the radio frequencies to match up with T-Mobile's network — you'll simply have the option of connecting to EDGE or LTE where available, and only get HSPA+ in markets where the move to 1900MHz has taken place.

While it is far from a complete list, a site called Airportal.de keeps track of user-submitted markets where 1900MHz HSPA+ is available. T-Mobile's own coverage maps can give you an idea of where LTE is available, too.

It's a bit of a messy situation when you talk about carriers, radio frequencies and unlocked handsets, but rest assured that the way your HTC One Google Play edition is interacting with T-Mobile is expected and normal. Now you have a bigger choice of whether or not to stick with the handset, or hold out for T-Mobile to transition to offering HSPA+ on 1900MHz in your market or expand LTE. Time to do some soul searching on that one.

 

Reader comments

This is why your HTC One Google Play edition may not get the best data coverage on T-Mobile

72 Comments

Good article. People need to be aware of these things when making purchases.

Posted via Android Central App

If he wants to thank God, he may. Just like you are free to thank Google or LG. You see, we all believe in a god. He just happens to believe in God. You, your god is Google or LG.

Completely agree. And the article explained things in a very simple manner. I hope more people can find this information with google searches.

I did wonder when the HTC One GPe's specs got detailed why Google and HTC didn't just use essentially the T-Mobile version of the device, as it would have given them compatibility with all of the necessary bands for HSPA+ and LTE on T-Mobile and AT&T. The GS4 GPe has AWS HSPA+ if I remember correctly. They should have done the same for the One as well.

Yup very confusing indeed. Who knows why the choice to go with this hardware was made, but you have to think they had a good reason... Surely HTC and Google could've got something out there with pentaband HSPA+ and pentaband LTE.

All unlocked phones should be pentaband HSPA+/LTE. I'm on Mobilicity here in Canada and although I don't get LTE I have to choose phones that are pentaband HSPA+. I use Nexus products myself but my GF has an unlocked T-Mobile USA Note 2 on Mobilicity as well. I like the compatibility of the Nexus 7 2013 LTE. Back in the day Nokia had unlocked pentaband GSM handsets as standard.

Aww man. This has to suck being stuck in the middle. I'll definitely pay more attention from here on out.

Posted via Nexii 4 using the Android Central App

Could the Nexus 5 have a similar issue? I don't see those frequency bands listed above in the Nexus 5 network specs.

Nope. Nexus 5 North American version supports AWS bands for HSPA+, including those, 7 bands in total for good compatibility across the globe. Google makes sure of those things for Nexus devices now. Who knows why the GPe HTC One didn't get at least AWS HSPA+ support, as it would have been an easy thing to do considering the T-Mobile version would have given them what they needed.

I think the difference may be primarily related to the SOC. The Snapdragon 600 has limited discrete frequency bands whereas the Snapdragon 800 has more inclusive frequency bands affording OEM's the ability to manufacture less discrete models, example(s) the Nexus 5 and LG G2.

Google wants all their Nexus devices to work anywhere and everywhere. Without AWS HSPA+ support, they'll cut out at least 3 or 4 Canadian carriers and I think other small US carriers too.

I know if the Nexus devices didn't have AWS HSPA+ support, I wouldn't be able to use it on my carrier as they only have AWS HSPA+ and operates no other bands...

Seems like a huge argument against developer edition devices. I would take touchwiz, sense, or motoblur over lack of speed and service any day.

Posted via Android Central App

This is just a One GPe problem. Pretty sure the GS4 GPe works on T-Mobile.

Posted from my pure Google Nexus 4 using the AC app.

This is why you should actually take a T-Mobile HTC One and convert it into a GPE version yourself so you get AWS HSPA+ while still getting updates straight from Google.

Couldn't agree more. I did the same thing and it feels good to have full hspa+/LTE although my new moto x actually gets better speeds than my one.

