HTC One M8 for Windows review: Same fantastic hardware, new operating system

HTC One M8 for Windows review: Same fantastic hardware, new operating system

Summary: Over the last couple years we have seen Nokia update and release their Lumia Windows Phones so it is refreshing to see HTC jump back in and provide a high end Windows Phone, especially one as good as the M8.

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  • HTC One M8 for Windows retail package

    I reviewed the HTC One (M8) running Android back in March and gave it an 8 out of 10. HTC just launched the exact same hardware running Windows Phone in the device known as the HTC One (M8) for Windows.

    It has been a couple of years since HTC had a Windows Phone device and the 8x was one of the most impressive Windows Phone devices at the time. The new HTC One (M8) for Windows, I am going to just write WP One from here on out, is also a fantastic piece of hardware and if you like Windows Phone then you should definitely consider it.

    Hardware

    When people think of Windows Phone, they think of Nokia Lumia devices and not much else. I personally enjoy using Nokia devices and find their use of plastic to be an excellent choice, not to mention their use of colors. However, Lumias are starting to look much the same as each other and we need more hardware competition to continue to push them forward.

    The WP One has the exact same hardware as the awesome One (M8) for Android, even including the BoomSound stereo speakers, Duo Camera, tap to unlock, and IR transmitter in the power button. I heard HTC worked very closely with Microsoft to put together this device and it is clear there was some close collaboration since HTC pushes the limits of Windows Phone just like they did with Windows Mobile back in the day.

    I was never given any NDA information on this device and was personally a bit shocked when I heard that an HTC One was coming out with Windows Phone. Microsoft's smartphone OS is having trouble gaining any traction with the latest estimates still showing they have less than three percent of the smartphone market share.

    After hearing the Windows Phone version was the same as the Android version, my first thoughts were to those HTC enhancements as I listed above. The infrared remote control feature was great to hear about and I thought this was the first Windows Phone to get it, but learned the Samsung Ativ SE also had it. I enjoy using my phone IR port in hotel rooms and around the house when I don't feel like hunting for a remote. HTC makes it very easy to setup and use with the HTC One.

    The Duo Camera integration also surprised me and I imagine HTC had to work hard to get it to function with Windows Phone. The speakers sound awesome, the front facing camera takes great wide angle shots with everyone in the family fitting in the shot.

    I actually found the LED indicator light on the front to be much bright on the WP One than on the Android One. The light on the Android One is sometimes difficult to see unless you are looking straight at the speaker grille.

    Like the Android One, the WP One hardware cannot be beat and still remains one of the best designed smartphones I have ever tested.

    Software

    The WP One runs Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, which is a bit unusual to see Microsoft including a beta update on a device being sold to consumers. This latest update provides support for folders on the Start screen, Apps Corner hub for sandboxed mode, and more. The folders are done in a way that makes them better than Android and iOS.

    In addition to the latest Microsoft update, HTC includes a few new things in the software. One thing you should notice immediately is that there are no permanent capacitive buttons along the bottom like we have seen on most Windows Phones. You simply swipe up to show the back, Start, and search icons. A quick tap of the small left down arrow hides these three again. This is a great way to get more viewable screen on the device and I appreciated this nice touch.

    A major feature of the Android One, associate with their Sense UI, is BlinkFeed. HTC does provide BlinkFeed on the WP One, but it comes in the form of an app and a Live tile. You simply tap it to open BlinkFeed and enjoy the same experience as on Windows Phone, even including Google+ content which was a real shocker. I don't see Instagram as a supported service though.

    It is fun for people to see my life experiences capture with my phones as highlight videos with music, effects, and transitions. While the WP One doesn't support short Zoe videos or the new Zoe beta service you can select photos and videos to create and then share highlight videos.

    Verizon includes a few apps, such as My Verizon Mobile, NFL Mobile, and VZ Navigator, but like all Windows Phone devices carrier apps can be uninstalled. While the default GPS program launches as VZ Navigator, there is no reason to pay for this service when you can get the free HERE Maps and HERE Drive+ services from the Windows Phone Store.

