The HTC One M8 improves an already solid (metal) phone
HTC announced its successor to last year's heralded HTC One in New York on Tuesday, which we'll be calling the HTC One M8. Although the main details of the phone had largely been leaked in advance of the event, there were still a few surprises and a lot to like. The new phone keeps and improves upon the best attributes of the original One, while also adding new features from other top phones of the past year and taking an above-and-beyond approach to customer service.
Returning in the HTC One M8 is even more of that popular metal body, which design lead Jonah Becker told us during his part of the presentation is now a 90 percent metal housing, versus 70 percent metal for its predecessor.
A 5-inch screen packing 440 pixels per inch, the new Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor and a 64 GB Micro SD slot provide a solid foundation for a top-flight Android phone, but the new dual-lens camera on the back of the One M8 is the upgrade worthy of the most buzz. This hardware allows the camera to capture full depth of field, creating a Lytro-like capability to remove blurring and refocus on any point in a photo, even after it's been taken.
Announcements like this always tout some sort of proprietary approach to photos that tell us very little about how the camera will perform in the wild, and HTC is no different, touting its own "ultrapixel technology" that provides better quality under all lighting conditions. But one improvement it was able to back up with solid numbers is a 50 percent faster focus time, which is a small but welcome improvement to any smartphone camera. For selfie fans, the front-facing camera is also more powerful, with a 5-megapixel shooter.
Another of the hardware wins on the original HTC One also received a much-appreciated upgrade in the One M8. HTC's only slightly irritatingly-named Boomsound audio system gets a little more bass and well-rounded sound. Built-in amps on the One M8's front-facing speakers help to pump out sound up to 95 decibels.
Perhaps the nicest little bit of improved hardware comes in the form of a new battery that HTC says lasts 40 percent longer.
While the hardware specs and design of the One M8 speak for themselves, HTC spent some time explaining the upgrades in version six of its Sense UI, starting with its Blinkfeed home screen app that brings custom feeds into Sense. The company announced partnerships with FourSquare and Fitbit to add personal and social information into Blinkfeed. Also notable is the announcement that HTC is opening up Blinkfeed to developers with an available SDK, and that key parts of Sense will be available to update as Apps via the Google Play store.
One of those apps is Sense TV, which adds social feeds and sports statistics for a promising second-screen experience and remote control replacement.
One interesting new feature that wasn't clearly demonstrated is a three-finger swipe gesture that would allow that "boomsound" to be thrown directly to a wireless speaker setup. The jury will likely remain out on that one until we get to do a detailed review.
The new gestures don't end there, though. HTC seems to have adopted some of the successful contextual-awareness abilities of Motorola's Moto X, but then taken them even further with gestures that allows a user to bypass the lock screen and immediately get to specific apps, the camera, clock, or even automatically answer a call by simply putting it to their ear.
HTC announced one interesting accessory during its event, a special cover with a retro-style dot matrix display that can show certain notifications on the cover itself, without having to even touch the phone.
HTC's Jason MacKenzie shared that the roll-out of the One M8 would be the largest in company history, with the phone eventually landing on 230 carriers in 100 countries, starting with the United States and Canada immediately, and expanding to Australia, Taiwan, the UK, Germany, France and China by the end of April.
Unmentioned during the event but later confirmed was planned Google Play and developer editions of the One M8.
The final bit of feel-good news for HTC fans came in the form of coming software updates for existing owners of devices in the HTC One family, and a new initiative from the company, which pledges to fix damaged phones and displays, no matter the cause, for the first six months after purchase.
One final incentive worth mentioning: if you happen to be in the United States and interested in a new Verizon Wireless contract to go with your new HTC One M8, you can go into one of the carrier's stores starting today for a limited time and get a second One M8 for free, so long as you're willing to sign another two-year contract to go with that free phone. The subsidized price of that first phone is US$199, by the way.