HTC has just unveiled the HTC One (M8) as its new flagship phone, competing with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Sony Xperia Z2 for the title of top-tier device of the year.
In a move that some have questioned, it’s been branded the One M8 as a way of carrying on the lineage of last year's phone, which will now be called the HTC One (M7).
uSwitch attended a pre-briefing for the device, where we were afforded plenty of hands-on time with the phone. As well as a detailed video walkthrough, we’ve also got some juicy hands-on shots for you.
But if all that's not enough for you, here’s a more in-depth look at the handset, where we’ll give you a better idea of exactly what HTC’s latest brings to the table.
The HTC One (M8) is fashioned from the same design DNA as the 2013 One, One mini and One Max, with a nearly identical look and a full metal body.
From the outset, you can see HTC has slightly reworked the design of the 2013 HTC One, improving on what has come before.
This time around, though, it’s brought the rear’s metal plate up around the phone and even right up to the actual screen. This makes it a more rounded device that’s much more comfortable to hold with its thinned sides.
Previously, the One M7’s form factor was very angular, with very straight edges and plastic sides and 70% metal used throughout.
The M8 has been thoroughly improved and features a body that’s 90% metal. On the rear, you can see a different finish, with striations/hair-lined marks, caused when the device is polished. It looks and feels great, with over 120 oils used in the polishing.
The default colour version is gun-metal grey, replacing the standard silver model of the 2013 as the main colour.
Removed from the colour range is black because it didn't 'sing' to HTC that it was a metal phone, although there will be an amber gold, and a glacial silver version, just in case you are missing those.
Matching the Apple iPhone 5S and 5C, along with Motorola Moto X and Nokia Lumia 1520 is the addition of a nano SIM card.
This is favoured by manufacturers for its smaller size, which frees up space for other components.
The display dimensions have been increased from last year's model's 4.7-inches to a full high-definition, 1,920 x 1,080p 5-inch screen. For added toughness, it’s made from Gorilla Glass 3.
It isn't exactly an IPS screen with the great viewing angles that entails. But it does have elements of that sort of screen tech. And for us at least, it matches IPS displays’ capabilities.
The traditional, under-the-screen, capacitive buttons have been relocated and are now inside the display.
The official reason cited for this is Google standardisation. But it’s also noteworthy that this allows a larger screen to be used inside a similar width handset.
HTC has developed its own, pseudo co-processor for the M8 called motion launch. This keeps a lot of the phones' sensors on in low power mode, allowing users to interact with the mobile without burdening the main CPU (and the battery).
Double tapping anywhere on the screen in standby mode awakes the M8. The reverse command pushes the handset into standby.
Also from standby, swiping up the screen shows the last app accessed. Swiping from the left launches BlinkFeed. While swiping right and down brings up widgets and voice calling respectively.
If someone's calling, holding it to an ear answers the call. Pressing the volume key launches the camera. Press it again and you’ll capture a picture.
A new range of accessories was unveiled alongside the phone too, with the standout being a case called Dot View.
Available in five colours from launch, this offers a rather unique twist on the standard case, with the screen shining through all the dots in the flip case.
All the gestures already covered above using the motion launch can be used through Dot View.
Attaching the case to the phone brings up a new user interface, with an almost-retro, 8-bit look.
This can show the name of the person calling in dots. And once again you can answer the call by simply holding it up to your ear.
Calendar appointments, notifications, emails, voicemail, and weather can all be seen through the case too.
It's a great little accessory and one we feel will be popular.
HTC has once again gone down the UltraPixel route, with the same 4.1MP snapper as last year's phone.
HTC claims this allows 300% more light into the pixels for better picture capture in low-light conditions.
The big change for 2014 is the addition of the Duo Camera. A twin lens set-up, this allows spatial information to be captured in a single picture and by default.
That means that it registers the different depths of items, as well as how far they are away from you and how far they are away from each other.
Users can then head to the UFocus feature to change the focus of the shot. This can be done a long after the picture has been taken, so you can create what are effectively new images with a different viewpoint.
You could, for instance, have initially taken an image with the main subject blurred and a secondary subject in crystal-clear focus. Open up uFocus and you can change which object takes centre stage.
uFocus differs from Nokia’s Refocus app in the respect that the Finns’ effort is a separate app that needs to be launched beforehand. By contrast, uFocus is always-on and captures spatial gen by default.
The Duo Camera shot also comes into its own in a feature called Dimension Plus.
Because the camera phone captured each layer of the subjects of a photo independently, Dimension Plus is able to show these from different angles, with an almost hologram-style effect. You can enjoy this just by tilting the phone.
We were genuinely very impressed. Pictures actually appear to come to life; it is really something to behold.
