HTC One M8: You Could Say It's a One-Up From Last Year's Mate

By Kat Hannaford on at

You only have to look at market-leaders Apple and Samsung to see how challenging it is for smartphone designers to improve on what's alreadyactuallyverygood. 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 our HTC One M8 review here


Yes, the One M8 looks exceedingly similar to its predecessor, 2013's HTC One. Yes, the One M8 looks just like the countless leaks which HTC has been plagued with for months -- surely a sign of how anticipated 2014's flagship is. And yes, the One M8 is slightly larger than last year's model, increasing from 4.7-inches to 5-inches.

But as you know, HTC doesn't like to go just skin-deep with these pocket-dwellers.

 

Design

Made from the same aluminium unibody of the One, One Mini and One Max, the 5-inch One M8 goes that little bit further in its pursuit to be the most premium smartphone on the block, forgoing the composite plastic edging this time 'round, in favour of a full aluminium wrap-around. The shape itself is more convex, so it sits better in hands. Despite the addition of yet more metal, HTC is claiming the overall feel is actually softer than the original One -- something you can read about in our review.

Measuring 5-inches, the full HD 1080p display is an S LCD panel coated in Gorilla Glass 3, with HTC's classic design quirks, the visible speaker grilles, appearing above and below the screen. The BoomSound speaker technology has been improved in the past year, with audio output (from both the speakers and headphone output) being 25 per cent louder and of higher fidelity than the original One, thanks to a new amplifier and redesigned speaker chambers.

Something you'll be able to read more about in our review is the new Motion Launch, HTC's name for gesture-controlled shortcuts which work when the phone is naked, or sat inside the new Dot View case (which will divide people with its '80s dot-matrix looks). Inbuilt motion sensors mean that swiping on the screen or case will activate the phone, without having to turn on the screen first. Putting the phone to your ear will let you answer a call immediately, something that can be combined with voice-activated dialling for an even easier ride. Double-tapping the screen will turn the phone's display on and off, for a quick glance at notifications.

When sheathed in the Dot View case all of those features are usable, along with checking the time, weather, texts, emails and calls -- all without actually taking the cover off the phone.

Mirroring the Ultra Power Saving Mode introduced in the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC's Extreme Power Saving Mode (what's more superior I wonder, "ultra" or "extreme"?) can make the phone last a huge 14 days, by turning off some functionality of the phone. You'll still be able to receive calls, texts and emails, but not play Flappy Bird, in other words.

The IR transmitter to the right of the top speaker grilles controls HTC Sense TV, the inbuilt TV program guide which syncs with hundreds of different TV and set-top box models. New features include being able to follow Facebook and Twitter streams for any TV show you're watching, plus see live sports stats, in that classic "second-screen" experience manufacturers have been harping on about since the tablet was introduced.

Inside, the 4G One M8 runs on a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 clocked to 2.3GHz, and before you ask -- yes, it will come loaded with Android 4.4 (KitKat) from the box.

On the storage side, HTC has finally listened to what punters have been asking for, with the inbuilt 16 or 32GB storage being expanded to up to 128GB via a removable microSD storage. The battery module itself is a 2600mAh one, a small increase over last year's 2300mAh, and no -- it's not removable.

 

Camera

When HTC introduced the original One last year, it made a big song and dance about the new camera technology it was using, introducing "ultrapixels" to our lexicon of tech-specs. HTC's sticking to its guns, with the one M8's rear-facing camera having 4uMP cooped up in a new module, which sees daylight shots improved, and autofocus tweaked so it functions at under 300 milliseconds. A new dual-flash offers better colour rendition, and interestingly enough, HTC's thrown out the onboard image stabilisation, calling it "vanguard technology," in favour of smart stabilisation which works with the ultrapixels sensor.

Lest you think the addition of a second sensor on the back is yet another fingerprint scanner we can studiously ignore, you should be heartened to hear HTC has taken a page out of Nokia, Samsung and of course Lytro's books, adding a second sensor for capturing depth information. Unlike Nokia and Samsung's efforts, which take two shots after one another to allow users to bring either the foreground or background into focus, HTC's Duo Camera technology works by taking two shots at once, providing cool (and in some cases, somewhat novelty) features, such as the ability to focus on either the foreground or background via the UFocus tool (lending it some nice depth-of-field), or add graphic overlays on the foreground or background, such as sketch-marks, using Foregrounder. Dimension Plus goes one step further, adopting a parallax-like effect for changing the angle a photo can be viewed at. It's pretty trippy stuff, but my favourite has to be Copy & Paste, which lets you paste an object or person from one photo into another.

Zoe, the cutely-named video highlights feature, hasn't been forgotten. In fact, it's back in the limelight thanks to a new Zoe social networking app which will be available from the Google Play Store for HTC devices.

Meanwhile, the front-facing camera has been boosted from 2.1MP to 4MP, with a HTC spokesperson telling us 'we will have the best selfies on the market." In further good news, the hard volume keys on the side can now act as a shutter release.

 

Sense 6

HTC's always fought the good fight for Android skins, with its Sense UI being by far and away the most intuitive and lightest-feeling of the bunch. Adding an extra numeral to this update, Sense 6 has been redesigned to be cleaner, but also brighter. Colour and customisation via themes have been reintroduced, most evident in the Windows Phone tiles-esque BlinkFeed, which now has over 1,000 content partners on offer (plus whatever RSS feeds you wish to pull in). While we were initially skeptical of the RSS-led service, HTC's stats show it's gaining in popularity, with over 5.7 million active users scrolling through it in January alone, with over one billion articles having been read since it was introduced in the HTC One February 2013.

Thanks to the social media integration, Facebook (and Google+, sigh) liked pages can help BlinkFeed auto-suggest feeds which may be relevant to you.

 

Pricing and Availability

Available in silver and gold colourways that have a bead-blasted finish, plus the gunmetal grey with its new brushed finish, the HTC One M8 will be on same from today from selected retailers. A stock Android version can be pre-ordered from the Google Play Store from today, or bought directly in several weeks.

The Dot View case will cost under £50, and will be available in five colours.

Sense 6 is available as an update via the Google Play Store from today, with Sense TV and BlinkFeed also being on offer, to both HTC and non-HTC devices. The Zoe app will hit Google Play sometime this summer, but will likely only be available to HTC users.



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