HTC has finally made the HTC One M8 official, and yes, that really is the name it has chosen. Despite the device being steadily and comprehensively leaked over the past few months, HTC did manage to hold back a few details to surprise us with on the big day. The question is: Does the all-new HTC One have what it takes to win people’s hearts and wallets this time around, helping to return the company to former glories. Or will it suffer at the hands of Samsung and the Galaxy S5? Let’s find out with a close look at the all the official details.
Updated on 04-24-2014 by Andy Boxall: Reports of a software update being pushed to the HTC One M8 are starting to spread. It contains several improvements, and adds the Extreme Power Saving Mode.
Where can you buy One, and how much will it cost?
HTC says the One M8 will be the single largest product launch in its history, and will be sold on 230 networks globally. Before the end of April, it will be released in America, UK, Germany, France, China, Australia, and Taiwan. An exact date wasn’t provided, but HTC said “most will have the phone in-store before April 10.”
Sure enough, sales are already underway:
- AT&T: Starting at AT&T, the One M8 will cost $200 with a two-year contract, or $32 per month on Next 12. Off-contract, it’s priced at $640.
- Verizon: Head over to Verizon and the phone is also $200 with a two-year contract, or $25.22 per month with Verizon Edge. It’s a little cheaper off-contract too, and costs $600 exactly. Verizon also has a limited time buy-one-get-one-free offer running with the One M8, provided you sign a pair of two-year contracts.
- T-Mobile: At T-Mobile, the One M8 has a full price of $636 with nothing up front, then 24 monthly payments of $26.50, plus your standard bill.
- Sprint: Finally, Sprint has the HTC One M8 for $200 on a two-year plan, or can offer the phone contract free for $650. There’s also the option to pay nothing up front, then $27.09 per month for the next two-years.
However, if you’d rather do your shopping on Amazon.com, and are thinking of getting an HTC One M8 connected to Verizon or Sprint, then make sure you check the site first. At the time of writing, both these networks have the phone priced at $150 with a two-year contract on Amazon, saving you $50 over buying one direct. Amazon, and all the networks, list the HTC One M8 as being in stock and ready for delivery now.
Software update adds Extreme Power Saving mode
Although HTC has optimized the battery performance of the One M8 to provide 40 percent more battery life than the original One, it has still added an “Extreme Power Saving” mode, which works like a turbocharged version of Samsung’s Ultra Power Saver Mode on the Galaxy S5. Like the Samsung tool, it strips away all the garnish, provides a simple interface, and only lets you access basic features.
However, the feature wasn’t included with all HTC One M8 phones at launch, due to it needing to pass regulation tests ensuring emergency calls could still be made with it switched on. Apparently, it passed with flying colors. Owners have started to report the feature’s arrival inside a software update for the phone. Listed as version 1.55.631.4, the 150MB update also contains unspecified improvements to the Duo Camera and the gallery.
According to HTC, a fully charged One M8 in Extreme Power Saver mode will last for up to two weeks without needing a recharge. If your One M8 is missing the Extreme Power Saving mode, then check Software Updates on the device to see if it’s ready to go.
Hardware will sound familiar
If all you worry about is specs, then the HTC One M8 won’t capture your attention for long, as not only is it fairly similar to last year’s HTC One, but it’s also identical to many other high-end smartphones on the market today. For example, the screen measures 5-inches, is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, and has a 1080p resolution.
HTC has chosen the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor running at 2.3GHz to power the phone, and paired it with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage memory. A welcome addition is a MicroSD card slot, which can bump this figure by a huge 128GB, if you don’t mind spending some cash on the card itself. A 16GB version of the One M8 will also be produced, but potentially only sold in Europe.
A pair of BoomSound speakers are mounted on the front panel, and the amp is supposed to be 25 percent louder than before, but there’s no Beats Audio branding or software included this time around. Above the screen is a 5-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens, and HTC has tweaked the rear 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera to work with the Snapdragon 801 processor, which results in a 0.3 second focus time, and better quality images.
Duo Camera looks cool
The many leaks told us the HTC One M8 would have a dual-lens camera, but short of saying it would be to mess around with the depth of field, they didn’t go into much detail. We now know HTC is calling the new setup a Duo Camera, plus that it offers one-touch refocus, which it calls UFocus.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen such technology on a smartphone. Most of this year’s flagship phones offer something similar, such as Nokia’s ReFocus app, and Magic Focus on the LG G Pro 2. The difference here is instead of being a software-driven system which takes several photos in quick succession to produce the desired effect, the Duo Camera includes all the depth information in one shot. It’s the second lens, which is actually a sensor, that collects all that detail.
HTC says the Duo Camera captures “true depth information in your photos,” meaning it understands which objects in your photo are close to you, and which are further away. This will allow users to add the blurred-background “bokeh” effect instantly, with a tap of the screen. This is all done in the regular camera mode, so there’s no need to remember a setting or run a separate app, and there a various modes to help you implement the feature.
Additionally, the camera now has a dual-LED, dual-color flash, complete with different color modes for improved color reproduction. There’s no optical image stabilization, only digital, but there is a selection of editing tools, and cool effects – including an unusual 3D look – to apply to your pictures. In the summer, HTC will release a new version of its Zoe video tool. This will make those short videos easier to produce, and also upload them into the cloud, ready for friends to re-edit and create their own versions.
