The 2013 HTC One was a good smartphone, but its new sibling, the HTC One (M8), is even better.
HTC didn’t start from scratch with the HTC One (M8). In many ways, it only slightly differs from its predecessor -- there’s a reason it isn’t getting an entirely different name -- but HTC found a way to improve every part of the HTC One.
The new device features a bigger screen, a sleeker design, a longer-lasting battery and a better camera than its predecessor. The HTC One (M8) is a premium device, and its design sets that tone from the get-go.
The exterior of the HTC One (M8) borrows the best aspects of its predecessor and fixes the worst parts.
The HTC One (M8) still features the sleek metallic body with its two bold front-facing speakers. The only part of the phone that isn’t metal is the top edge, which is now replaced by an infrared sensor that lets the device be used as a TV remote control. On the HTC One, only the power button doubled as an infrared sensor.
Unlike its predecessor, the HTC One (M8) includes more rounded edges, which make the new phone easier to hold.
The rounded edges also do a lot to improve its design because the phone’s back cover now fully wraps around the phone’s sides. On the HTC One, the device’s edges were separate from the back cover and were made of white plastic that took away from its sharp look and didn’t match the metal design.
Users will also immediately notice the HTC One (M8)’s 1080p HD 5-inch screen, which is bigger than its predecessor’s 4.7-inch screen. The bigger screen makes the device a bit taller, but paired with its front-facing speakers makes the HTC One (M8) one of the best smartphones for consuming pure entertainment, whether it's watching a movie, playing a video game or jamming to music videos with a friend.
In terms of software design, HTC has improved its flagship by limiting interface tweaks. For the most part, this phone feels like it runs the standard Android 4.4 KitKat operating system.
HTC’s presence is felt only in a couple of places. The most obvious is in HTC’s Blinkfeed feature, which is a page found to the left of the home screen that shows content from users’ social networks.
The company also added a few helpful gesture controls, such as the ability to go into camera mode by raising the phone up horizontally and pressing the volume up button. While the phone is off, users can also swipe from the bottom edge to immediately unlock the device on the screen they were last on, swipe from the right to go to the home page, swipe from the left to go into Blinkfeed and swipe from the top to quickly make a call.
Other HTC tweaks are found in the settings app and the camera app.
The HTC One (M8) features a unique camera setup. The phone features the standard front-facing "selfie" camera and, not one, but two lenses on the back that are collectively referred to as the Duo Camera. One of the lenses is more of a depth sensor, but together they enable users to do two main things: refocus photos after they’ve been taken and apply a 3-D effect to them.
HTC is focusing a lot of its marketing of the One (M8) on the refocus feature, though it doesn't quite do what the description implies.
In reality, the cameras take a photo, and afterward users can go in and tap a part of the picture on which they want to focus. The device then blurs out what’s around the focus point. Sometimes this works very well and can add a cool blur effect similar to what users can do on Instagram, but other times it just makes the picture look weird. Users should not assume this refocus feature can save an out-of-focus shot.
As for the 3-D effect, the camera applies the data taken from both cameras to give users a 3-D version of their picture. In the phone, the effect is pretty neat.
But there’s not much users can do with the 3-D version of their picture. I tried posting one of my images with the 3-D effect on Facebook and it looked like a flat image when I checked it on my computer.
The quality of the regular pictures was very good. My photos and videos came out sharp, and I would proudly post them on my social networks. But the HTC One (M8)’s camera isn’t revolutionary.
The HTC One (M8)’s battery life, though, did stand out. I got a full day from the battery -- I used it from when I woke up until I went to sleep -- without it dying on me, all the while using the device for photos and videos, Web surfing, social media and a phone call. HTC said it would soon update the device with a feature called Extreme Power Saving mode that can be applied when the battery is nearly dead. The feature kills basically every part of the device except its crucial components, like the ability to make calls, in an effort to extend battery life. With 5% of the battery life left and with the mode turned on, users should get a couple of more hours from the device, according to the company.
The HTC One (M8) will go on sale April 11 from T-Mobile for zero down followed by 24 monthly payments of $26.50 a month, for a total of $636. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have the gadget in its standard gray design while Verizon offers gray as well as silver. A gold version is available from Best Buy.
All in all, the HTC One (M8) is one of the best phones users can buy. Along with a unique camera setup, it’s a very well-designed gadget with a large screen and a set of speakers made to provide users with excellent mobile entertainment.