HTC's just announced an all-new flagship smartphone for 2014, which it's calling the... HTC One M8. Given that HTC couldn't be bothered thinking up a new name for it, you might be forgiven for thinking the 2014 HTC One is not that much of an update. Or is it? Or isn't it? Let's see.
The "All New" HTC One, which we've known unofficially through numerous leaks this year under the development name M8, looks quite a bit like last year's Android flagship from HTC. From the front, the untrained casual smartphone user might even think it looks “the same.”
Which is understandable, really. Sooner or later a phone company has to draw a line in the sand and say "Right, that's it. We've perfected the design now, so next year's is going to look exactly the same as this one."
Although, to be fair and a bit more precise, there are some changes. Most obvious is the new hole that's been lovingly drilled or factory-formed or whatever around the back, which has allowed HTC to stick an entire additional camera sensor inside the HTC One M8. That’s definitely new.
Elsewhere, it’s mostly the same from the outside. The chassis is metallic again, with the extra screen size resulting in a phone that’s 16 grams heavier than last year’s model. If the 2013 HTC One was too big for you, forget about this one. It’s been on the protein shakes.
One nice thing to see is HTC finally binning capacitive buttons in favour of using the standard Android software button system, which gives the HTC One M8’s display a little more versatility when it comes to displaying media and complying with some of Google’s Android design cues.
The Duo Camera as HTC calls it has quite a few good reasons to exist. Most interesting is the depth of field effects the extra sensor opens up, giving snappers the option of selecting focus areas within images after taking a photo, blurring the background and suchlike, as long as they were taken in the special processing mode. Nokia’s been doing this for a while, but we didn't get any of this in last year’s HTC One with its embarrassingly outdated one camera.
The underlying tech used in the HTC One (M8) camera is the same as last year’s model, though, with the same BSI sensor and lens used for the actual shots inside this one.
The secondary front camera has been upgraded this year. The HTC One (M8) now has a 5-Megapixel front cam, with the same wide angle boasts as last year’s HTC One, and can now capture 1080p footage of you trying to look your best for whoever you’re wooing via anonymous internet channels.
In terms of performance, this is one area where HTC's upped its game. The HTC One (M8) runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 801 chipset, a solution that’s a sizeable upgrade both for speed and efficiency over the Snapdragon 600 that appeared in last year's original HTC One -- and the most powerful option out there right now.
This means spec sheet enthusiasts are able to boast of a higher clock speed, with the HTC One (M8) clocked at 2.3GHz, while the screen has been enlarged a little to a full five inches -- bigger than the old HTC One's 4.7-inch display. It runs at the same 1080p resolution as last year's model.
All good for boasting about, but hardly likely to result in any noticeable performance boosts when idly pulling to refresh various social media apps, with the new One’s larger screen meaning PPI resolution levels have actually dropped in the new phone. A catastrophe for fans of numbers that are so high they mean literally nothing in everyday use.
One number that is rather important with today’s smartphones is the battery capacity figure. Here, the new HTC One trumps last year’s phone by offering a 2,600 mAh power unit, quite an increase over the previous model’s 2,300 mAh juice bay. But the screen’s bigger. So it’s likely to be a nil-nil draw in terms of whether this makes an actual difference in real-world use or not.
What will help, though, is the new phone’s support for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 format in the M8, so it ought to charge up much quicker when used with a high amp charger.
Other small hardware tweaks are the addition of a barometer in the HTC One (M8), so weather apps ought to be able to tell you if you’re likely to be sweating, or are up a mountain, plus onboard memory configurations have been changed. The HTC One (M8) comes with an entry level 16GB of user memory, half that of 2013’s default 32GB. So it may be a little cheaper. We wish.
The good news here for HTC fans is twofold. The HTC One M8 arrives running Google's very latest KitKat code, with Android 4.4.2 the pre-loaded OS here. The All Old HTC One from 2013 is still running Android 4.3, although, to give it some credit, HTC is rolling out an update to 4.4 for most owners of the older model right now.
The other key difference is HTC's own software modifications. The HTC One M8 arrives running version 6.0 of HTC Sense, which sees the updated phone feature a redesigned and "flatter" UI, one that includes new features like more hardcore Facebook integration and a selection of motion and tap-based activation shortcuts.
Prodding your phone's screen to wake it up looks like being 2014's essential tech spec bullet point, and HTC has expanded on it in the HTC One M8 to include orientation options that can leap straight to specific apps when you knock on the display.
That kind of stuff is a big selling point for the new HTC One, as the 2013 edition remains on HTC Sense 5.5 even after receiving its KitKat update.
Well, if you're upgrading from another phone, like a Galaxy SII or SIII or some other unfashionably outdated phone you've been emotionally and contractually lumbered with for years, then yes. On paper, the new HTC One M8 is clearly one of the highest-end smartphones of the moment and will likely remain so for 2014 and beyond.
But upgrading from the Suddenly Quite Old HTC One from 2013? Aside from the imaging enhancements and a bit of extra processing grunt, there's nothing particularly staggering here to make chucking/selling last year’s HTC One to accommodate it a good idea unless you're as rich as that man on Instagram who has all the cars and strippers.
What you might want, though, is HTC's polished software running on a larger 5-inch screen and that more versatile camera. And if your want overflows into need territory, you’d better get it. It's an undeniably awesome phone, but more of an HTC One Point Five than an HTC One Two.
HTC One 2014 (M8) Review: Don't Let its Familiarity Put You Off
Read our review of the HTC One M8. Read More >>
HTC One M8: You Could Say It's a One-Up From Last Year's Mate
Rather than reinvent the wheel of what's arguably the best-designed Android phone out there, HTC's refined the One with tricks that'll make smartphone-owning more fun, but importantly, more intuitive. Read More >>
How Does the HTC One M8 Stack Up to the Competition?
See the HTC One M8's specs compared to the iPhone 5S, Nexus 5, Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2, Motorola Moto X and Nokia Lumia 1020. Read More >>
HTC One M8 Dot View Case Hands-On: A Trypophobic's Nightmare
Hands-on with the Dot View case, which uses HTC's Motion Launch gesture-controls to answer calls and a whole host of other commands. Read More >>
Father of the Duo Camera, Symon Whitehorn, HTC's Director of Camera Development, spoke to us about the HTC One M8's strange new camera. Read More >>