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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.
Copy and paste effect present on the HTC One (M8)
Fisherman photo in Seattle