    Usage and experiences

    The HTC One (M8) hardware is tough to put down once you starting using it. It isn't even as expensive as the lowest capacity iPhone, yet feels like an extremely high end piece of tech with superb fit and finish, beveled edges, and serious attention to detail. HTC didn't compromise at all on the Android One to bring it to the Windows Phone platform.

    Cortana blows away Google Now and Siri so having it on an HTC One device almost makes me want to go out and pick up the device just for this functionality. It is very cool to put the WP One into one of my Dot View cases and launch Cortana with a gesture down the Dot View.

    I read that battery life is longer on the WP One than on the Android One and my subjective experiences over the past week match that statement. I don't conduct scientific battery testing and if a phone goes through one of my heavy days then it is a winner and both the WP One and Android One can do that.

    I complained about the camera like many others and I think much of that disappointment came from unrealized expecations. Honestly, the camera is fast and takes great photos. Most of us do not print photos any longer and simply share them on social networks and for that the UltraPixel camera is perfectly fine. After more time with the Android One, I have come to appreciate the camera and its low-light capabilities.

    Review continued on next page

  • Windows Phone vs Android lock screen

    Pros and cons

    To summarize my experiences with the HTC One (M8) for Windows, here are my pros and cons. As you can see, I can't come up with much not to like about this phone given the fact you accept that it runs Windows Phone.

    Pros Cons
    Fantastic fit and finish with a solid metal body UltraPixel camera has limited detail for landscape shots
    Ample integrated storage and microSD expansion capability Limited to just Verizon for now
    Outstanding front facing BoomSound stereo speakers  
    Beautiful high resolution LCD display  
    HTC additions like IR remote, Video Highlights, and fun Duo Camera  

    Pricing and availability

    The HTC One (M8) for Windows is available now at Verizon for $599.99 with no contract. You can purchase it for $99.99 with a 2-year contract or $29.99/month with the Verizon EDGE plan.

    HTC also announced it will be coming to AT&T, but did not give a price or timeframe for when the Verizon exclusive would end. I imagine we will see AT&T get the phone sometime in September. There is no word on whether T-Mobile or Sprint will get it though.

    The competition

    There honestly is not much competition at the high end for Windows Phone devices. Verizon has the Nokia Lumia Icon and AT&T has the Lumia 1520. Neither T-Mobile or Sprint have any current high end models so HTC may see good sales with a solid Windows Phone option on at least two carriers.

    If you look outside of Windows Phone, then there are plenty of competitors with a couple more coming in September. Apple will have a new iPhone, Motorola will have a new X-something, Samsung will have a new Galaxy Note and already has the S5, and LG has the G3. I doubt we will see any new high end Windows Phone though as Microsoft looks to be launching more mid and low end Lumia devices since that market seems quite active for Windows Phone.

    Specifications

    • Processor: Snapdragon 801 2.3 GHz quad-core processor
    • Operating system: Windows Phone 8.1
    • Display: 5 inch HD 1080p LCD3
    • RAM: 2GB
    • Internal storage: 32GB
    • Storage expansion: microSD card slot
    • Cameras: HTC UltraPixel with Duo Camera on the rear and 5 megapixel front facing wide-angle on the front
    • Wireless radios: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, NFC, IR, GPS
    • Battery capacity: 2,600 mAh
    • Dimensions: 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm and 160 grams

    Conclusion

    I am a major fan of the HTC One (M8) and I keep using it as my main Android smartphone. It is refreshing to see another vendor come out with a high end Windows Phone device, other than Nokia, and I am very pleased to see HTC bring the same hardware from Android.

    The Nokia Lumia 1520 is the top dog when it comes to Windows Phone, even more so than the Lumia 930 because it has microSD expansion above everything else. However, the HTC One (M8) for Windows could be considered the top dog if the camera is not the focus of your device needs. With excellent front facing stereo speakers, high quality construction, slim design, infrared remote control support, and long battery life the One (M8) is a fantastic Windows Phone option.

    The camera is actually very fast and I have captured some great photos. It doesn't have the depth and detail of a Nokia Lumia Carl Zeiss camera, but is outstanding for a smartphone and has some slick effects and the Video Highlights capability that makes it even more compelling.

