HTC One (M8)

Imagine a phone with the deadly combination of beautiful hardware and a remarkable amount of power. One that puts beauty and elegance into the same sentence. HTC has made that imagined phone into a reality with the new HTC One (M8). 

Disclaimer

This HTC One has been sent to me by Verizon Wireless; this has had no effect on the review.

You might think the new HTC One is similar to its predecessor, but it isn’t. The latest One is sexier, taller, louder, faster — an all around improvement. The One’s sleek and smooth aluminum unibody provides an industrial look and feel. From its chamfered edges to its curved rear, the HTC One fits perfectly in my hand. The HTC logo below the screen serves two purposes related to appearance: it not only identifies the brand, but also camouflages the circuitry underneath it.

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It took a while for me to get comfortable with the One’s height, but after I adapted to the phone's physical attributes, I was perfectly satisfied with all but one thing: the power button. For a phone that’s big enough to fit an iPhone 5s inside its shell, the One’s power button should be on the side. Its placement requires me to reposition my grip to access it. Thankfully, software remedies that issue, which I’ll talk about later.  

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Last year’s HTC One spoiled me with its powerfully loud, crisp speakers, but the speakers on the new HTC One are miles better. Wherever I might be, I can easily hear the phone without having to bring it to my ear — these speakers are ridiculous in a good way. Quite possibly the best speakers you'll find now on any smartphone. Below, is a video displaying how loud and clear the speakers are. 

Although the video can't do the speakers justice, you’ll have to experience it yourself in person or take my word for it. In between the speakers is the 5-inch 1080p display that gets a lot of things right: great colours, colour-consistent viewing angles, and a crisp resolution. It’s also worth noting that the HTC One has a record-breaking touch responsiveness, which makes its touch latency better than any other phone out there including Xperia Z2, Galaxy S5, iPhone 5s. 

Compared to the previous One (M7), the new One (M8) looks less “busy” with its cleaner profile. I like the direction HTC is going in with their HTC series and hope they don’t saturate it with multiple variants of the same model.

The execution on the HTC One is great. Sometimes I find myself taking the phone out just to admire it. Do I have issues? Who cares? The phone is beautiful, and comparable to the iPhone 5s and Nokia Lumia 920 in terms of aesthetics. 

Look at how light plays with the phone’s back — it's gorgeous. The One’s hardware is amazing, but how about the software? 


The One runs Android’s “KitKat” 4.4.2 with a skinned version called HTC Sense 6. This updated skinned version of KitKat provides aesthetic changes with a small amount of new tools. 

Regardless of the aesthetic changes to stock Android, there’s a bunch of useless bloatware provided by none other than Verizon. Luckily, you can hide unwanted apps, although you can’t uninstall them. Nevertheless, I’m not surprised about that with Android devices provided by a carrier.

As mentioned before, the phone's power button is inconveniently too high, but software remedies that issue to a certain extent.  HTC has introduced Motion Launch, a feature that enables you to wake up and unlock your phone by using either an app or the touchscreen. Motion Launch is a combination of a motion gesture of simply lifting the phone, followed by a finger gesture. Double-tapping the device can either wake it up or turn it off. Using a gesture to turn the phone’s screen off is only accessible from the lockscreen. 

My two favourite built-in apps would have to be the the Car Mode and the TV app. The Car Mode is simple and intuitive. The One accurately and flawlessly recognizes my voice and the simple touch-free commands. With the TV app, I can use the phone’s built-in IR blaster to control multiple TV sets, cable boxes and sound systems, while prompting me about my favourite TV shows with live Twitter updates. So futuristic. 

The most striking thing on the phone is its cameras. It has two cameras instead of one. You’re probably thinking, “Two is better than one, right?” In this case it’s not. HTC had one thing that obviously needed to be improved — the camera. Sure, the old HTC One’s camera was good, but you had to work to make it good. The biggest thing I miss with the iPhone 5s is the ease of getting the shot; no mucking around with controls. Simply click the shutter. 

HTC fails to provide a ground-breaking camera. The second camera is supposed to capture depth information for generating non-essential effects. With the two cameras on the back, HTC had to compromise with no optical image stabilisation (OIS); this makes it difficult to compose images when you can’t keep your hands steady. 

As you can see, the One (M7) seems to produce sharper details in low light better than the One (M8). The compromise the One (M8) makes is trying to decrease noise (grain) in turn for detail, versus the One (M7) retaining more detail with more noise. In regards to the One's (M8) camera, shooting in low-light produces shots that try to decrease noise in turn for less detailed shots.

The One (M8) seems to redeem itself in daylight images rather than low-light. Daylight images are sharp, but still lack a great balance of highlights and shadows; the dynamic range performance is inconsistent. Images tend to have a "warmer" tone to them, than actually having an accurate white balance. 

The One's duo camera is completely unnecessary. Out of all the images I've taken with the phone, I've only used the 'background blur' feature twice. Other than that, I would have preferred that they include 8 megapixels with OIS. 

Truth be told, the One (M7) is more consistent than the One (M8), which allures me into using my One (M7) for shots rather than the new One.

The images below were taken with the One (M8) for my 'One' Photographer Project that will be coming soon.


Gallery


In regards to performance, the One absolutely flies; it’s comparable to using the LG G2. The One really shines with its smooth-scrolling. The phone hasn’t given me any performance issues — no stuttering or crashes. As for battery life, the HTC One uses energy like a nun sips vodka. My daily phone usage consists of about 11 hours from 6 A.M to 5 P.M. During that time, the phone’s mobile data and auto-sync are on all the time, plus I will stream music occasionally, read/answer emails, view Feedly, and handle other routine tasks. By the time it's 6 P.M, the battery is around 45%.

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Without a doubt, the latest One is the greatest product from HTC. It's clear that HTC’s objective in creating the One was to develop a balance between beauty and power. In balancing those two, HTC made a great phone for people who love both beauty and power in their devices. The real question is how do you quantify what is great for you. Some may value speakers over a camera, while others may value minimalism over maximalism; it simply boils down to what you prefer in a phone. 

So, does the HTC One fulfill what you value in a phone? The only way to answer that question is with your wallet. 


Pros

  • Motion gestures
  • Crisp and clear display
  • Beautiful hardware design
  • Loud and clear BoomSound speakers
  • Fluid performance 
  • Improved battery life

Cons

  • Unnecessary bloatware
  • Camera performance below par with competing devices

Aesthetics - 9

Battery Life - 9

Camera - 7.5

Software - 8

Performance - 9


Further Reading

HTC - Daily Camera / iPhone 5s