HTC has been the subject of an insane number of leaks and rumors in the past few months. Last year, we saw a lot of information filter for the HTC One M8, so much that the thunder was stolen from HTC because by the time they had announced their device, we already had in-depth looks at its specs and usability. We even saw a full review of it done by a kid who got his hands on it. While the HTC M8 still came out to be a relatively successful device, HTC probably grunted its way to the bank.
The rumors and leaks didn’t stop there, though. For the rest of 2014, until about August, we repeatedly saw rumors of an HTC M8 “Prime” that would sport a newer chipset (Snapdragon 805 at the time), and a different design with better all-around specifications. The device never came out, with some leakers suggesting the device was dropped before production. It was never revealed if the device itself was indeed real, however; but we did see some very legitimate-looking leaks for it, including a beautiful 360° 3D render by reputable ex-leaker EvLeaks. Then we also had some rumors of an HTC smartwatch, which happened to actually be true! But the smartwatch itself was delayed by HTC, this time with an official announcement confirming the rumors.
So while enthusiasts probably enjoy how the mobile tech industry has its own TMZ with all the rumor craze of these past couple of years, they have an impact (which could go both ways) on the real world affairs of OEMs, whether directly or indirectly. After all, they spend millions of dollars coordinating huge events with guest stars, music shows, and all the bells and whistles just to announce or reveal their new devices. And now HTC is at the front line of rumors again, with a whole repertoire of speculative information being posted every day, accompanied with never-ending leaks of varying credibility.
Let’s take a look at how it started, what we know and where it could go from here… but most importantly, where HTC nailed it and where it screwed it.
What was probably the first remarkable leak that HTC’s usual flagship release saw was an AnTuTu benchmark leak detailing the specifications of a device named “HIMA”. It remains, to this day, one of the fundamental revelations that we saw of the future flagship rumor-target.
We covered this specification leak shortly after its release, and at the time, I was personally impressed with some of the decisions that HTC had taken towards building this flagship. If the hardware listed is true, then HTC seems to have a rather interesting option in its hands.
The processor and OS are exactly what is expected of Q1 and Q2 flagships, so that bit is not something we’ll touch in-depth again as we already covered it in the previously linked article. We also have an in-depth critique of the Snapdragon 810 if you want to learn more about the processing package. What’s interesting is what this leak showed us in the places where HTC was questioned.
To keep it short (for now, more below), the camera has seen what will most definitely be a clear upgrade, as the M8 had a shoddy camera for what was otherwise an excellent phone. Then the screen size and resolution also take a very conservative spin, leading to what we think will be a good configuration to those who don’t want the phablet jump being pushed down their throats by other OEMs, and also to those that don’t want to face the compromises of a QHD display.
While this leak seems to have spilled quite a few beans on what we could expect from HTC, the other part of mobile paparazzi – that is, the rumors – conflicted with this on some fronts. The strongest rumor prior to this leak was that the HTC One M9 would feature a 5.2 inch display, with 2K resolution. The rumor also mentioned a Snapdragon 805 processor coupled with the still-expected 3gb of RAM
While having a 564ppi display sounds rather good, it is probably overkill. The resolution war is something we previously discussed, and it seems to be at the core of the HTC rumor conflict.
Then there’s the rumor of an HTC Hima “Plus”, or “Ace”, that will feature the same internals but a larger 2K display of 5.5 inch diagonal. But discussion led some to think that this could actually be the regular M9 (or HIMA) as well!
Before that, we also saw the dimensions filter by @upleaks (rest in peace, twitter account), to which a redditor made a handy mock-up size comparison that gives you a visual aid as to how big we can expect the device to be, featured below. Note the height and side bezels reduction!
The subject – and all the rage – of debate lately comes from the designs, photos and renders leaked this past week. We had an image of the back get out to the wild about 3 days ago, and that stirred a lot of speculation and conversation. Many dismissed it as fake, as it looked way too similar to the M8 except the camera, which is now square.
Later on, however, more pictures of the Hima leaked all over. Different sources and websites like choetech jumped in with reports featuring images of the alleged design, that matched exactly like what we had seen before with the back leak. Bigger sites like phandroid got their own leaked images too, and once again they matched the other leaked photos. And finally, HTC Family_RU leaked a render of the HIMA that, once again, is exactly identical to the rest we saw, featured on the side.
Granted wishes, broken dreams
All these reveals have already given us lots to talk about, so let’s try and dissect each change and see if what HTC has done here is a step forward or backwards. Keep in mind, aesthetics are mostly subjective so take my opinions on the design with a grain of salt if you happen to disagree. Let’s get started.
