HTC has redeemed itself with the HTC One M8. HTC’s newest flagship phone was revealed on March 25, with the Verizon Wireless version available immediately. It will be available for purchase on AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile on April 9. I received the brand new device (Verizon model) for review and can honestly say that we came away quite impressed.
As mentioned in our earlier HTC One M8 reveal post, the M8 is HTC’s newest flagship, boasting the latest Android operating system, Android 4.4 (KitKat), a 5″ full HD display, unique camera software (like the Duo Camera feature and UFocus) and a gorgeous metal unibody housing that cradles everything inside in a sleek design.
If you’re used to using an iPhone, the HTC one will feel like a behemoth, offering an additional inch more over iPhone’s 4″ Retina display. If you’re a long-time Android user you’re probably on a Samsung Galaxy phone, or similar and already enjoy the benefits of a larger screen. If you fall into the latter category, the HTC One M8 will feel like a premium device and different from most other Android phones that are made up of plastic. I fully appreciated the brushed gun-metal body of the M8; its curved edges and glassy clear screen is a huge step up from other competitors. It looks and feels damn good. My brief issue with this design however, is that the metal body is very smooth–almost too smooth and there are no grips on the phone. While that “omission” was purposely done to keep everything looking clean and polished, when you join that with someone with kid-size hands (i.e. me), it made me feel like the device would slip out of my grasp any second. In fact I’ve asked others with larger hands to walk around with the phone and they agreed the phone was kind of slippery. Because of this, I took great care in how I held the phone, being sure to use two-hands when in situations like a bumpy ride on the subway.
The obvious answer would be to put a case on it, however that would actually detract from the beauty of the device. Still, its important to note the slight design flaw–especially since HTC is offering a free screen repair within 6 months of owning the device–coincidence? The full metal body also means the phone can conduct a lot of heat–especially if you’re using process-intensive apps or happen to leave it somewhere where the phone can be smothered with material. For instance, one day I accidentally left the phone on a bed sheet, covered with a light blanket. The typical use your phone in bed then forget you left it there move. When I came back 20 minutes later, the phone was exceptionally hot to the touch.
As I mentioned before, the screen itself is great. The colors are exceptionally vivid and it was fun to watch video on a larger, clear screen. When it came to the camera; from Instagram pictures, action shots, and stills, it performed up to par with most current generation phones. I took a series of photos with both the iPhone 5S and the M8, experimenting with different lighting situations. The photos told the overall story that while the iPhone and Nokia Lumia cams are still the best in the league at compensating for a variety of picture situations–the M8 is no slouch. The pictures below show two situations where I took the same photo with both of the phones on their default settings and no zoom. In the deli photo where there was an overabundance of light towards the camera, the M8’s pictures had a “hazy” effect,and magnified the intensity of the light; while the iPhone photos looked clearer with better color balance.
In low-light situations the results were just the opposite: the M8 camera’s ability to take in much more light, resulting in better whites and contrasts, while the iPhone camera’s photos looked more yellow and dull. Objects appeared much closer through the M8 lens than in the iPhone, with the M8’s zoom squeaking slightly past the 5s. Both phones can do slow motion video, have panoramic mode (the M8 beats the iPhone here in my opinion) and have secondary sensors to help create better looking photos. If you do ever take a bad photo with the M8 there are enough software options to create spectacular shots. My favorite is UFocus which allows you to change the focus of a subject after you take a photo. Meaning, if you took a shot of your friend posing in front of you, but see a great photobomb behind them, you can actually adjust the shot and change it so the focus is on the photobomber. Also, the duo camera mode allows you to take pics from both the front facing and rear cameras at the same time. I thought that was a cool touch.
In terms of performance, the HTC One M8 is very fast, with its quad core-processor rendering images and content with speed. Switching between apps is super fluid and I experienced zero-lag when switching between videos, to sending Twitter messages, to loading Google Music, checking email, etc. At this point there shouldn’t be any performance hiccups when using a high end smartphone and the M8 delivers. The user interface is also pleasantly flat. While i was nervous the Sense UI would get in the way of me being able to use the phone without silly quirks or ugly menus, it was actually not an issue what so ever. I usually hate non-vanilla Android experiences because of manufacturer user interfaces (i.e. the way menus and features look in Samsung Galaxy phone–which uses the Touch Wiz UI). The M8’s interface felt and worked very close to a stock Android experience (like one you would find on a Nexus phone), so I was happy. Not surprisingly there is a suite of Verizon apps preloaded on the VZW version of the device–which you cannot remove. But to Verizon’s credit some of them are actually very useful (like Verizon Messenger). If you decide not to use these apps and turn off their notifications, they fade to the background and become an after thought.
You can’t talk about the M8 without mentioning the incredible sound and speakers. The HTC One has, by far, the best sound of any other smartphone on the market. Audio is clear and loud when playing music or watching videos, the call quality is crisp and you have a bevy of volume choices. In addition, HTC’s BoomSound audio feature actually works and makes music sound better. It makes everything sound rich and more alive. Lastly, the battery life will definitely vary depending on your usage. I would recommend using the power save features. If you’re a heavy user like myself, constantly sending messages and checking phone apps, you’ll want to invest in a portable battery bank. After using the phone off and on from 9 am – 6 pm, my battery was down to around 25%. Not bad for a typical work day. But if you’re going out for drinks or hanging out for another hour or so, you’re definitely hitting the danger zone. With the available Power Save options, along with easy tweaks (like turning off GPS or Wi-Fi if you’re not using it), the phone will make it through. I was irritated however that while the battery can support Quick Charge 2.0, the included charger is only 1.5 amps–which means you won’t get to take advantage of fast charging speeds. It took over an hour to get my phone from 10% to 100%
The added “convenience features” of the M8 give it a leg up over other phones in its class. In instances where you only have one hand free, the Motion Launch gesture controls come in handy. I often use the double tap gesture or swipe left to wake the screen if I just want to check the time. The phone has an understanding of spacial awareness as well due to its internal gyroscope. For instance, you can set it so that it rings louder if it “senses” its in your pocket or purse. You can even have it answer calls automatically if you raise the phone to your ear when you get an incoming call.
All in all the HTC One M8 is a great device and definitely worth the $199.99 (with 2 year agreement) that most carriers are selling it for. On Verizon they even have a buy one, get one free program where with the purchase of an M8 you can either get another M8, a Galaxy S5, or a Samsung ATIV for free. It remains to be seen how it will fare against the Galaxy S5. I’ll continue testing and release an update post next week. In the meantime with impeccable looks, speed, and ease of use I definitely recommend the HTC One M8 for those looking for a new Android phone, and those looking for a great alternative to iPhone. Will you purchase the M8? Do you think its a better buy than the iPhone 5s? Let me know in the comments below!