HTC is back with the HTC One M8, its new flagshipsmartphone for 2014. Here's our in-depth, hands-on review of the new HTC One M8.
HTC's aim was to take theoriginal HTC One, codename M7, and make everything better – an all-round upgrade job. One thing's for sure: there are no major leaps with the M8, but we're seeing a similar trend with all new flagship smartphones this year. TheGalaxy S5, for example, adds a couple of new features while the Sony Xperia Z2 is barely different to the Z1.
HTC One M8 hands-on review: Design and build quality
As you can see, the HTC One M8 looks a lot like the original. However, there are some differences.
Once again, the Taiwanese firm has used a uni-body aluminium design but the metal wraps around to the front rather than having a plastic strip around the edge. The corners of the phone are also more rounded. It has a brushed look and has been treated to gain its glossy finish.
A larger screen (see hardware, below) means that the phone is both taller and wider than its predecessor - predominantly taller - but it doesn't feel too large in the hand. It's also a few grams heavier at 160g compared to 143g, making it one of the weightier flagship smartphones.
HTC puts design first and you can certainly tell that with the M8 in your hand. It feels like a premium smartphone which is something Samsung has failed to achieve, in our opinion, with the Galaxy S5. The new HTC One is ergonomic, but also sturdy.
This is important because, as well as feeling like a device which has been carefully designed and put together, it doesn't feel overly delicate which is a downside to the iPhone 5S and previous metal versions.
However, if you do want to protect you precious M8, then HTC has come up with a rather cool flip-style case. It's called the DotView case - for obvious reasons as you can see below. A nice feature is that the time and notifications appear when you double tap on the case when it's shut. You can also use other gestures to perform other tasks such as answering a call.
Viewing the screen through the holes creates a cool LED effect. The DotView case is available in seven different colours.
From launch, the M8 itself is available in three different colours. The most popular is likely to be 'Metal Grey' but there's also 'Artic Silver' and 'Amber Gold' – a line-up reminiscent of the iPhone 5S colour options.
The eagle-eyed will already have noticed that HTC has ditched the dedicated navigation buttons in favour of on-screen alternatives. We'll talk about this in more detail in the software section below.
HTC One M8 hands-on review: Hardware
In terms of hardware, a few things have changed but nothing major. As we said at the start, this is in keeping with other new flagships in 2014 and the HTC One M8 is an Android smartphone to be reckoned with this year.
Processor and co-processor
As with other high-end Android handsets, the M8 has been given the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor. The HTC One M7 has the Snapdragon 600 this this is a healthy performance bump. The 801 quad-core chip has a clock speed of 2.3GHz. Memory stays the same at 2GB but that's not a bad thing.
We've spent quite a while with the HTC One M8 and performance was excellent. Adding a user interface onto Android can cause problems, but we couldn't spot any with Sense 6.0. Of course, we will test this further but things are looking good.
As well as the Snapdragon 8010, HTC adds its own co-processor in much the same way Apple has with the iPhone 5S. This low-power chip keeps sensors switched on for HTC's Motion Launch Gestures, which can be used to switch the phone on (see software, on the next page, for more detail). It also can track activity using the pre-loaded Fitbit app so there's less need for a dedicated fitness tracker such as Fitbit's own One.
There's great news on the storage front: the M8 has a microSD card slot. This was a bugbear with the original HTC One, which had no card slot - HTC said this wasn't possible with the M7's design. The M8 will accept up to 128GB cards, a lot of extra storage.
The bad news is that, in Europe, the HTC One M8 will be available only as a 16GB model. Of that 16GB a fair amount is already taken up with software so you'll get about 10GB of internal storage to play with. As a sweetener, users will be offered 65GB of free Google Drive storage for two years. That's a total of 209GB, (assuming you buy a 128GB microSD card).
HTC has decided to increase the screen size for the One M8 from 4.7- to 5in, so there's a little more real estate for whatever you're doing but the difference isn't too noticeable. The screen's resolution, as with rival flagships, remains at Full HD (1920x1080) – perhaps it's just too early to jump to higher pixel counts.
The larger screen size means a dip in pixel density to 441ppi but you're not going to notice. The phone itself is a bit bigger but HTC has done a good job of making it feel like it's the same size.
As with the M7, the HTC One's display is crisp, vibrant and looks stunning. The new panel has an improved contrast ratio and viewing angles.
As you would expect from a flagship device, the HTC One M8 comes with the latest in wireless tech – apart from wireless charging, that is. It's got NFC, 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX and the infrared transmitter found on its predecessor.
There's support for 4G LTE networks and instead of a micro-SIM card, the M8 will take a nano-SIM, like the iPhone 5S.