    Contributor's rating: 9 out of 10

    Further HTC One (M8) coverage

Topics: Mobility, HTC, Reviews, Smartphones, Windows Phone

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34 comments
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  • How does this compare...

    ...to the Galaxy S5? Better...similar...or not so better. Just wondering. Thanks.
    IT_Fella
    • HTC vs Samsung (vs Nokia)

      Generally speaking, I would recommend the HTC One M8 over the Galaxy S5. But because the One comes in multiple flavors (stock android, modified android called HTC Sense, and windows phone), it gets much more complicated.

      First, lets talk hardware.

      The Galaxy S5 has a better camera, generally, though it lacks cool dual camera effects, and isn't as good in low light. It also has a (finicky, unreliable) fingerprint scanner and a heartrate sensor. It's also water-resistant.

      The HTC One M8 has a much, much better design. Rather than cheap, ugly plastic, the HTC is made of a wonderful aluminum unibody. In terms of performance, they both have the same specs.

      However, hardware is only part of the picture.

      Software is just as important as hardware, if not more, and actually contributes more to performance than raw power.

      The Galaxy S5 runs Samsung's TouchWiz, which, while not the worst android skin (that dubious honor goes to the Nokia X interface), is bloated, slow, ugly, and takes up a lot of storage space. The only reason so many people use it is because of Samsung's power, many android users think it is genuine stock android.

      The Galaxy also comes in a stock android, Google Play Edition flavor. This is purchased off of Google Play Devices website unlocked in the US. In other countries Google Play Edition phones are rare and hard to find. If you end up getting a Galaxy S5, get the Google Play Edition. One advantage of them is their nexus-grade updates. You get the latest version of android right when it comes out, not after Samsung modifies it and your carrier bloats it. Also, Google Play devices come with no Samsung or carrier bloatware.

      The standard HTC One M8 runs HTC Sense, one of the better, less obtrusive skins. It tends to receive updates relatively quickly, but if bought off a carrier it will be bloated.

      There is also a Google Play Edition HTC One M8 that runs stock android.

      Stock android is far faster than any skin. I have tested my Moto X (which has a Galaxy S3 processor and stock android) against the Galaxy S5 (with its mighty Snapdragon 801 and bloated TouchWiz) in everyday tasks such as opening the camera app and app drawer. The Moto X won every time. This argument is further strengthened by the fact that while my Moto X was bogged down with apps and photos, the Galaxy S5 was factory-fresh.

      Until now we have been discussing the ANDROID One M8, since its direct competitor is the Galaxy S5. If you prefer the android OS, here is a list of best choices, sorted with the best choice at the top and the worst at the bottom:

      1. HTC One M8 Google Play Edition
      2. Regular HTC One M8
      3. Galaxy S5 Google Play Edition
      4. Regular Galaxy S5

      However, the HTC also comes in a Windows Phone flavor, while the Galaxy does not. I will not discuss this here, but you must choose between Android and Windows Phone (hereinafter known as WP). In the end this is a matter of opinion. The opinion should be yours and yours alone. Do not place this question on any forum, since it will only draw out fanboyism and hatred, with what should be a civilized discussion quickly degenerating into a heated profanity match, with fanboys accusing each other of working at Google or Microsoft.

      In the last section, it was assumed you chose android, and so in this one, I will assume you chose Windows.

      The main competitor to the HTC One M8 for Windows comes from Nokia, which makes only WP smartphones. Now we must come to a question of regions and carriers.

      The HTC One M8 for Windows is a Verizon exclusive at launch, but At&T has confirmed it will offer it later.

      The Nokia flagship is known as the Lumia ICON on Verizon and as the Lumia 930 elsewhere.

      If you live outside of the US, it is unknown whether the One M8 for Windows will reach you, but you can already buy the Lumia 930.

      In the United States this is more difficult. If you want a Nokia flagship on-contract, your only choice is the Lumia ICON on Verizon. If you're on another carrier you will have to purchase it unlocked though Amazon.

