HTC One (M8) Google Play Edition makes more Sense this time

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Credit: Michael Homnick

The HTC One (M8) is one of the hottest phones available, but it’s not the only “One” around right now. Like last year's HTC One, the M8 also comes in a Google Play Edition variant that’s every bit as sleek and sexy, but ships with the stock Android 4.4 software.

Google Play Edition (GPE) smartphones and tablets are a great option for those who love the hardware of a particular manufacturer but crave the vanilla Android software, free from heavy customization and bloatware. Still, these particular variants come with a few sacrifices.

Last year, both Google Play Editions of the HTC One (M7) and Galaxy S4 had completely unutilized hardware inside of them. These powerful smartphones had sensors lying dormant that could not be used at all due to the lack of support on stock Android. It all seems a bit silly when one could spend half the money on a Nexus smartphone for the same experience. This year, things are a little different.

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HTC apps for the Google Play Edition M8

HTC did its fans a solid by publishing some of its own custom Sense applications to the Google Play Store. Not only does this allow HTC's applications to be updated without a full system upgrade, but those with the GPE version of the smartphone can still get a little taste of Sense if they want to. 

While not every HTC app in the Play Store will work on the GPE M8, you’ll still be able to get access to some of the essentials. 

At the moment, there are only a handful of applications by HTC made available to GPE One (M8) users, but only two really stand out. One of these is HTC Dot View, allowing users to take advantage of the nifty Dot View case for the M8.

While the Dot View case for the GPE M8 is indeed supported, its functionality is stripped down to a minimum. It will display the time and the weather conditions, and you'll be able to answer calls, but that's about it. This is because the supported notifications for the Dot View case on the original One (M8) are limited to HTC-made applications only. There may be hope yet, as there are hacks on the way that will unlock even more notifications on the Dot View case in the future.

The other app of note is the HTC TV application, which is great to have. Otherwise, the IR blaster would be unusable on the GPE M8, like we saw on the One (M7) last year.

More applications should become available on Google Play for the Sense-less HTC One, but it remains to be seen if the company will make the BlinkFeed launcher available. After all, the appeal of the GPE M8 is the fact that it doesn't ship with the BlinkFeed launcher. Nonetheless, the option to cherry pick the features you want from HTC’s Sense 6 is pretty awesome. Android users have been doing this by installing Google-made applications to replace custom, manufacturer-built apps, so it’s pretty neat to be able to do it the other direction.

Smart Sensor Hub 

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Thanks to the Smart Sensor Hub, the HTC One (M8) allows you to do some cool things with your phone while it's asleep. Best of all, the most interesting features remain largely intact with the Play Edition variant. 

Motion Launch Gestures: A quick double-tap or swipe in any direction on the sleeping GPE M8 will unlock the phone. Moreover, holding the sleeping phone in the landscape orientation and pressing one of the volume buttons will immediately unlock the phone and launch the camera application.

FitBit: Given that the Smart Sensor Hub is still present in the GPE M8, FitBit's appliction works just fine, tracking steps without the app running in the background, with almost no impact on battery life. The only difference is that you won't have BlinkFeed on your home screen to showcase your achievement badges.

Put some Sense into your photo edits

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While you’ll only have the Google Camera available to you out of the box with the GPE One (M8), you’ll have the option to take advantage of a few of the "Duo Camera" photo editing features found on the original. Tap to edit a photo in the gallery, and you're presented with the option of using HTC Photo Edit.

As you might expect, not all of the photo edit options are available for the GPE One. Only UFocus and Dimension Plus are available. Luckily, these two features are the most interesting of the bunch, so you won’t miss out on much.

It’s great to see that shipping with stock Android didn’t render the HTC One’s Duo Camera useless with the Play Edition. Who knows, maybe we’ll get to see even more from the camera in a future update.

Other small differences between the two phones

  • "Old TV" lock animation is present in GPE M8 and not on original.
  • The option to say “Ok, Google..” to perform a voice search directly from the home screen is not available on HTC's Sense 6, despite the fact that it runs the same version of Android. Sadly, this feature is present is phones like the Galaxy S5, so original HTC One (M8) users are left out in the cold.
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