Today electronics-maker HTC simultaneously held events in New York City and elsewhere to announce its new flagship phone, the HTC One M8. The event in both features and tone was a shot across the bow to Android market leader Samsung. In fact, they called out their rival by all but name in the press conference, calling the GS5 just “another plastic phone with dimples on the back.” Does the 2014 edition of the HTC One have what it takes to back up this bravado? Let’s take a look.
The HTC One M8
If you liked the previous generation of HTC One in terms in feature set and styling, you’ll love the M8. It keeps the aluminum body and this year gets rid of the plastic sides going completely unibody. The phone is built around a 5″ 1920×1080 full HD screen at 440 PPI. If you liked the M7, but were waiting out for a larger screen, the M8 was the phone for you. If you liked the slightly smaller than the rivals form factor, but with a more powerful feature set, you’re going to be slightly disappointed with that aspect. However you might like the rest of the phone enough to get over it.
The CPU is a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 quad core. While this isn’t a 64-bit ARM chip yet, it’s a nice improvement over last year’s Snapdragon 600. The camera situation is radically different from last year and probably any other phone on the market. Up front, they really stepped up the game and gave you a tool to make selfies that don’t suck (Cough… Cali) with a 5mp sensor and a wide angle lens. With the prevalence of both video conferencing and pictures from the front, it’s about time someone paid the same attention to the front camera they did to the rear. That’s not to say that HTC ignored the rear camera, because there is a two camera array there like nothing I’ve seen. They’re calling it Duo Camera. There’s the primary UltraPixel sensor and a secondary smaller camera for determining depth. This allows for DSLR-like bokeh effects. The UltraPixel sensor is 1/3″, a pixel size of 2.0um, and has a 28mm lens in f/2.0 The rear camera doesn’t have 4K, but it can shoot HDR video. Both cameras can shoot HDR photos and the HTC app has a lot of manual controls.
Like previous members of this series, the One M8, features HTC’s BoomSound speakers. The sound chamber has been redesigned for even better sound and 25% more volume. It also has built-in amps for the speakers. Battery size is bumped up slightly from 2300mAh in the old model to 2600mAh in the M8. That being said, the new phone is said to deliver 40% greater battery battery life despite the modestly better battery. The specification list rounds out with one last and much requested addition, a MicroSD slot. It’s capable of taking cards all the way up to the new 128GB cards. For those asking about the fingerprint sensor from the HTC One Max, it didn’t make it this time around.
The HTC One runs HTC’s Sense 6.0 skin on top of Kit Kat. HTC thinks it’s so smart they’re calling it the “sixth sense.” While it won’t let you see dead people, it comes with some very nice features. Both the Sense launcher and the Blink Feed app have been updated with a new, cleaner look. Blink Feed now has an SDK for integration with services. The system also has a motion launch feature that will bring up apps, like the phone, depending on where you’re holding it. For lovers of Zoe, HTC’s camera app, (not the actress from New Girl – that’s Zooey), there is a new cloud option. For fitness lovers, the Sense 6.0 integrates with Fitbit.
The most interesting part might be the power saving features. The phone can switch to a much more basic interface called extreme power saving mode to bring power draw to a minimum. It’ll give you a whopping two weeks on a full charge and 15 hours at 5%. This should ensure you have at least basic phone functionality if you’re a ways away from a charge.
If there has been a criticism about Android phones, it’s that the makers don’t quite stand behind their products. Phones don’t tend to see updates after they’re out of the limelight. HTC is nipping this and more in the bud with their HTC Advantage program. The M8 and other HTC phones are guaranteed 2 years of Android updates by HTC. The company is also offering a free screen replacement if it’s cracked within the first 6 months of ownership. You also get 25-50GB of free cloud storage and cloud backup. This is not a paid service either, it’s standard for the original owners of HTC One, One Max, and One Mini. If HTC follow through on these promises, it could be a bit incentive for this brand.
Pricing & Availability
The HTC One M8 will be available on all the major US carriers and in over 230 countries. In North America, if you’re lucky, you can get one right now. It’ll be sold at AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint Pricing is between $600 and $700 off contract (it varies depending on carrier) or a standardized $199 with a 2-year contract. A T-Mobile version is on its way, but not currently being sold. It comes in Gunmetal Grey, Glacial Silver, and Amber Gold. The silver is exclusive to Verizon, and while the gold is available to all 3 carriers, it’s only sold via Best Buy.
But what if you’re not into the whole HTC Sense thing? The M8, like the M7, is also available in a Google Play Edition. You’ll lose the Sense 6 interface, and you’ll get stock Android almost as quickly as a Nexus device. The HTC One M8 Google Play Edition will retail for $699 on Google Play. It’ll be GSM unlocked and work with AT&T, T-Mobile, and any other carrier that uses the GSM network and the 700mhz and AWS LTE frequencies. Verizon customers, you’re out of luck… for now.
HTC makes a very compelling case with its new HTC One M8. It’s top of the line when it comes to features and styling. Then there’s the HTC advantage where HTC backs their product. The HTC One M8 is exactly what it needed to be, what they were already doing with the M7 and the One Max and adding in features customers could use.
What do you think of the new HTC One M8? Let us know in the comments, our new Geek Beat forums, or social media.