      So in summary: outside of the US, you can't get the One M8 Windows, but the Lumia 930 is easily available.
      Inside of the US the One M8 Windows and the Lumia ICON are Verizon exclusives, but the One M8 Windows will be coming to other carriers, and if you're okay with buying outright and unlocked, the Lumia 930 can be used on any network.

      So how do the Lumia 930/ICON and One M8 Windows compare? First of all, both run WP.

      In terms of raw power, the One M8 Windows has a very slight edge, with a Snapdragon 801 rather than the 800 found in the 930.

      The Lumia 930's 20 Megapixel camera is MASSIVELY better than the 4 Megapixel snapper onboard the One M8 Windows. HTC tries to justify this meager number by saying the "Ultrapixels" are larger, allowing them to perform better in low light and and capture good images. While this is all true, the Lumia 930's "PureView" pixels are ALSO larger, and the Lumia 930 has five times as many.

      In terms of software, Windows Phone is closed source, so skinning and modification is impossible without the approval of Microsoft. HTC Sense cannot exist on Windows Phone, but a number of Sense-related features are present as preinstalled apps. Carrier bloatware is not a problem, since all non-Microsoft apps can be uninstalled on Windows Phone.

      When it comes to design, HTC takes the cake. The Lumia 930's excellent build quality of metal and premium, solid plastic, while good, cannot stand up to the the aluminum unibody of the One M8 Windows.

      In the end, the choice between these two is much harder, and it comes down to carriers, brand recognition, and whether you prefer Nokia's camera or HTC's design.
      TeslaTech
      • Great, impartial analysis

        This is perhaps the best dissection of the choices for multi-platform, multi-carrier, multi-manufacturer decisions around a rather limited market that I have ever viewed on this site. Great job! I have the indestructible M7 on Sprint and love it. But, I also gladly use W 8.1 on most everything else. The M7 is SOOO good that I have no need to upgrade, but if I do soon, it will be the WP M8. (My M7 is nearly two years old, is carried loose in my pocket sans any protection, and is like new. Amazing!)
        spyder3010
  • So same hardware

    so is it light years faster than the android version?

    my little 635 blows away a 7 times more expensive S4 so it's gota be
    everss02
    • I am curious why you say that

      What does your WP do faster than Android? I feel as though apps open faster and browsing with Firefox is much faster on Android than WP.

      Scrolling may be smoother on WP, but that's about it.

      Not trolling, just actually curious (I use WP a my daily driver).
      x I'm tc
      • Just typing the lock screen pin on my S4 lags

        usually have to type extra slow or it gets the 4 numbers wrong, just insane how slow it gets
        everss02
      • I have a mix of smartphones

        2Galaxy S4s, 2 iPhone 5Ss (was three but one son switched to WP last week) and (now) 3 WPs of which 2 are low-end 822s and one is a high-end Icon. The Firefox Browser for WP is, to be honest, lame. The built-in of IE version still gives the best performance and rendering. Searches are much faster with Bing (almost certainly due to the advertising algorithms running in Google on the Android products). The 2 remaining iPhone holders are my two daughters that are very deeply entrenched into Apple's ecosystem but they are, in fact, wavering due to the still unreliability that they see we DON'T experience with WP (although that, I tell them, is almost certainly more a carrier issue because my son was on Verizon while they are on "some other carrier"). After three years of continuous use our Windows Phones still perform just as they did (or better) than when they were new out the box. They have held up to the rigors of daily use, being dropped on the ground, slammed into a purse, jammed in a pocket with a bunch of keys, rained on and used in several foreign countries without so much as a burp of problems.

        Yes there is an app gap and it is patently obvious to even the most neutral observer that Google is attempting to deliberately hamstring WP when it comes to accessing data that Google controls (especially YouTube). Lately the "You need to upgrade Flash to view this video" has taken to appearing for a few seconds, you wait and then the play button appears anyway. If it doesn't you simple search a bit and you find someone has posted the same link in such a way that Google can't stop the playback. This is irritating to many but I find it an amusing thing that, in the end, only harms Google.