Gorgeous metal bodywork
One aspect of the original HTC One which didn’t need fixing is the design, and HTC has stuck with the same formula for the One M8. The metal unibody now covers 90 percent of the chassis, compared to 70 percent on the previous model, and it measures 9.3mm thick. The polished metal finish has a feathered, brushed design, described as an effect which is more at home on jewelry than a smartphone. If you’ve decided on a gold version of the One M8, you need to know it doesn’t have the same brushed effect as the other models, and is apparently noticeably smoother to the touch.
Unlike several of its competitors, the HTC One M8 isn’t waterproof. Or is it? HTC certainly hasn’t said anything about it, but a video has been uncovered, which apparently shows the new phone working away happily, despite being underwater. It’s not been in the drink for five seconds either, but 90 minutes, if the video is to be believed. We would suggest putting this to the test with your new M8, but it may provide some evidence the phone will resist the odd splash without dying on the spot.
HTC’s Online Global Communications Manager, Jeff Gordon, has spoken out about the One M8’s resistance to water. He tweeted the phone is rated IPx3, which means it’s able to be used in rainy or damp conditions without issue.
Gordon also cleared up another mystery. If you were wondering about the large black section beneath the screen, which only seems to be there to make the HTC logo stand out, there is actually a point to it. Gordon’s tweet says the area isn’t empty space, but hides “a huge amount of circuitry and antennae.” It’s necessary to the HTC One M8’s operation then, and not just the bit where the capacitive keys once were, which they didn’t know what to do with.
New, Improved “Sixth Sense” software experience
Android 4.4 KitKat is installed on the One M8, and HTC has covered it in Sense 6.0, its revised and rebuilt user interface. BlinkFeed has been improved too. It’s now one, long scrolling list, and draws from a list of 10,000 content providers. Those familiar with BlinkFeed will spot new animations, the introduction of larger images, new animations, and an easier way of adding additional content.
Other alterations inside Sense 6.0 include redesigned icons, more minimalist fonts, a wide range of themes, and several newly refreshed apps. For example, Sense TV is designed to replace your TV remote control, and comes with built-in social networking features, plus a dedicated sports section.
HTC has made BlinkFeed, the Gallery app and others available through Google Play, which will allow them to be updated without the need for an over-the-air update to be approved and sent out. It’s a big step forward to keeping these apps fresh with new features. Also, HTC has opened BlinkFeed, Zoe, and UFocus up to developers, so they can be incorporated into third party apps.
Among the first partners to integrate into BlinkFeed are Foursquare, so check-ins and other news will be added to your feed, plus FitBit. This, combined with the One M8’s sensors, turn it into a FitBit activity tracker, but without the wristband. It’s also worth noting the One M8 has onscreen Android buttons, and not separate ones as with the original model.
Ignore the sleep/wake key, use gesture controls instead
HTC has added a selection of gesture controls called Motion Launch. These are accessed through a dedicated menu, and they’re all designed to stop you from pressing the sleep/wake key, and to be used when the screen is off. For example, a double tap will wake up the screen, lifting the phone to your ear will answer it, while turning the device sideways and hitting the volume button will activate the camera.
Extreme power saving could be great
HTC has optimized the battery performance of the One M8 to provide 40 percent more battery life than the original One. An “extreme” battery-saving mode has also been added, which works like a turbocharged version of Samsung’s Ultra Power Saver Mode on the Galaxy S5. Like the Samsung tool, it strips away all the garnish, provides a simple interface, and only lets you access basic features. According to HTC, a fully charged One M8 in Extreme Power Saver mode will last for up to two weeks without needing a recharge. That’s one feature we want to test.
Google Play Edition incoming
HTC has also revealed a One M8 without all its Sense 6.0 user interface, or the accompanying software, as a Google Play Edition. However, it’s not running a completely standard build of Android 4.4 KitKat. Don’t worry though, the alterations are made so owners get to enjoy the Duo Camera, which requires certain tweaks and additional settings. Otherwise, the specification is exactly the same. It’s available for pre-order now, and costs $700.
Wide range of accessories available at launch
In addition to One M8 specific versions of HTC’s Double Dip and Flip cases, HTC has also launched the Fetch and the Mini+ accessories for the new phone. The Fetch is a keyring which helps locate a misplaced phone, and the Mini+ is a strange phone-for-your-phone device. The Dot View case is the only really new accessory. It’s a flip front case which displays notifications, the weather, and the time in a retro dot-matrix look style.
Let us know if HTC has done enough with the One M8 to persuade you it’s the phone to buy, or will you be going for one of its competitors?
Updated on 04-11-2014 by Andy Boxall: The HTC One M8 is now available through most networks in America, but the best deal – if you’re after a contract – comes from Amazon. We’ve added in all the prices and conditions you need to know about the new HTC flagship phone, so you can easily find the right deal.
Updated on 04-03-2014 by Andy Boxall: Added in and explanation of the black space beneath the One M8’s screen, provided by HTC, plus details on the Google Play Edition, the first HTC One M8 advert, and a hint the phone may not be too scared of water.
Updated on 03-25-2014 by Andy Boxall: All the official information on the HTC One M8 has been added to the article below, while all the many, many rumors from our roundup can still be found on page two.
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