Next page: HTC One M8 review Duo Camera, Software and Battery Life
Here we continue our in-depth hands-on review of the all-new HTC One M8 Android smartphone.
HTC One M8 hands-on review: Duo Camera
The back of the HTC One M8 is home to two camera lenses. HTC calls this the Duo Camera and it's one of the main new features of the smartphone. You might think they are for taking 3D photos, like the old LG Optimus 3D but that's not the case.
The first camera, the one closer to the middle of the phone, is the Ultrapixel camera found on the M7 – with some improvements. According to HTC, the ImageChip 2 means the camera can shoot faster and capture sharper images. And this seems to be true from our preliminary tests.
The second camera is an interesting addition and is there to capture depth information. This 'metadata' is attached to the photo taken with the main camera and can be used later on. Similar to the Lytro camera, the HTC One M8 Duo Camera allows users to refocus a photo after it's been taken.
Unlike the Galaxy S5, which offers three preset focal points, the M8's second sensor means users can refocus anywhere they like using a built-in app called Foregrounder. It works pretty well, and will be a genuinely useful feature - not a gimmick.
Refocusing is only available for still photos, not videos. The M8 can record video in Full HD, not 4K. HTC's Zoe (now an separate app for automatically editing video) has had an update with more of a social aspect and will be made available for non-HTC phones later this year.
The Foregrounder app allows you add effects in tandem with the refocusing. A strange 3D effect makes photos come to life in a sort of house of mirrors way – i.e. a gimmick - and you can also cut and paste parts of photos, such as a person, with minimal hassle although again, this is more for creativity than something genuinely handy you'll use regularly.
Like the iPhone 5S, the HTC One M8 has a dual-LED flash but we haven't been able to test this out enough to comment on its effectiveness yet.
A cool feature which we've not seen elsewhere is the ability to not only manually adjust settings, such as ISO, but then save them as presets to use later. This means you can come up with your own modes for different situations.
The front camera is a 5Mp f/2.2 shooter with a wide-angle lens so it should be easier to fit several people into your selfie.
As you would expect from a new flagship in 2014, the HTC One M8 comes pre-loaded with Android 4.4.2 KitKat – the latest version of Google's mobile operating system. It also comes with a new version of HTC's Sense user interface. Sense 6.0 brings some new features.
As we mentioned earlier, the HTC One M8 doesn't have touch sensitive buttons below the screen like its predecessor. Instead, its navigation buttons are on-screen like many other Android smartphones. HTC says this is to be in keeping with Android rather than to keep the size of the phone down.
The move means that there are three buttons instead of two as previously. There's now a dedicated button for accessing the recent apps screens which makes things quicker and easier.
As with the Google Nexus 5, the M8 gets KitKat's fullscreen 'immersive mode'. Certain apps, including the web browser, are able to use the full 5in display, although we had to delve into the browser's setting to switch the feature on. Running in immersive mode means the on-screen buttons disappear until you tap or swipe to bring them back.
Motion Launch Gestures
HTC seems to have taken some inspiration from LG's KockON feature because the M8's display can be switched on and off with a double tap. However, the firm has taken things a step further with Motion Launch Gestures: extra tasks you can do despite the screen being off.
Swiping left opens the widget panel and a swipe right will take you straight to BlinkFeed (below). You can also unlock the phone with a swipe upwards. Plus, you can launch the camera app by holding the phone in landscape orientation and pressing a volume button.
BlinkFeed is a love-it-or-hate-it feature but, either way, HTC has made some updates to the news feed feature. You can now search with keywords and the experience is better thanks to more publications and a better 'flow' as the firm puts it. Bundles are a new feature which will provide, well, bundles of news on the same subject.
There are other minor tweaks, but customisation has been improved with the ability to select different theme. In a similar way to other phones which use themes, a wallpaper is tied in with a particular colour which is then used throughout the software such as the settings menu. We haven't tried this out yet but you can also choose a different system font to create a very different look and feel.
HTC One M8 hands-on review: Battery life
As with any hands-on review, we can't really comment on battery life. We'll test it out properly when we get a review unit. What we can tell you is what HTC claims about the One M8's battery life.
Specs-wise, the battery has been increased in capacity from 2300mAh to 2600mAh which is a good start. Although it doesn't sound like much of a boost, HTC says the M8 will last up to 40 percent longer than the M7. The battery isn't removable, which isn't too surprising.
Like the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2, the new HTC One M8 isn't a big leap compared to the previous model. However, this phone looks and feels gorgeous and with important upgrades including a microSD card slot and an innovative camera, it's certainly one to watch out for. Check back for our full review soon.