Posted via Android Central App

Thirded. This is EXACTLY what you do. It's also why I'm looking forward to the successor to the One, as soon as I see there's a GPE version of it, I'm jumping ship with the same plan. Buy the T-Mobile version, do the faux HTC unlock, apply TWRP and GPE ROM.

+1. T-Mobile will also unlock your phone for free if you're travelling out of the country; so you can pop in your SIM card of choice. I don't understand why people say they get unlocked phones for international travels. My T-Mobile HTC one is unlocked and I've used it outside the U.S

Really this is news now? If you check the bands listed on Google play it clearly misses the aws 1700 band and this is known from the time it released. It's basically an ATT version with Google edition rom, same thing with the HTC one gsm developer edition. If some one buys and then complains, that person should just stick to useless carrier devices.

First thing when you buy an unlocked device is to check you have all the necessary bands for your network. Common sense.

Posted via Android Central App

I agree that the tools and information are out there, but when you see a phone on Google Play and Google claims that it is "compatible" with T-Mobile, and you take it to T-Mobile and they'll activate a SIM and new line of service for you, you have an expectation that it'll work completely.

Of course it doesn't, and there are issues like this, but not everyone is going to know that. I agree that you should do your research, but with so many people used to buying phones on-contract from a carrier that guarantees complete operability with their network it can be confusing. Smartphone buyers in the US (and many other countries) just downright aren't used to this process.

Yeah agree, kind of dumb on HTC and Google to make the ATT model as the Google play edition. If they had made the TMobile version as google play edition then it has all the bands for both TMo and ATT. Not sure what google and htc were thinking.

Yeah, they shouldn't claim that it's "compatible" with T-Mobile on Google Play if it's missing 2/3 of the bands the T-Mo network runs on (1700/2100). That's kind of misleading. Yes, you should check the specs to make sure it's got the right bands for your carrier if you're buying it elsewhere then from your carrier, which most people that frequent here should know, but it still wasn't the best idea by Google to push it as compatible.

Fault lies on both sides.
T-mobile is telling AT&T users to bring their unlocked phones (many of which don't includes hspa on AWS) to t-mobile and they are activating them in areas that have 1900Mhz HSPA
To T-mobile phones now have to have edge and HSPA on AWS and/or 1900.
You may of course not get the best performance on a phone that doesn't include AWS HSPA.
All phones that T-mobile sells directly support both of course.

Google and HTC followed T-mobile's lead in marketing this phone as T-mobile compatible. Which in all technicality it is according to T-mobile. But it's won't connect to all of their networks, including their AWS HSPA+ network, which is also the largest 3G or better T-mobile network. Falling back to edge is pretty harsh in that case.

I see the draw in enabling AT&T users to leave AT&T without buying a new phone, but without completely overlapping 1900 and AWS networks, the coverage given to users with a phone without AWS HSPA is somewhat lacking and I'm sure it will cost T-mobile in churn.

Personally I use MetroPCS (T-mobile) and love their service, but you need to make sure the phone your using suppports both bands on HSPA+

I have the Dev Edition on T-Mobile and did some research before I bought... Luckily I live in an area that has the refarmed network to support the iPhone and I get a pretty good 3g and HSPA+. Most importantly LTE

-dN

If you're getting the Dev edition odds are that you're technically savvy enough to do your research... That's not necessarily the case for the average blog reader who buys a GPE phone because it has stock android

Posted via Android Central App on my daily driver, the Droid MAX

I almost bought the Dev edition until I researched and found out that it would not be compatible with HSPA where I was living. I wanted a Black HTC One too.

I dont know if it works only because it is a nexus, but with the N4 I would get HSPA+ and now with the N5 I get LTE with tmobile

This is precisely why I didn't consider this phone. I already had a GT-I9100 that was missing the Tmobile 1700 band. It was great around the city but then dropped to 2g Edge everywhere else. Big mistake by HTC for not including 1700 for AWS in this phone. Nexus 5 a much better choice for Tmobile. Even the Galaxy S4 GPE has 1700

Posted via Android Central App

What I dont understand here is that it took someone THIS long to notice this, and even still it was blogged about when the device launched long time ago.

