HTC One M8 review: More metal, same limited detail UltraPixel camera

HTC One M8 review: More metal, same limited detail UltraPixel camera

Summary: I spent the last five days using the new HTC One M8 and, while the design is excellent, I am not a fan of the UltraPixel camera and software effects. You will be able to order from all three major US carriers today with T-Mobile sitting on the sidelines until April.


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    Most phones stay in my pocket for one to three months, but the HTC One M7 has been my companion for a year. I have been testing out the new HTC One M8 for the past several days, but will not be purchasing one for myself for a couple of key reasons. It is a nice evolutionary improvement over last year's model with improvements in a few key areas.

    It is very difficult to launch a revolutionary smartphone today since it seems we have reached the limits of hardware technology and the form factor is fairly standard across all phones. Companies stand out today with some additional tweaks, such as Sony's waterproof design, and their custom software enhancements. HTC's Sense 6 definitely competes well in the software department and their hardware fit and finish is fantastic, but I wonder if that is enough for them at this time.

    I didn't pick up the new HTC One M8 and immediately think I must go out and buy it now, likely because of the additional height with an insignificant increase in usable display area and the use of the same resolution UltraPixel camera that now disappoints me. However, it is improved in a few areas over last year's model and will satisfy those demanding a microSD card slot, although Google has limited the usefulness of expansion card storage.


    Last year the HTC One earned several awards for hardware design and they again show that elegant hardware is a focus for them. Other manufacturers are also focusing on hardware, though and I don't think there is as much of a differentiator this year as there was last year.

    Last year's HTC One was 70 percent metal and this time around we find the content at 90 percent. Much of the difference is in the metal covering the sides where we previously saw plastic sandwiched between the display and back metal piece.

    The new HTC One M8 will initially be available in Gunmetal Gray, Glacial Silver, and Amber Gold, depending on the carrier and region where you live. We may see other colors launch in the future, similar to what HTC did with the current One.

    Size: One thing I liked about the HTC One M7 was the size that made it just about perfect for my hand and pants pocket. Unfortunately, the HTC One M8 grew quite a bit taller (9 mm) and a bit wider (2.4 mm). It is about the same thickness and does feel great in your hand thanks to the curved edges and back, but it's going to take some time to get used to the additional height.

    I wouldn't mind the height increase if it meant significantly more usable display, but, due to the removal of dedicated areas for the bottom buttons (they are now part of the display), when you line up both Ones on the home screen you will find that the original actually has more height available on the display. There is a row for the capacitive button areas and a taller row for home screen shortcuts that end up being taller on the new One. The M8 does have a slightly smaller side bezel and more width so the viewable display is slightly wider.

    HTC has a black bar below the display that contains HTC branding in the center. I understand there are internal components in this area and that the space is functionally necessary. The buttons never bothered me on the M7, so I personally would have liked to have gained more usable display area and kept the buttons.

    The display is the same fantastic 1080p Super LCD3 they had before that shows true colors and is top notch, IMHO. The PPI is slightly less, 440, because the display is slightly larger in dimensions. There is now a 5-megapixel-wide angle front facing camera and HTC is likely to be crowned the top selfie camera in 2014 too.

    BoomSound speakers:You will again find BoomSound stereo speakers on the front, but they are much improved over the HTC One M7 speakers. HTC states they are 25 percent louder and that seems about right to me. I listened to several of the same songs on both, and the M8 provides louder and significantly richer audio quality. They are so good that they actually now have me feeling a bit disappointed with my current One.

    There is still a volume button on the upper right, but you will also find a slide-in tray above that. Yes, HTC is now providing users with a microSD card slot that supports up to the 128GB cards. I recommend reading this Android Central article for a complete explanation about the status of storage card expansion on KitKat devices. You will find the nanoSIM card slot on the left side. It appears a bit long, but that's for markets outside the US where dual SIM capability is provided with the same tray size.

    When you look at the bottom, you'll see they still have the same upside-down microUSB port with the addition of the 3.5mm headset jack. Back on top you will find one of the plastic areas with the dual power button/IR sensor near the right corner. It is a solid phone that also now comes with the six-month screen replacement coverage.

    UltraPixel camera: When you flip the HTC One M8 over, you'll immediately notice a couple of differences. The same 4.1-megapixel resolution UltraPixel camera is used, but there's an improved flash module (Smart Flash 2.0) and a secondary camera centered above the primary camera. The secondary camera is used to help capture depth of field information and give HTC the ability to provide enhanced photo editing tools. This is called the Duo Camera and I will have an article delving deeper into this functionality soon since there is a lot going on here in regards to photo editing and sharing.