On this front, there’s arguably not that much HTC should have changed. The HTC M8 was one of the most revered devices of all time, thanks to its illustrious design that is considered a landmark in phone aesthetics. It was universally praised for its soft but imposing curves on the sides and back, its remarkable unibody construction, the beautiful brushed metal look it carried and just how well it fit into one’s hand. The rest of the aesthetics were very well distributed, with the BoomSound speakers at the top and bottom giving it an attractive symmetry, and the black frame around the screen making the bezel look smaller as the contrast with the grey aluminium was very clear.
This is not to say that there weren’t some design quirks, though. Something that many people were bothered with was the height. For a 5 inch device, the M8 was tall. Ridiculously tall, even, as devices with bigger screens have smaller footprints: the S5 doesn’t have small bezels by any means (in fact, a common complaint was how it piggybacked the S4’s in this front), yet it hosts a bigger screen and is 4.4mm (0.17 inches) shorter. The much bigger G3 had a screen half an inch (diagonal) bigger than the M8’s, yet it was still shorter too, even if by just a single millimeter decimal. The HIMA is shorter and narrower than the M8, which is a welcome change. The height differential is 2.1mm, which is a noticeable improvement. But the device is thicker, which isn’t bad considering it sports a bigger battery. Also consider the side bezels: screen size is the same, yet device is narrower by 1.2mm (0.047 inches), which means 0.6mm (0.0236 inches) less filler on each side bezel.
People’s main gripes was not just the height itself – but the fact that the power button was at the top. HTC seems to have listened to the plights of its customers, and now have moved the power button to the side. This is much more natural for most Android users, and specially for big (or tall) phones like this. But there’s something we can’t ignore, which is the fact that the “HTC black bar” is still present. Why!? Nobody liked the black bar in the HTC One, but at least it made sense because it housed capacitive keys. The M8 got rid of those in favor of software buttons… And left the black bar in, which is one of the primary reasons as to why the device is so tall. This, in my opinion, is something HTC should have addressed for a more comfortable phone and user experience. But with OEMs, you can never have your cake and eat it too.
The final change we saw with this phone’s design is the square camera… This is more of a subjective point, but I personally believe it detracts from the phone. The design language of the HTC One series seemed to be heading towards maximizing the stylishly curved edges, and this led to rounded features. Now the camera seems off to some including myself, as I think it clashes with the rest of the “theme” of the phone. Nevertheless, the rest of the design is exquisite. I just wish they would have applied “if it’s not broken…” to the entirety of the handset.
Yes. Yes. Yes. HTC finally dumped their low megapixel (ultrapixel) count in favor of modern sensor sizes and proper image resolution. The disappointment with the M8’s picture quality (not features, not concept, but actual real world performance) was almost unanimous. This is not to say it took bad pictures. But they were just not big enough, which in turns means a not-so-crisp image when cropping and zooming even if just a bit, especially now that our monitors, TVs and even phones (soon enough) are getting the 4K treatment. And 20.7MP is a great number for this. We lack more details, though, and there are high resolution cameras that still manage to take “just decent” pictures, as there are many factors at play. Lets just hope this camera shows us what’s good.
On a smaller note, we could see a 13MP front-facing camera, like that seen on the HTC Eye. This would be great for selfie addicts and would definitely be nice to have for those that like video-calling on their phones (like me). Some rumors point towards a 4 ultrapixel front-facer, which wouldn’t necessarily hurt either.
HTC has had great displays in its flagships. They use IPS LCD displays, and that coupled with dynamic contrast technology, gives you good viewing angles, good color reproduction and deep blacks. On these aspects, I doubt HTC would disappoint, so despite not knowing the details we can expect solid things.
What also hasn’t changed is… well, everything else! According to what we know, the size remains at 5 inches diagonal, and the resolution remains FHD. This defies the OEM trends we see nowadays of bigger, more pixel-dense displays. With 1440p becoming the norm, some might think that HTC is “behind” – but HTC knows there’s a sector in the market (and a big one) that knows what is good and what is enough, and doesn’t necessarily buy into the “moar pixels” marketing craze. Not only this, but they also seem to recognize that some people just don’t want bigger phones. Devices like those of the Z Compact line proved that this demand for high-spec 5-or-less inches phones is there, and it is strong. After all, the M8 saw good sales and raving reviews, and it was “only” 5 inches. Does size matter? We know HTC’s stand on the age-old question.