Buyer needs to pay attention to what network, what device, and do research before jumping in. You're probably the guy who never read his contract and joined someones family plan and never really payed attention to what plan you had, went over minutes or data and then bitched about it too.

Ignorance is bliss, and this author is a MORON!

Wow that would explain why my unlocked iPhone 4 that I gave my brother in law who has T-Mobile was so damn slow.

Posted via Android Central App

No. Not at all. It has to do with the RF Capabilities of the Device itself.

Posted via Android Central App

I knew this before I bought mine, but I'd hoped I was in a refarmed area. I'm not, but when I change living arrangements next year, I'm going to look for an apartment with good T-Mobile LTE coverage. You can't beat $30 a month.

Posted from my HTC One GPe via Android Central App

this is the reason that T Mobile is so inexpensive, the network coverage is poor the building penetration sucks and overall people wouldn't pay much more for the service because of how bad it is. I'll gladly pay a bit more for decent coverage on a real network.

Really??? Then why is Sprint charging $15 more for their basic plan and then another $10 for "4G" which isn't really 4G when you only get 2MBps down.

If you live in a major city T-Mobile is excellent. If you don't pay more for AT&T or verizon

That's true in some places and not in others.
Where I live in NJ T-mobile coverage is roughly equal to AT&T.
Building penetration is fine. T-mobile is a much better deal for me than AT&T or Verizon.

Umm you do realize that HTC Dev Edition doesn't have AWS Support for HSPA+, so you're only connecting to HSPA+ when a cell site has 1900Mhz support. Other wise it's all EDGE.
LTE should work without any issues.

Nonexus...
It is complicated by T-mobile upgrade transition and Chipset frequencies capability.
Not a simple issue to comprehend.

I got a nexus 5 from google. It picked up LTE on tmoble, but speed is slow compare (or equal at best) to 4G HSPA+ on my samsung gs3.

wonder if it has to do with this as well?

Nope that is the network, Andrew says it up earlier in the comments that the n5 bands

Posted via Android Central App

Completely different situation.

My theory there is people having APN issues, it happens every single time a big name unlocked device comes out.

While we're (kinda) on the topic, is there an unlocked version of the Galaxy Note 3 available that would support 4G LTE for both T-Mobile and AT&T?

Are y'all sure Nexus 5 (Google Play Edition) won't have same issues? According to tech specs, it has the same band frequencies as HTC ONE GPE and I do not even see 700 or 2100 listed for N5. Sorry for the ignorance.

GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz

The Nexus 5 has every band necessary to use EDGE, HSPA+ and LTE on T-Mobile and AT&T in the US.

GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
CDMA: Band Class: 0/1/10
WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19
LTE: Bands: 1/2/4/5/17/19/25/26/41

GSM bands are for voice text and 2G data, it's different from WCDMA which is 3G and HSPA.

Nexus devices always have one of the largest bands support. It's one of the reason to buy Nexus.

In addition to the bands supported by phone, manufacturers use different antennas tuned to different bands depending on where it is sold. For example a US version of a phone will work much better on 800 than 900 and the European version will work much better on the 900 than the 800 even though both versions support both bands.

I have a T-Mobile HTC one running Google play edition stock ROM.No issues what so ever.So it may be true as they ate based on the same hardware.

I would just order the regular Motorola edition on amazon.com, which you can get the US GSM version that supports both ATT and TMo.

The primary reason for getting GPe of phones is because the vendors have not been doing their share in updating their phone with the latest Android versions. However, Motorola has shown that they can roll out updates at reasonable speed; furthermore, Motorola's additions to the standard Android look and feel have been minimal (compared to Touchwiz or Sense).

Thats why I bought a Tmobile HTC One and fully converted it to GPE and unlocked the phone's sim. Best phone and software combo to date.