    The flash is similar to the Apple iPhone 5s with warm and cool lights that automatically figure out what's needed for proper flash intensity without completing blowing out photos like HTC flashlights have always done. 

    OIS is no longer included in the HTC One, but it wasn't that good on the One (M7) when compared to what Nokia has on their PureView cameras. HTC did improve the camera technology so that capture begins before you even press the button and it is an extremely fast camera so I really do not think slight movement of the camera will be a problem.

    Motion Launch gestures: Similar to how Nokia, LG, and Motorola use screen touches when the display is off to perform functions, HTC has taken this to the next level with screen touches and device movement to create Motion Launch functions. If you just double-tap the display when it's off and resting on a table, then nothing will happen. You need to first pick it up and then tap or swipe across the display to make the following happen.

    Motion Launch action Result
    Pick up phone in landscape with volume button pressed Camera app launches
    Pick up phone in portrait and double tap the display Display wakes up, but is still locked
    Pick up phone in portrait and swipe down HTC's voice dialing app launches
    Pick up phone in portrait and swipe up Display wakes up and is unlocked
    Pick up phone in portrait and swipe right to left Application launcher appears
    Pick up phone in portrait and swipe left to right BlinkFeed launches

    HTC also uses motion to try to assist you with phone calls. When your phone rings and the caller ID is shown, you can answer simply by putting your phone up to your ear. No pressing on the display or swiping is required. HTC is using the motion of you looking at the display for caller ID, followed by the action of holding up to your ear to determine that you intend to answer the call. My testing revealed this works very well. It's custom features like this that make your phone work smartly and enhance your phone experience. You can always turn this setting off as well.

    Extreme Power Saving Option: The only phone I found that lasts a full day (4 am to 10 pm) is the Motorola Droid Maxx, but every other phone requires me to hit the charger at some point. Since there are no revolutionary innovations in battery technology, HTC is offering an extreme power saving mode option that looks like a winner. You can set up this mode to turn on when your battery is down to 20, 10, or 5 percent. When enabled, the phone interface changes to a very simplified one, similar to their HTC Car mode, with large buttons for phone, messages, mail, calendar, calculator, and exit (used to get out of extreme power saving mode).

    In this mode, you can still get calls and messages, but background services are disabled so nothing is getting pushed to your phone. You have to manually sync email if you want to download messages with this mode enabled. HTC states you will get 60 hours of standby time if enabled at 20 percent, 30 hours at 10 percent, and 15 hours at 5 percent. I turned it on for 10 percent and, if I'm away and can't get to a charger, then it looks like I found a way to keep using my phone and make it through one long day. I only have an international model so can't judge the battery life until I get one optimized for US networks.

    The HTC One M8 includes the Qualcomm 801 processor and it flies. I didn't have any real complaints about the One M7, but can still tell a noticeable improvement in responsiveness with the M8 and again my M7 now is looking dated.


    HTC is including a back and side cover with every One that seems to add a bit of protection and help you hold it a bit easier. They showed me their HTC Dot View case that I can't wait to purchase. It is a flip cover case that shows you information through the front holes and even allows you to perform basic functions through the cover.

    They will also be offering the HTC Flip Case that doesn't have interactive holes and a Double Dip case, similar to what they had for the One (M7), that will include two additional tip and bottom covers so you can have a number of color combinations for your case.

    Other accessories include their Car Kit, HTC Fetch, HTC BoomBass speaker, HTC Mini+, and HTC Battery Bar. Availability and pricing was not announced, but I understand some retail locations may be getting these at different times.

    Review continued on next page

  • Copy and paste effect present on the HTC One (M8)

  • Fisherman photo in Seattle

Topics: Mobility, Android, HTC, Reviews, Smartphones

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  • HTC One M8. More metal, same limited detail UltraPixel camera....

    Decent build quality is a distinct advantage.

    But what is of most importance is the quality of the interior components.
  • HTC One M8. More metal, same limited detail UltraPixel camera....

    Decent build quality is a distinct advantage.

    But what is of most importance is the quality of the interior components.
    • Not sure how it got posted twice ?

  • T-Mobile version

    "The T-Mobile version will also support WiFi Calling, which is a great utility for those who are traveling or have a weak signal at home."

    Yes because T-Mobile's network sucks so bad this is necessary.
    • "..because T-Mobile's network sucks.."

      "User Experience may vary" comes to mind, where I'm at in Austin TX and the areas that I go, it has suited me just fine for 11yrs as a customer. I also used the service abroad in the UK and in NYC area and had a better experience to those co-workers that used At&T and Verizon.