Not much to report here in terms of news, as nothing has changed since the last rumors. Processor’s the same, battery’s the same, and we talked about them extensively in the past. Those who want power will get it, as the Snapdragon 810 packs quite the punch. And we know that Sense 6 on the M8 was one of the speediest Android versions ever seen – it competed with the Nexus 5, as its optimizations and better processor meant even better performance than the former in many regards. Greatness is expected.
The battery is 240 mAh bigger this time around, and this is most likely the reason for its thickness increment. But let’s not just focus on the size, let’s focus on the rest: Bigger battery than before, but no 1440p screen. This already means a guaranteed advantage over most 1440p phones, specially those in the same size range. But that’s not enough; you’ve got a much, much more battery-efficient processor… and then you’ve also got Lollipop’s battery optimizations. Put all of that together, and baby, you’ve got a stew going!
There are several points to address here, but I’ll try and compress them to the essentials:
- Material Design. I’ve been mostly disappointed with Materially Designed OEM skins. I personally think that Samsung’s leaves a lot to be desired, Sony’s is “misaligned” and LG’s… well, we have strict language restrictions at XDA. Sense 6 on the HTC One M8 is also getting a Lollipop treatment that I personally think clashes with actual MD, and is a step backwards from Sense UI’s older, more elegant design. After all, Material Design is meant to be (mutely) colorful and with round, entertaining “materials” and animations, and Sense 6 was all about class and style (I always said it was one of the more badass skins out there). The mix between the two is a little odd, even if Sense 6 had some material in it beforehand. But then again, Sense 7 is reportedly coming for the HTC Hima, and all of those changes could mean nothing, as Sense 7 might be designed by an entirely different team, from the ground up, specifically for this device. Let’s hope it surpasses current Lollipop forks…
- Rootability. This is something rather important to us here at XDA. HTC hasn’t been quite bad with their power-user support. And at HTCdev.com they not only aid you in unlocking your bootloader, they encourage devs and users to explore the possibilities that doing so brings, for innovation’s sake. Now, rumors of a Developer Edition HIMA have surfaced. This would be a factory unlocked sim-free phone with an unlocked bootloader. Sounds like HTC is on the right track for pleasing us.
- Google Play Edition. HTC announced its GPE M8 alongside the regular version, and also allowed M8 users to convert to GPE software. This was great for those who love stock Android, especially power-users. However, GPE devices have been getting discontinued, and just this week we finally saw the death of GPE with its last standing device, the M8 GPE, leaving the scene. Let’s hope that there is some news about GPE or at least Stock software for the Hima. One (that’s a pun) can dream.
- New features. While sense 6 had amazing design, and some useful features, it still lags behind other manufacturers in this regard. You could say it is a trade-off for speed, in which case it worked wonders… And the features offered are very useful, in particularly the gestures and tap-to-wake as it made the hard-to-reach power button less of a nuisance. I hope HTC keeps adding useful functionality to their phone.
Well, that’s quite a lot of information we’ve gathered in just a month. And it’s good that we did, I think, because it not only gives us enthusiasts something to discuss (closest thing to celebrity gossip we have), but it also gives us an insight as to where the mobile world is going and what we will be tapping at in our future.
But the reality of it is that HTC might not like this entire thing, as these rumors do steal their thunder. By the time they show us their meticulously crafted and built phone that they are so proud of, we’ll already know all about it and the hype will take a hit. To the average consumer it is may not be a huge deal excluding the occasional leaks into mainstream media that do inform them of what’s going on. But HTC does seem to show interest in the more educated consumers that research their purchases and want sleek experiences.
Could these leaks be orchestrated by HTC, at this point? After all the lawsuits and accusations flying around last year over these sorts of things, it is unlikely HTC had all these details filter out completely unknowingly. The degree of leaking seen this past year is crazy, and you’d think that OEMs would try to adjust to it rather than fight it, as there’s a lot to be gained from carefully manipulating hype. And after all, HTC’s slogan is probably called “quietly brilliant” for a reason…
Deal or no deal?
One thing’s for sure: HTC’s upcoming phone looks great. They seem to be addressing their biggest faults while carefully targeting their demographics with all the right incentives. If we would have gotten leaks of an odd power button, a low resolution camera, an average battery, or a processor with no frequency boosts – all things we saw last year, by the way – then it would have probably hurt them at this point in their career. But instead, we’ve got top-end specs across the board, and with the latest leaks, a beautiful chassis to hold it all in.
HTC has managed to put build a product that seems good enough to warrant endless leaking, rumors and discussion all over the internet; and without much controversy this time! If this is not sign that they’ve got an interesting offering in their hands, I’m not sure what else could be. Just don’t spend as much money on your reveal this time, HTC. There really is no need, your phone already spoke for itself.