At a Glance
Look and Feel
With is its smooth, brushed aluminum back panel, the M8 is a beautiful phone to look at and to hold.
BoomSound dual front speakers, BlinkFeed social and news feed, and Sense TV remote control.
No frills user interface, improved camera and battery life over the previous HTC One.
Design enthusiasts, Android fans, multimedia users, social media junkies.
****1/2 (out of 5 stars)
The New HTC One
The previous HTC One was released in March 2013 and was met with critical acclaim. The New York Times’ David Pogue called it "The most beautiful (Android phone) you’ve ever seen.” And he wasn’t wrong.
Global sales (5 million units in its first month) paled in comparison to the Galaxy S4 (10 million in first month) or the iPhone 5 (5 million in first three days). This surprised me, since it was such a high quality device. I also know very few people that owned the previous HTC One.
Now, with the new and improved HTC One M8, HTC is hoping to better duel against the market leaders, Samsung and Apple. In fact, acknowledging its marketing needed improvement (its Robert Downey Jr. campaign last year was awful), the company hired for Samsung marketing chief Paul Golden as a consultant last month. If you can’t beat ’em, poach their employees.
As with the previous model, HTC’s challenge will be convincing people to choose the HTC One M8 over competing flagship smartphones.
The M8 is a gorgeous device. The model I tested was charcoal grey – its smooth, brushed aluminum back panel has a slight curve to it, so it fits nicely in your hand. It’s also quite light.
The front panel is its moneymaker. It might be the best-looking phone out there, Android or otherwise. It features a 5-inch, full-HD display and its dual front speakers are unique to the HTC One line.
But more importantly, how does the M8 perform?
When I reviewed the previous HTC One, I was disappointed with the camera. Photos I took, when compared to those taken with an iPhone 5, looked dull and flat in comparison. I had high hopes for the M8.
The camera features HTC is advertising include: "UFocus” (which lets you bring blurry objects into focus before or after you shoot); tilt controls and leveling line (to help you shoot better panoramic and wide-angle photos); and "UltraPixels” (which HTC says are "twice the average size” of regular pixels for better low-light and nighttime photography).
Upon taking the test shots, I was impressed. The colors were bright and the resolution was clear on the M8 display. However, when I compared them on the computer to photos taken with an iPhone 5s, the results were again disappointing. Indeed, the photos were better than if they were taken with the older model HTC One, but they weren’t up to par with a flagship phone the M8 hopes to outdo.
The sound off the M8 dual front speakers is remarkable. It’s also a design feature unique to HTC phones. iPhone speakers are on the bottom and Galaxy S line speakers are on the back (I know, right?).
Interestingly, the branding on these speakers has changed since the previous HTC One. They used to be Beats by Dre speakers; now they’re just called "BoomSound.” Nevertheless, they sound great.
Also proprietary to HTC is the M8’s BlinkFeed feature, which curates all your relevant news and social media updates in a single feed, accessible via left swipe off the home screen. I like this feature and I figure it would only get better the more you use it.
On the previous HTC One, I complained about BlinkFeed not incorporating Canadian news sources (e.g. CBC News, Globe and Mail, etc.), but thankfully for Canadian users, that’s no longer an issue.
As I alluded to earlier, I was impressed with the M8’s improved photo capture features, but not as impressed with the results.
Particularly disappointing was the camera’s performance in low-light conditions. As you can see below, the bagels don’t have as much depth or texture in the M8 photo. The background is a lot more washed out (look at the espresso machine or the clock, in particular). And overall, it just looks like the photo was taken through a filter – something I don’t want, unless I do it myself as an after effect.
Performance and Battery Life
One of the best things about the M8 is its minimalistic user interface. The layout is clean and navigation between apps is intuitive. Multitasking is also easy to figure out.
"Sense TV” is a new feature on the M8, and it turns your phone into a remote control – much like the Samsung Galaxy S phones do. It also offers a program guide to help you find desired shows, as well as sports (game times, channels, scores and stats) and social (real-time posting about what you’re watching) integrations.
Battery performance on the previous HTC One was poor, so I’m pleased to report that the M8’s battery performance was excellent during testing. I used the phone basically non-stop for two hours and the battery level barely moved. My co-worker has an M8 and says he gets at least a day and a half out of a single charge, which is significant for a flagship smartphone.
My co-worker also pointed out that the speakerphone mic on the M8 is sub-par. "You have to be within two feet of the speaker, or have it directly facing you, for anyone to hear you,” he said.
OS and Available Apps
The M8 ships with Android 4.4.2 KitKat – just like the Galaxy S5 – and gives you access to the entire Android app and content (Google Play) ecosystem.
Design folk are keen on the HTC One line not only because of its hardware, but also because of its software, or, in comparison to the Galaxy S5, its lack of software (i.e. bloatware). Many like how the M8 offers a more pared down Android user experience, versus the S5’s heavily branded experience. To each their own.
The M8 is a beautiful phone for people who want a beautiful phone. HTC calls it a phone "built to inspire envy.” I would recommend the M8 for design enthusiasts, Android loyalists, multimedia users (for its great sound and screen resolution), and social media addicts (for BlinkFeed especially).
The Bottom Line
As with the previous HTC One, the debate rages on as to whether the M8 is the best Android phone on the market. It’s a give and take with the Galaxy S5, whose camera is superior. But the HTC One looks and feels better in many ways, so it depends what you value. If you’ve never used an HTC device, the M8 is worth a shot.
Compare Cellular Editor's Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5 stars)