The HTC One was going to be a tough act to follow but HTC has managed to surpass the it with the HTC One (M8). It is an even better designed device that takes the principles of the original One, expands them in the right places and adds in some more HTC goodies. The result is something that looks good against Samsung on the technological front yet still compete with Apple on the design front.
Like the original HTC One, this is an aluminum phone but, there is even more metal. Last year’s model has a back that’s around 70 per cent metal. This one is about 90 per cent metal. The two-tone plastic sides of the HTC One are gone, replaced by a one-piece metal back that curves around to meet the Gorilla Glass of the screen. A new curvy design gives the HTC One M8 a different feel than its predecessor, while keeping the cool and hard feel you get with metal.
The HTC One (M8) is a big phone at 160g and 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm, but, it in the hand even better than the original One. On the front, HTC’s attention to detail can be seen in the micro-drilled speakers and brushed-metal finish, though the bezel is somewhat chunky. I’m not sure about M8’s row of on-screen buttons and the resulting loss of screen space and I don’t like the power button on the top of such a tall phone.
The screen is a gorgeous Super LCD3 display at 1080p, covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 just like the previous model except the larger 5.” results in a lower pixel count – 441 ppi, down from 469 ppi. If you can see the difference you have better eyes than I. The screen is decent in direct sunlight, has great viewing angles, and there’s virtually no gap between the display and the glass. Behind those classy speaker grills is an improved version of BoomSound providing just about the best audio you can get in a smartphone.
Under the hood is a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 quad core CPU backed by an ample 2GB of DDR2 RAM, and 16 or 32GB of internal storage. But at least you’re able to plug that gap with up to 128GB of microSD storage, a new and welcome feature for HTC this year. Another change, HTC’s move from a micro SIM to a nano SIM is more controversial. Just a few phones use this tiny SIM – notably the iPhone 5S/5 and Motorola Moto X – and as the tray clearly makes room for a dual-SIM model sometime down the road. Your old SIM wont fit but, most providers will happily send you out a nano SIM replacement for free. You can also clip down your current SIM manually. But I don’t recommend it.
The M8 comes with the latest 4.4.2 KitKat version of Android with version 6 of HTC’s Sense interface. HTC has continued to simplify things on it’s interface, icons are simpler, as well as slimming down and cleaning up the fonts. The result is a more sophisticated look .One of the changes in Sense 6.0 is the introduction, or more accurately the reintroduction, of themes. This brings colour to the default apps, adding a feeling of consistency to them. The media apps get one colour, the communication apps another. It ties things together and moves things along from an interface that was predominately shades of grey previously.
BlinkFeed is still present, offering to aggregate your news and social feeds with more customization options than before. The arrangement of tiles has been updated and there’s a new, more fluid, scrolling action that neatly runs behind the shortcuts and on-screen controls. All this combines to be a very comfortable phone to use..smooth, intuitive interface with snappy performance with some cool new features such as a double tap on the screen to wake up the phone which sort of mitigates the uncomfortable location of the power button. The M8 also offers enhanced gesture control in addition to the double tap to wake it up. You can mute the phone by flipping it over and start the camera app by just raising the phone to eye level and you can auto-answer the phone just by holding it up to your ear.
I usually don’t like apps manufacturers include with the phone but I do like HTC’s calendar. It looks good and nicely displays your events for today or any other day the bottom or side with just a click on the date. The effect of the new themes is obvious here as well.
The Sense TV app is also pretty cool providing total integration between phone and TV with a built in program guide, social connections and an IR blaster to control the components of your media centre. You can use your phone as an intelligent remote control and find shows based on your viewing preferences, find what’s on now with a graphics guide, and see real-time Facebook and Twitter feeds about the show you’re watching.
HTC has kept the 4 UltraPixel camera which for the most part takes good pictures but it’s still a 4-megapixel resolution and one of the side-effects of that is that the HTC One (M8) doesn’t offer much latitude to crop or digitally zoom. HTC however has added Duo Camera. You can see what looks like two lenses: one is the main UltraPixel sensor for capturing images, the other an additional sensor designed to capture depth information which means there’s more data to use when taking photos and editing them.
Some of those options are clever, too, such as UFocus where you can change the point of focus in a shot after taking it. This option will allow you re-focus an image after capture. It uses the data captured from the Duo Camera to help recognise the different depth layers and then will neatly enable you select the focal point you want. UFocus can also use the captured depth data to apply a blurred photographic effect behind a subject typically used for that pro portrait look. This produces a shallow depth of field type of look typical of pro cameras with wide aperture lenses.
Overall this is a full featured camera that while not the best in its class takes very good pictures under most lighting conditions but demanding photographers might not be happy with its low light performance.
Now to the front camera — HTC is embracing the “Selfie,” going as far as naming its front-facing camera mode Selfie. And you’ll get some great shots from that angle, thanks to the 5-megapixel camera. In fact, that’s a higher resolution than you’ll get out of the rear camera, albeit without all the bells and whistles. However, you’ll still be able to get wide-angle shots and you can can even shoot in HDR mode. A point of interest: The default setting for the front camera is a 16:9 aspect ratio but the sensor is 4:3. So I would switch to 4:3 so you can use all of the available pixels — you can always crop it down later.
One of the problems with a big powerful phone like this is battery life. Getting a full day out of it can be a stretch for anything more that light to moderate use. But HTC is offering an extreme power saving mode option that looks like a winner. You can set up this mode to turn on when your battery is down to 20, 10, or 5 percent. The phone interface changes to a very simplified one, similar to HTC Car mode, with large buttons for phone, messages, mail, calendar, calculator, and exit (to get out of extreme power saving mode).
You can still get calls and messages, but background services are disabled so nothing is getting pushed to your phone so have to manually sync email. HTC claims you will get 60 hours of standby time if enabled at 20 percent, 30 hours at 10 percent, and 15 hours at 5 percent. You are left pretty much with just a phone but at least you won’t miss any important calls until you can get to a charger.
The HTC One M8 is a great phone that provided terrific voice and Data performance on the TELUS LTE network. It must compete head-to-head against arch-rival Samsung’s latest offering, the Samsung Galaxy S5, and compete it does. Certainly the M8 is a better looking phone and its elegant and intuitive Sense interface puts Samsung’s TouchWiz to shame. While the M8 may lack every bell and whistle that Samsung packs into its phones, it matches the GS5 on almost every feature that really matters, from processing speed to user interface. While demanding photographers might think twice about the M8’s camera everyone else should love this phone.
The only question is whether or not this excellent phone can stand up to Samsung’s marketing juggernaut. HTC’s future depends upon it. What is your impression?