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Hands-on: 2014 HTC One (M8)

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March 25, 2014

Gizmag gets a hands-on look at HTC's new One M8

Gizmag gets a hands-on look at HTC's new One M8

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Today we got our first glimpse of the new HTC One (M8). We already know it brings a dual camera, Lite-Brite-esque cover, and some serious gun metal. But what's it like to actually use? We were at the company's launch event, and got some hands-on time.

If you've used the original HTC One, then you already have a pretty good idea of what you're getting here. The 2013 One's aluminum build and overall design aesthetic are back in full force. And though the company spent a lot of time talking up the new features in the One M8, my first impression is that this is more of a refinement of last year's phone than something entirely new. Hell, it even has the same name (only with an "M8" tagged on). In other words, don't expect a radically new look or feel when you first pick it up.

The M8 weighs 160 g – 12 percent heavier than last year's model

The new model's 5-in screen is 13 percent bigger than the 4.7-incher on the 2013 One, but it also drops the older model's capacitive keys in favor of onscreen navigation buttons. So I'd say the usable screen size is roughly the same as it was in the original. KitKat's Immersive Mode does get rid of the onscreen keys in some apps (like the image gallery or any video app), letting you use the full 5-in canvas. But in apps where Immersive Mode isn't an option, that extra real estate isn't really "extra" at all.

The HTC One M8 has a dual-colour LED flash next to the rear shooter

Some of the One M8's most interesting additions come from its camera. There's a new Selfie mode, which takes advantage of its higher-resolution 5 MP front-facing camera (16-year-old girls rejoice). It did seem a little odd that, in its presentation, HTC dismissed the importance of megapixels when discussing the rear camera (megapixels are a myth, bigger pixels are where it's at), yet boasted about having a higher pixel count in the front-facing camera. But to HTC's credit, I snapped a goofy selfie, and, sure enough, it looked better than self-portraits on other phones.

The HTC One M8 has a new Selfie mode

The feature I was most interested in trying out was "UFocus" – made possible by the phone's depth sensor. After snapping a pic, tap on the UFocus option, then tap on your chosen point of focus in the image. The One M8 will blur the background, much like you'd see on a DSLR with a wide aperture lens. You can then tap somewhere else and change the point of focus. I even saved three versions of the same shot, all with different points of focus. It worked pretty well in my demo, and I'm eager to test this feature some more (and don't forget, the Galaxy S5 has a similar feature).

The OG One had some of the best smartphone speakers around, with its front-facing BoomSound speakers. But the One M8's speakers are much better. HTC's demo area was noisy, but I spent a few minutes in a sound booth, where I got to hear the two models play music one after the other. The difference was obvious. The M8's speakers are louder and fuller – by a pretty wide margin. I wouldn't recommend buying one smartphone over another just for its speakers, but this is one of the biggest improvements I saw on the new model.

The Lite-Brite-like Dot View case for the One M8

The M8 also has a wacky new accessory called the Dot View case. It's a thin case made of a lightweight plastic with a cover that folds over the screen. The cover has tiny holes on it, so when you tap on the screen, you can see things like the time, weather, or notifications peering through. If you were a child of the 70s or 80s, then it might rekindle some fond memories of Lite-Brites.

From where I stand now, the HTC One M8 looks like another very solid effort from one of the most sophisticated and detail-oriented Android OEMs. But if you already own the excellent 2013 HTC One, I'm still not sure if there's quite enough newness here to justify the upgrade. That opinion could change, though, as I get some more extended hands-on time. We'll have more on the M8 in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
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4 Comments

Mr. Shanklin clearly has an issue with the marketing of this phone because "the company spent a lot of time talking up the new features" when he considers it a refinement of last years model. I would tend to agree, but last year's model set the bar pretty high. Last year the phone had a very attractive aluminum back; this year the back and sides are aluminum certainly making the phone more attractive for people who like that look and feel. The main downside to the new design would be if the case interfered with the antenna, and we've certainly seen that happen with iPhones in the past.

The larger screen is a solid plus to me, even though the buttons have been placed on the screen rather than the face of the phone. As long as I have usable screen for navigation, video an e-reader, in other words, when it is useful to me, then I don't care.

For those who want memory, both the HTC and the Galaxy S5 have 16 and 32 MB configurations, but US carriers are selling the 16 MB version of the S5 versus 32 MB of the HTC. That's a lot more usable memory for applications that won't run off a SD card.

The 5 MB front camera is more than enough. The Ultra-pixel rear dual cameras, got me on that one. The bottom line is we'll have to see how the camera works in the real world.

Personally, I think that HTC has produced a very respectful alternative to the Galaxy S5. It doesn't have a fingerprint scanner, so if that or a heart-rate monitor is a deal breaker customers will go with Galaxy, but I expect HTC will be increasing their market share with this handset.

Royce Edwards
26th March, 2014 @ 10:07 am PDT

GPS? How sensitive? WAAS? A good GPS is a very important feature but reviewers seem to ignore it.

Richard Barrett
26th March, 2014 @ 07:05 pm PDT

@Royce, well it is refinement of last years model like S4 vs S5. I think it was smart of them to play to their strengths and beef up the speaker because that was already a strong point of their old phone and the rest was mostly on par with the S4 or at least close based on which person you ask.

I am sort of looking forward to seeing how well the M8 does against the S5 because honestly even as someone who has owned an S1, S3, and S4 I think the Samsung needs the competition and HTC could definitely use the business.

Daishi
26th March, 2014 @ 10:08 pm PDT

Thing's big enough to use to knock out an ox.

MintHenryJ
27th March, 2014 @ 08:17 pm PDT
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