Other new photo features include decolouring elements of the picture, adding cartoons or seasonal effects and some others brought in from HTC Sense 5.5.
When it comes to the front-facing camera, it's all change with the inclusion of an f2.0, 5-megapixel, wide-angle snapper. It’s ideal for selfies, with the wide-angle perfect for group shots.
Tapping anywhere on screen starts a countdown, with enough time to prepare yourself for best results.
Normal picture-taking has also been improved, with the help of the Qualcomm image processor that affords much clearer images.
Before, over-saturation could be an issue in natural light. But HTC has now eradicated this glitch.
It still has the five-level, step flash on board, which measures the distance to the subject, then stages the flash down the five levels for the best, most appropriate lighting.
Only now, HTC has added A truetone, dual-flash, which is similar to the one found on the Apple iPhone 5S.
This actually measures the light in the room, then uses the flash as a colour balance, not washing out the picture but offering a more natural snap.
Rounding things off is the Zoe highlights feature that debuted on last year’s HTC One. This captures 20 shots and a three-second video simultaneously, with some of the pics being snapped before the camera button is even pressed.
Users can then collaboratively couple together highlights of the whole event and add music.
For the record, HTC is unbundling Zoe to Google Play for non-HTC phones to use.
From hereon users will be able utilise Zoe to edit shared content, add pictures from different angles of 'that' night out and add a different music accompaniment of their choosing.
There are also other options, such as the ability to cut someone out of a photo and add them to another one.
One of the great features of the 2013 HTC One was the front-facing, dual stereo speakers, which were located at the top and bottom of the screen.
These were ideal for watching films in landscape mode, with the speaker locations mimicking your TV.
Other smartphones either have their speakers at the back, or under the phone. HTC's decision to shift them meant it got this very right indeed.
For 2014, the speakers have been brought back, only with a slight redesign.
The changes start with the speaker chambers within the phone and the speakers themselves, which are now 25 per cent louder.
There's also a new amplifier, said to be a multiphase model, which allows parts of the audio to be changed dynamically.
With the One M7 if the track was amplified, it was all amplified. On occasions where, say, the bass could distort, the amp would lower the whole amplification so as not to distort the entire song.
Now, the both the vocal and bass can be amplified, but with just a little bit of toning down - keeping the voice at a higher amplification and creating a more rounded sound.
The result is a sound that’s louder and less distorted and where you can hear more side notes.
Google's Android 4.4 powers the HTC One (M8), with the company's own Sense 6.0 overlay/theme sitting pretty on top.
It’s a very different experience to earlier HTC skins.
Every pixel has been altered with the update. That’s especially evident in BlinkFeed, which is HTC's homescreen-based news and social networking gatherer.
This now flows more smoothly, instead of the flipboard, page-by-page view of old. The icons fit into the news articles better, with more dynamic content on offer. And, of course, it’s fully customisable.
Sense 6.0 allows for aspects of the phone to be tailored to users’ preferences as well, such as colour-coded themes for email and the option to use software and personal fonts throughout the phone. It's all intended to make it simple and easy to use.
HTC is placing some of its key apps inside Google Play too for quicker updating. This eliminates the need for a full release of Android with compatible versions of the applications included as part of the update.
It’ll also allow quicker updating for these individual apps and a faster rollout of new versions of Android.
Finally, it’s now easier to discover new content in the new topics and services in BlinkFeed. That’s thanks to keyword search functionality that’s been brought in from 5.5.
Processor, RAM and Storage
Powering the phone is a new quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, with 2GB of RAM and with 16GB of internal storage.
It’s the same CPU type found in the soon-to-be-released Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Sony Xepria Z2.
The default internal storage has been reduced from the HTC One M7’s 32GB, but that’s ameliorated by the addition of microSD card support up to 128GB.
Cloud-based Dropbox 50GB storage has been replaced with Google Drive, with 65GB of internal storage on offer. That makes maximum potential storage of 209GB.
There is a new 2,600mAh battery, with 40 per cent more power than the One (M7). It’s got fast charging Qualcomm tech built in and promises to restore you to 80 per cent power in just an hour from a standing start.
This is another solid offering by HTC. And it’s got the added advantage of being in peoples' hands ahead of its competitor's 2014 flagship phones, as it’s available to buy today.
It’s also good-looking handset and puts some of its Android rivals to shame. But the star of the show is the twin-lens camera, which makes the One M8 ideal for photography enthusiasts.
In the minus column, though, we’re not sold on the name, which mass-market punters could easily confuse with it predecessor.
Time will tell if this is all seen as a game-changer, and if it is enough to capture the attention of buyers looking to switch. But we can say for certain that HTC has at least given itself a chance of bucking market trends and returning itself to the smartphone makers’ top table.