HTC One M8 Review

Published on 28th March 2014 by Jon

While we don’t have a HTC One M8 in the Open Device Lab yet, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a try and let you guys know what it’s like. If you can help out with providing the Lab with a HTC One M8, we’d love to chat – please get in touch with us. Donating to the Lab gets a device directly into the hands of developers. When a device is new, that’s a really exciting thing to have for developers and new consumers of that device.

This review is more of a look at the phone itself from a consumer point of view, rather than a development/testing view, but I’ll throw in a few nuggets of browser info and OS version.

HTC announced and released the One M8 this week, available in stores on the same day as the announcement. Beyond being a great way to beat Samsung’s Galaxy S5 to the market (The S5 is due out April 11th in the UK), it also showed confidence from HTC to be able to announce and get devices into the hands of eager consumers quickly.

HTC have always made brilliant phones – a quick glance at the old HTC Hero, HTC Wildfire or HTC HD2 in our ODL can show you that. They still hold up incredibly well today and feel as solid as the day they were made. But they’ve always been guilty of making far too many phones, flooding the market only to inadvertently confuse consumers.

The M8, next to the ODL's iPhone 5 and a Nexus 5

The M8, next to the ODL’s iPhone 5 and a Nexus 5 on our new lovely desks.

But the HTC One last year was a stand against that – an attempt to make one amazing phone – and it worked. And the M8 is an evolution of the One – but it’s also an evolution of the standard smartphone experience.

Features

The phone is absolutely packed full of intelligent, sensible features. My favourite is the ability to wake the phone by double-tapping the screen – no more reaching for the unlock button. Alternatively you can swipe from the bottom to wake it, or from the top, left, or right to go straight to voice dial, feed, or widgets.

And even better, if you hold the phone sideways and hit a volume key, it’ll launch the camera right away. And this camera is quick.

The Camera

IMAG0005_1

The camera comes with a seperate sensor, so you can focus a picture after you’ve taken it – and it works really really well. A bunch of whole other editing effects comes built in, including the ability to make a photo sort-of 3D. Sort of. It doesn’t work as well as a proper 3D camera, obviously.

But the camera itself is quick. Quicker than any other phone I’ve used. It’s quick to open and it’s incredibly quick to shoot. While the camera is apparently only 4 megapixels, the speed and external sensor lead to brilliant shots. It was taking photos faster than I was prepared for. The camera app comes with a load of cool features – you can do a dual photo of both front and back, and there’s even a ‘selfie’ button that sets a timer on a front-shot. You can also apply effects to the photo before you take the shot, or after.

With the ability to launch the camera while the phone’s off, and the incredibly quick speed, it’s a great phone for quick shots. Some of the gimmicks in the camera aren’t great, but the sheer speed of the camera is impressive. And zooming in on the photo shows imperfections, so this is a far cry from some of the more incredible cameras out there.

We had some adventures in selfie-land – and I even managed to use the quick editing tools post-selfie to photoshop my face, so selfie obsessives should find this phone adds to their life.

Dot Case

We don’t have a dot case to try, but it’s another addition to the phone – with the dot case closed, you can still touch and interact with a simple UI on the dot screen. It lets you take calls, view the weather, and see other notifications, all while protecting your screen. It’s leaps and bounds against Samsung’s bizarre ‘hole view’ flip case which leaves a large gap of your screen unprotected.

Other Extras

There’s loads of other bits I like – the top of the phone comes with an IR blaster, so you can program it to work with your TV. It can even turn your to a different channel at set times. The phone has a slot for a micro SD card, something the HTC One didn’t have, so now you can increase the memory size to your heart’s content, something iPhone and Nexus users can only dream of. Sadly, the battery isn’t removable due to the industrial design.

It also comes with Fitbit pre-installed, with Fitbit sensors for sleep and walking – and also a smart alarm to wake you up from your sleep. There’s also a car mode, which simplifies the UI into car-only features, which is a standard feature many of you will be accustomed to. Apparently it also has two speakers and a ‘BoomSound’ feature, which will surely be useful if you enjoy sitting on buses annoying other passengers. This is largely an unneeded feature, but the speakers at the top and bottom give a nice symmetry and the sound is great for a smartphone. If you’re looking for good sound from a phone, then it’ll cover that base.

With the touch-screen-to-turn-on feature, and FitBit integration, AND the TV IR, it could feel like a phone wrapped up in gimmicks. Luckily, all of these feel like they add a lot to the experience – and in future, I hope that all smartphones come with a screen-tap-to-wake feature.

Oh, and in the box it comes with a gel case, so don’t rush out to buy one.

OS

The HTC One M8 runs Android 4.4.2 out of the box, so you’ve got all the features that a Nexus/Moto G user has all these days. The Android comes in HTC’s ‘HTC Sense’, which is the least offensive of the non-Vanilla flavours. HTC Sense comes with nice extra apps and a really lovely visual style. The main functional differences in HTC Sense is the multitasking view and that the app tray goes downwards rather than across. I wasn’t a fan of the HTC keyboard, but I’m sure the Google Keyboard is just a download or settings toggle away.

Browser

The phone comes with the default Internet Browser installed, which reports itself as the following user-agent:

Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 4.4.2; en-gb; HTC_One_M8 Build/KOT49H) AppleWebKit/534.30 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile Safari/534.30

The browser scored 431 on HTML5 Test, and 100 on AcidTest.

Screenshot_2014-03-28-15-46-53 Screenshot_2014-03-28-15-47-13

Design

The M8 is gorgeous. At 160g, it feels just right in your hand – not too heavy, not too light. It truly feels like a premium phone, and the cold brushed aluminium looks great. The build quality is fantastic, with the slight hint of plastic on the top (for the IR) showing how many features are packed into this, both software and hardware-wise. The design team at HTC have put a lot of thought into this, and it shows. There’s even a subtle lip around the edge of the front, so even when you put it face down, the screen won’t touch the surface. It feels premium, and feels leaps and bounds ahead of the cheap-feeling Galaxy S5.

It looks like it’s a really tall phone, but once it’s in your hands it doesn’t feel like a chore to reach every corner of the screen.

Fact Sheet

  • Operating System: 4.4.2 Android, w/ HTC Sense
  • Screen: 5 inches, 1080×1920
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, quad-core
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Memory: 16/32GB – expandable with MicroSD.
  • Battery: 2300 mAh

The Downsides

It’s fast, it’s got a great OS, and it looks gorgeous – there’s got to be some downsides. The battery is 2300mAh, and with the huge screen, that could get sucked up quickly. That’s something that will have to be found out in time.

The HTC One M8 is a premium phone. And with that comes a premium price tag. It runs for over £600 off-contract, and contracts are high. When comparing the market against the equally priced iPhone and the far cheaper off-contract Nexus 5, it can be difficult to justify.

However, if you’re looking for a premium phone – and, in my eyes, the most premium, feature-packed Android phone money can buy, the HTC One M8 is the one to get. If you can get past the price, you’ll find a great Android experience.

While you can’t use the HTC One M8 in the ODL (yet), you can still have access to over 250 devices, free of charge. Book a free session now or check out our device collection, including 14 HTC devices across 3 operating systems.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is due to be released April 11th. If you can help us secure it before or after that release, then please get in touch via our twitter or email the ODL.

Thank you to Matt for letting Jon borrow his brand new phone all afternoon.