      In most areas where you could expect 4 g service I've had no issues with slow data, and for area it didn't work, neither did other carriers work that well and was reduced to "G" or EDGE service.

      What can be said? Well where one service falls another rises, get what service you works for you in the area that you work mostly at, survey those in that area and ask what service seems to have the best coverage than what the stores or what their customer service tells you. This coming from an IT professional that before getting into IT sold NEXTEL B2B.

      Saying a service just "sucks" is a simpleton expression from someone that obviously didn't do their homework.
      • For you maybe?

        ITA! I get reception just about everywhere I go here in Toledo, OH. I can count on my hand and still have fingers left over the amount of dead zones I've encountered here. Besides, the wi-fi calling feature is something that every carrier should have. It's not like it hurts. Even a carrier like AT&T has dead zones. I remember working at one place in a suburb of Toledo and all my co-workers who had AT&T had the same reception issues as me. We always had to go outside the building to make or receive calls. The only people who had great reception all the time were people with Verizon (but Verizon would get you reception in the depths of hell). I'm sure Verizon has some dead zones in some places too. YMMV.
  • 71 slides of the same phone??!

    Whenever you get back from your holidays....

    I'm busy
  • HTC One (M8)

    Great Android phone, to be sure ...

    BUT.... they f***ed it up again!!

    That camera, when compared to other top smartphones, remains a sick joke! I'm a professional photographer, and while I'm no fan of high-density, high pixel count sensors such as Sony et al employ, this story from HTC that so-called "ultra-pixels" are better, is, well, just a twisted story at best; more of a gimmick and possibly a cost saving tactic!

    I would have thought HTC had learned something in the past 12 months! Just about every review made it crystal-clear that ultra-pixel based smartphone cameras are simply not up to scratch!

    Nokia, not my favorite smart-phone manufacturer by far, has got it right. And truth be told, if they had an Android based phone with a decent shooter in it, I'd buy it.

    So, I'll be still using my nearly 3 year old HTC sensation for a little longer.

    But the more I look at Nokia's offering (new releases coming our way April 2), the more I get used to that oddity called "Windows Phone", hoping that M$ is releasing a very much needed update of its phone OS real soon.

    Sorry HTC, I had high hopes for the M*, and yes, great features and hardware, but that sick ultra-pixel camera just ruins it for me!
    • Why Android?

      When WP8 is so much better.

      I recently moved platform and thought I'd be sending the phone back but after a couple of days I liked it so much I decided to keep it.
  • Great Review!

    Matthew, thanks for such a comprehensive review and for the photos. I completely agree with you. Personally dislike that the M-8 is bigger and that the camera was not improved.

    I have been using the original HTC One for over a year and very satisfied. What I like most is the battery life; with heavy use & roaming, lasts a full day. With light use can last up to three days.

    But the thing that has me most excited with the new phone is that HTC will be upgrading the BlinkFeed and Sense of the original Ones (M-7). I really don't care about the camera and its features as I might take an occasional photo or two with the phone. But if I want to take photos (such as when on vacation), I bring my separate camera.

    Keep on educating us with those objective and comprehensive reviews!
  • A photographer's review

    The number of people who complain about the UltraPixel is few relative to the millions of units out there. The UltraPixel is a perfectly fine *mobile camera*.
  • Personally

    Don't get the appeal of metal bodies, cold as a block of ice in cool climates, scratches easily, the first thing people do is buy a case for the things anyway, so why rattle on about metal bodies, in my opinion they suck big time, Nokia had it exactly right with their polycarbonate bodies which feel great in the hand & to this mind are more colourful & appealing to boot.
  • Not for me.

    Looks nice but what's the point as I have to use a case to protect the phone from accidental drops.

    My next device will be either a Galaxy S5 or the next Nexus phone.
  • A more expensive BlackBerry Z30?

    This amounts to a more expensive BlackBerry Z30, with less megapixels. The top end BlackBerry is cheaper, has more megapixels for the camera, high end carbon fiber body and up to 25 hours of battery life. For the author to say he can't find a phone that last more than a full day, means he has not tried a BlackBerry 10 phone. Even the Q10 and Z10 easily last a full day on a charge. I usually charge my BlackBerry every second day. Interesting we all consider battery life and security "boring" when BlackBerry does it, but are impressed when a year later, a more expensive HTC product is almost as good.

    Also, HTC is still losing money, and has less market share than BlackBerry. At least BlackBerry still has nearly $3 Billion cash on hand. What's the chance HTC is around in a year?
    • ...

      Well duh it lasts more than a day because you can't do anything on a blackberry.