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HTC One M8 Review


Review by Andrew Kameka on Monday April 07, 2014.

htc one m8 · android reviews · smartphone reviews · htc news · android news · smartphone news · andrew kameka

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HTC One M8
HTC One M8

Software and Apps

HTC continued its refinement trend by introducing some much needed touch-ups in Sense 6, like the ability to personalize the device with themes and fonts. I love the different accent colors and being able to use Helvetica on my phone. The Android 4.4-powered software still maintains the clean look introduced in Sense 5, but it's more organized now. I once called Blinkfeed a jumbled mess; that's no longer the case. Blinkfeed remains a useful tool to see news articles from top sources like the Associated Press or ESPN, but it also lets users choose their favored publications and has tools that will allow even more publishers to join later this year. Photos and links shared from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ also appear.

The HTC TV and the Gallery apps also see changes for the better. Gallery organizes pictures by album, location, or date, and it includes the ability to apply plenty of filters and effects to photos. The TV app acts as a guide, social media tracker, and a remote control that's capable of adjusting volume, browsing what's on, and recommending what to watch. Sports fans will be especially pleased by the inclusion of updates from live matches. I was very surprised to see that STATS supplies live information about scores and major events for NCAA basketball, NASCAR, MLS, NFL, EPL, and more. Not only can it tell me what's on and navigate to that channel, it can even go through guides and switch between inputs to fully control my living room.

The HTC One M8 ships with a number of utility apps like Tasks, Scribble, and Music. You'll probably replace most of these apps with more powerful, feature-rich, and Internet-connected versions of these apps that are available in Google Play, but it's nice to have options. There are also several apps preloaded by carriers; my Verizon model 23 preloaded apps for carrier and partner services. There are also tools for managing these services, including the new Kid Mode and Parental Dashboard. Running the Zoodles-based apps will put children into a locked section of pre-approved apps and games they can access.

More important than any of these new changes is the way that HTC will deliver them. It's important to note that HTC has stripped TV, Blinkfeed, Zoe, and other apps from the firmware package and will distribute them through Google Play. This is an incredibly smart strategy because it means that updates can happen sooner or more frequent than ever before. HTC has done a decent job trying to keep up with promises to update phones, but it still took several weeks to get KitKat on the original HTC One. Getting new versions of Android will matter less if there's an update to core apps within days after HTC has crafted updates. When you look around the various apps created by HTC, it's encouraging to know that they won't be restricted by delayed updates.

HTC One M8 Duo Camera with Ultrapixel
HTC One M8 Duo Camera with Ultrapixel

Camera

HTC used the One M8 to introduce Duo Camera, a new feature that pairs two cameras on the rear of the device to produce a 4-megapixel photo with some unique effects. Duo camera follows the "Ultrapixel" trend of using large sensors to capture more light and theoretically take better low-light photos. Stats for the 28mm lenses include Backside Illumination, 2.0 micron, 1/3" sensor size, and f/2.0. Translation: it takes good photos, though it could be better. The problem with capturing more light is that HTC doesn't always know what to do with it, leading to overexposed images and focus being thrown off completely by light sources like windows or chandeliers. Be prepared to manually adjust exposure and brightness settings. Tap to focus will also greatly improve results.

A lack of OIS means moving subjects are difficult to capture cleanly. The One M8 can still take bright and sharp photos in most conditions. The low light magic that HTC claims isn't on par with what other manufacturers offer, but the phone has two-tone flash that does an excellent job in dark settings. I was very pleased to see the flash accurately depict two of my friends with very different skin tones within the same image.

Surprisingly, HTC added a 5-megapixel camera in the front. Considering the rise of "selfies" in recent times, it makes sense, as does the presence of a wide-angle lens. It's a bit strange to see the front camera produce larger images than the back, but considering that the most famous selfie of all time is a blurry group photo taken at the Oscars, I can at least understand the rationale.

Communication and Data

I've already mentioned the fantastic speakers and how well they work for hands-free calls. I must add that Verizon's network played a role in that. My local area is saturated by 4G LTE coverage and I rarely ever have issues with data speeds or dropped calls, so the HTC One M8 paired with Verizon has been an incredible communication device. That may vary by carrier and region, but I managed to carry out a conversation on a busy New York street and inside a bar without the person on the other end complaining about noise drowning out my voice. The microphones on the M8 are clear and a strong network ensures a static-free call.

HTC One M8 nano SIM slot
HTC One M8 nano SIM slot

Battery Life

It's tough to rate the battery life on the HTC One M8 because it's still an incomplete equation. The 2,600 mAh battery and Snapdragon 801 did a good job of keeping up with my needs. I managed to get 10 to 15 hours of use depending on my activity. If I got really conservative and lowered screen brightness to the low setting in the quick toggle area, I could push that to a full day. However, the full potential of endurance has yet to be measured because HTC has an "Extreme" power saver mode that promises to drastically extend standby time.

The One M8 could last several hours longer with Extreme mode enabled, according to HTC, but I can't verify those claims because the US models do not include the option. My Verizon model doesn't even include the regular Power Saver Mode that helps prolong battery life. My friends with T-Mobile models confirm it helps, so I look forward to seeing if the Power Saver update will put the HTC One M8 on a higher tier of long-lasting devices.

HTC One M8
HTC One M8

Conclusion

HTC made my job incredibly easy with the HTC One M8. In terms of beauty, quality, and feel, there aren't many devices worthy of comparison to the One M8. I went looking for major gripes to have about the phone, but struggled to come up with any aside from the camera and aforementioned inconsistencies across carrier models. It wasn't a struggle to find faults with the HTC, but it was difficult to find faults big enough to make me not love the device. My appreciation for the 2013 HTC One has been well-documented on this site, so it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that my new favorite phone is the follow-up that made that device more appealing. The HTC One M8 is the best Android phone at the time that this review is published. It might have that distinction for only a few days considering what's on the horizon, but the One M8 is a phone unlike any other.

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About the author

Andrew Kameka
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.

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