        Thing is that, overall, the WP is perhaps the single most "open" of all the phones. They need to be as their market share is too small so I can support Apple using iTunes on a PC and the WP app enables it to migrate content from one ecosystem to the other. iCloud, as pointed out in the article, is natively supported (and I sincerely wish that Apple would use it rather than iTunes for more) and Google is slowly but steadily backing down on its stance of practically open warfare on WP.
        The Heretic
  • Nice Review...thanks for the unbiased review

    Finally, someone giving an unbiased review for a Windows phone. Very refreshing...seems like so many reviewers want to bag on Windows Phone OS and complain about the "app gap". However, I happen to have Apple (iPad), Android (HTC One M7) and WinPhone 8.1 (wife's phone) in the house. I did a quick search to see how real this supposed "app gap" was and here is what I found after looking through the top apps (games not included) in iTunes...

    YouTube - iOS, Android, WinPhone (no but equivalent)
    Pandora - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    NY Times - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    Foreflight - iOS, Android (no but equivalent), WinPhone (no but VFR s/w equivalent)
    Skype - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    Netflix - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    Facebook - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    GoogleMaps - iOS, Android, WinPhone (no but equivalent)
    WeatherChannel - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    Kindle - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    Google Search - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    Google Drive - iOS, Android, WinPhone (no but equivalent)
    Google Docs, iOS, Android, WinPhone (no but equivalent)
    Amazon Instant Video - iOS, Android (no), WinPhone (no)
    Spotify - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    Pintrest - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    eBay - iOS, Andorid, WinPhone
    SnapChat - iOS, Android, WinPhone (no but equivalent)
    DropBox - iOS, Android, WinPhone (no but equivalent)
    Twitter - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    Instagram - iOS, Andoid, WinPhone
    NFL Mobile - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    StarWalk - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    NY Post - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    Wall Street Journal - iOS, Android, WinPhone (no)
    Msft Word/Excel, etc. - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    Adobe Reader - iOS, Android, WinPhone
    i Heart Radio - iOS, Android, WinPhone

    I did not bother to look at games because games are too subjective, are typically played for a while then not looked at again so I focused on productivity type apps.

    As you can see, most apps appear on all platforms. The apps that are not the same typically have an equivalent app to provide access to the service or similar functionality.

    I think Msft if finally offering a competitive solution. The biggest problem for this phone right now as you mention is that it is only on Verizon. Once it is on ATT, I will be jumping off the Android ship and getting this phone.

    Meanwhile, I try to wait patiently.

    Regards,
    Java
    javabri@...
    • re:

      You should look at the Lumia 1520. As he states in the glowing review of the HTC, the 1520 is the top dog for WP devices. In fact, it's probably the top dog for all phones regardless of OS.
      Sir Name
      • 1520

        Yes, my wife has the 1520 and we put WP 8.1 on it. It is an awesome phone/tablet. She absolutely loves it and she came from the iPhone 4S. Transition to WP was extremely easy for her...she did just about everything on her own...no tech support from me which is awesome as well.

        After I got some time with the phone, I was convinced pretty quickly that WP 8.1 is a great phone OS. After doing some searching on the app side, almost every app I use is there or has an equivalent app out there.

        My only beef with the 1520 is that it is too big for me. I carry my phone in my front pocket and there is no way that is fitting. I love the rest of the specs of the phone and was hoping the 930 would make it to ATT but alas, no joy. For her the 1520 is great because she carries it in her purse so having the larger screen is not an issue. But for me, I need something a little smaller so hearing about the HTC One coming to AT&T is great news, it just can't get here fast enough.

        For all the Apple and Android fanatics out there, you should really give WP 8.1 a serious look...it really is a great phone OS...and this is coming from someone that used Apple for the first 4.5 generations and Android for the past 2 years. I am really not so invested (emotionally or financially) in any single platform so I don't feel the need to defend any platform and try to look at each and judge based upon its merits and how well it will meet my needs.

