/>
X

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

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.
matt-miller-headshot.jpg
By Matthew Miller, Contributor on
onewp1.jpg
1 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

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

onewp2.jpg
2 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

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

onewp3.jpg
3 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Back of Windows Phone M8 and Android M8

onewp4.jpg
4 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Start and Home screen, Windows Phone vs Android

onewp5.jpg
5 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

BlinkFeed on Windows Phone and Android

onewp6.jpg
6 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

M8 for Windows in hand, bottom buttons hidden

onewp7.jpg
7 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

M8 for Windows in hand, bottom buttons revealed via a gesture

onewp8.jpg
8 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

HTC One M8 for Windows in Dot View case

onewp9.jpg
9 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

HTC One M8 for Windows in Dot View case, Cortana launched

onewp91.jpg
10 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Puppy photo taken with HTC One M8 for Windows

onewp92.jpg
11 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Downtown Seattle taken with HTC One M8 for Windows

onewp93.png
12 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

HTC apps on HTC One M8 for Windows

onewp94.png
13 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Note that iCloud is shown in the account setup

onewp95.png
14 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

HTC Android settings are present in Windows Phone

onewp96.png
15 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

HTC Dot View settings

onewp97.png
16 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Motion Launch settings

onewp98.png
17 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

HTC's attentive phone setting on HTC One M8 for Windows

onewpp1.png
18 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Launching BlinkFeed on HTC One M8 for Windows

onewpp11.png
19 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Setting up BlinkFeed

onewpp12.png
20 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Sport focused BlinkFeed

onewpp13.png
21 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Setting up the IR remote

onewpp14.png
22 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

HTC Sense TV experience

onewpp15.png
23 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

HTC Sense TV sports experience

onewpp15a.png
24 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Remote control on the HTC One M8 for Windows

onewpp16.png
25 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Prompt to help you understand the button gesture

onewppp1.png
26 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Camera interface

onewppp2.png
27 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Camera shortcuts in the HTC Camera app

onewppp3.png
28 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Adding effects in the HTC Camera app

onewppp4.png
29 of 29 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Making a highlight video with the HTC app

Related Galleries

Cybersecurity flaws, customer experiences, smartphone losses, and more: ZDNet's research roundup
shutterstock-1024665187.jpg

Related Galleries

Cybersecurity flaws, customer experiences, smartphone losses, and more: ZDNet's research roundup

8 Photos
Inside a fake $20 '16TB external M.2 SSD'
Full of promises!

Related Galleries

Inside a fake $20 '16TB external M.2 SSD'

8 Photos
Hybrid working, touchscreen MacBook hopes, cybersecurity concerns, and more: ZDNet's tech research roundup
Asian woman working at a desk in front of a computer and calculator

Related Galleries

Hybrid working, touchscreen MacBook hopes, cybersecurity concerns, and more: ZDNet's tech research roundup

8 Photos
Developer trends, zero-day risks, 5G speeds, and more: Tech research roundup
Person seated at a booth in a cafe looks at their phone and laptop.

Related Galleries

Developer trends, zero-day risks, 5G speeds, and more: Tech research roundup

10 Photos
Drive Electric Day: A dizzying array of EVs in sunny Florida
ca3b4019-26c5-4ce0-a844-5aac39e2c34b.jpg

Related Galleries

Drive Electric Day: A dizzying array of EVs in sunny Florida

16 Photos
Incipio, Kate Spade, and Coach cases for Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: hands-on
s22-ultra-incipio-coach-cases-2.jpg

Related Galleries

Incipio, Kate Spade, and Coach cases for Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: hands-on

15 Photos
Casetify Impact Crush Galaxy S22 Ultra case hands-on: in pictures
casetify-s22-ultra-3.jpg

Related Galleries

Casetify Impact Crush Galaxy S22 Ultra case hands-on: in pictures

10 Photos