        WP 8.1 just blew me away. When I started comparing it to iOS and Android it was on par or better than either OS.
        javabri@...
        • I'm up for a new phone soon and am considering a 1520

          My two drivers are camera and storage, and I don't think there's another phone out there that beats the 1520 on those two criteria. Even though AT&T restricts the 1520 to 16GB, you can add another 64GB microSD card. One would have to pay an additional several hundred dollars to get a 64GB iPhone. In addition, because of the size of the 1520, it has a bigger battery, although I'm not sure whether the power demand of a larger screen would offset that. In any event, I'm strongly considering a 1520, although I'll take a look at the HTC One M8 when it gets to AT&T.
          kenrockthefirst
          • re:

            In my experience the 1520 battery lasts way more than a single day on a charge. I always plug it in (thanks, AT&T for screwing your customers out of the Qi wireless charging the rest of the world gets) at night, but it always has over half still left on the battery.
            Sir Name
          • iPhone not fair comparison

            Comparing a phone to iPhone these days is not adequate. Kind of like saying "Detroit is safer than Iraq" I would ask "is it safer than Toronto"?

            Nope

            BlackBerry has provided good built in storage, amazing battery life and micro SD compatibility, with solid cameras and good build quality, running its new BlackBerry 10 OS for 1.5 years. Odd, no one compares to the free on a plan Z10 or the premium spec Z30.m. Perhaps because the BlackBerry puts others to shame
            HenselM
        • Unlocked Lumia 930

          Good News! You can buy the Lumia 930 unlocked and outright on Amazon, then use it on any carrier.
          TeslaTech
      • 1520

        It's the top dog for all supersize phones, but anyone who wishes not to fuse phone and tablet will find the 930 a better choice.
        TeslaTech
    • Windows phone horrible choice

      The issue with Windows Phone is less lack of apps and more poor Nokia build quality. Also, hate the OS. Switched back to BlackBerry when BlackBerry 10 came out and couldn't be happier!
      HenselM
      • Nokia is a legend for build quality.

        I had a BB issued by an employer. It locked up far more often than I cared for and the back had little locks on either side that stopped working so the back would fall off and then the battery would come out on its own. BB is far better now but I wouldn't go back unless I was paid to, by an employer...who switched to all Windows Phones 2 years ago so I guess that isn't happening. Oh well.

        As for OS choice, I agree with you that BB is better than iOS or Android but WP 8.1 is freaking awesome and far more enjoyable to use than any of them. But come on, OS choice is NOT why people chose a phone, it is the apps that chose the phone for them. If photos/videos are at all important then choosing a Nokia is a no-brainer, the Icon and HTC product offer native 1080 on a 441 dpi screen! If pretending you are a rap star is important then you can't beat an iPhone. If the OS is the key factor then Android is best because nothing else beats it for customization, you can load GNU/Linux on them. I would argue that BB is the choice for business but that is eroding quickly since ALL phones can be natively added to an Exchange Server and that is the heart of business and you do away with BBServer in one fell swoop by switching to anything else (plus if Canada goes dark you can still access your data).
        The Heretic
      • I owned several Nokia "feature" phones

        Whatever the merits or otherwise of Windows Phone, Nokia industrial design is world class. There are reasons to not want a Windows Phone but Nokia hardware isn't one of them.
        kenrockthefirst
    • Your list...

      ... is mostly media consumption and social media apps. There are only a couple of apps listed that I would consider business productivity apps. Plus, a number of the apps you list for WP are substandard versions, compared to their Android/iOS brothers. Still, I agree that the app situation is improving. More device sales will only help.

      I also agree that WP is poised for a huge surge in momentum thanks to the new phones appearing lately. The Nokia phones may be technically superior, but the brightly colored plastic case is a design turn off for many. The HTC One is an entirely different story. The sleek metallic industrial design will widen the appeal of WP among "grownups." WP8.1 is the first version I'd actually consider buying and now there are several hardware choices to make it even more appealing. The future of WP is looking better every week.
      BillDem
      • I just switched to the Icon

        No big deal as I am already a Verizon customer. The very first comment I heard on the street when using it was, "Is that the new large iPhone?" I had to laugh it off and the questioner was disappointed when told it was a Windows phone. Nokia has a global reputation for putting very solid high quality products together. I have no doubt that in a few weeks we will be overwhelmed by the iPhone sales numbers when they finally give up that tiny 4" screen: but Windows phones will almost certainly keep outperforming them as the quiet third wheel in the smartphone market. All I know is I love mine.
        The Heretic