Hey There, Good Lookin’
HTC has done it again. It’s managed to bring panache to an otherwise uninspired market of Android devices. The company’s executives have taken numerous digs at its competitors’ plastic-looking phones for a good reason. They’re more prone to cracking. At the same time, the HTC One is essentially a tank, partly because 90 percent of its chassis is metal. While it’s certainly not impenetrable, it is one of the most polished Android devices. HTC chose a smooth aluminum finish that doesn’t feel scratchy and feels great in hand. Nobody has come close to HTC’s industrial design or build quality in the Android market.
The brushed metal on the One’s backside feels smooth to the touch. The power button on the second-generation HTC One has been moved from the top left to the top right. While the volume buttons remain on the right side. You’ll also notice pin holes on both the device’s left and right sides that pop out. And reveal the nano SIM and MicroSD card trays. As a result, the One is only available in 16 G.B and 32 G.B variants. Since it now features expandable storage, a feature consumers wanted in the original One. Even though Android 4.4 KitKat isn’t exactly friendly to S.D. cards. Most carriers default to the 32 G.B. version in the U.S. market, a nice bump from entry-level 16 G.B. phones.
The HTC One (M8) is not as thin as its predecessor, but it sure is sturdy.
HTC kept the charging port on the bottom but placed the headphone jack next. This becomes a slight inconvenience if you’re watching a video or listening to music with headphones on while it’s charging. The One also supports Quick Charge 2.0 but curiously comes boxed with a Quick Charge 1.0 charger. So you’ll have to purchase a new charging mechanism to take advantage of that feature.
The One is bigger and more comprehensive than last year’s One.
The One (M8) is less than half an inch long and about 5 mm thicker than its predecessor. Although we vehemently prefer smaller phones because of our relatively small hands. We didn’t find the size of the HTC One (M8) overpowering, especially not like its sibling, the One Max. However, we did suffer the occasional unintended palm tap while holding the device with two hands. It’s one of the heaviest phones we’ve kept in a while, and expected with its metal chassis.
HTC removed the old two-hardware-button setup and opted for three software buttons instead. While it does steal a bit of screen space from the One’s 5-inch display. The new design ensures that the device will always be up to date with Android’s button standards. Still, there are an awful lot of new bezels beneath the screen.
A Display like any Other
HTC beefed up almost everything about its new flagship set, except for the screen. It’s the same Super LCD 3 display panel but .03 inches bigger, providing fewer pixels per inch. Its viewing angles are perfectly acceptable. For watching a YouTube flick with a friend because there’s no color or contrast deterioration. You can see the screen outdoors more clearly at full brightness than some Super AMOLED displays.
The HTC One’s color profile looks slightly washed out compared to Android devices. At full brightness, the One’s blacks aren’t nearly as black as on Note 3 Super AMOLED. But that is expected with the LCD 3 displays. At least its colors aren’t as saturated as the Galaxy Note 3.
An Iron Horse
It’s packed with power.
The HTC One is powered by a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2 G.B. of RAM. It’s the first phone available with that particular system-on-chip (SoC). Though its no-lag, easy-to-multitask, and performance feels like a breath of fresh air, the processor’s energy efficiency is incredibly alluring.
HTC has repeatedly played up the fact that its integrated 2,600mAh battery pack is a power saver. They weren’t kidding. It lasted through two days of varying usage without needing a charge. It’s almost as if it goes dormant on standby. The HTC One also managed 10 hours of constant video playback in airplane mode. That’s half an hour longer than L.G.’s G2 but an hour less than the Galaxy Note 3. Both devices are larger and have 3,200 3,000 mAh battery packs, respectively.
It’s impressive that HTC managed that much battery life out of a significantly smaller battery pack. You can also take advantage of the One’s Extreme Power Saving mode. This reverts the One to a simplified interface that disables background services once the phone’s battery is too low. U.S. carriers are still approving the Extreme Power Saving mode software update. So early adopters will have to be satisfied with a less aggressive, less Extreme regular Power Saving mode.
The HTC One (M8) stands proudly in its Dot case.
On Verizon, the HTC One had stellar call quality. It also comes standard with dual-b 802.11a/a/c/b/g/n, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Tap & pay abilities, a heaping of Smart Sensors. While sensors are typical to most smartphones. Accelerometers, gyroscopes, and proximity sensors. The HTC has incorporated low-power, always-on sensors and opened them up to developers through the Smart Sensor Hub. Currently, only a few apps utilize them; one is FitBit. Which lets you track your steps with Mobile Track without purchasing the wristband.
Low-powered sensors are all the rage lately. Still, there is time to determine whether they’re a helpful addition or a marketing gimmick on the One. We’ll explore these after more app developers support the Smart Sensor Apps.
Bump up the Jams
The Previous year, the HTC One boasted its Beats Audio sounds, but since HTC sold back its rights to the franchise, the One now features HTC’s own BoomSound speakers. The sound quality is still impressive, whether listening to music or using YouTube. HTC kept the speakers on the front so that you don’t have to lay the phone face down. When you want to pump up the jams. You won’t accidentally cover up a speaker when holding it, either.
The One also comes equipped with a better amp than its older sibling. The bass becomes more noticeable the higher you turn up the volume. We were especially impressed at how loud the volume got when it hooked up a mini smartphone amplifier. The difference is discernible even while streaming low-quality tunes through Spotify.
As speculated, the HTC One has not one but two rear-facing cameras. But before you think you’ve got yourself a deal. Consider that the extra camera doesn’t actually do much to make your photos look better, pixel for pixel. It’s just there to help with the One’s fancy post-processing tricks, such as U focus. Which lets you create depth-of-field effects for artsy blurred backgrounds. It’s a cool trick but doesn’t mitigate the fact that the new One’s rear camera doesn’t yield best-of-class image quality.
The HTC One’s depth camera effects are neat, but I don’t know that it would necessarily pin them as feature-worthy.
The HTC One’s primary camera is a rear-facing, large format 4-megapixel sensor. The same Ultra pixel sensor found in the original HTC One. It’s capable of 1080p video recording and shoots with a max aperture of f/2.0 at 28mm. The second camera is the same sensor used in the front-facing camera featured on the original One.
The One produced noisy photos with slight light leaks in the house with no overhead lighting. The HTC One performed better than its predecessor in our low-light lab test. The images were brighter and less noisy, but they still required some adjustments before they were ready for publishing. The One also features two rear-facing, dual-color LED bulbs, which aided in producing better color-balanced photos taken with the flash. Rather than blowing out the subjects as some other smartphones do. There’s also a Night Mode to avoid using the flash in low-light settings, like at the bar with friends.
It also fared better than its predecessor (left) in our low-light tests.
Photos taken in ample lighting with the first and second-generation HTC One (M8) were indistinguishable. But while the picture looks great from afar, that 4 Megapixel Ultrapixel sensor still has drawbacks. These aren’t high-resolution photos that you can zoom in on and crop. They’re great for posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram. While the One takes much better-looking photos than many Android devices, its limited resolution is sometimes a drawback. But zoom in, and you’ll see the Ultra pixel camera’s limitations. We must remember the new Selfie cam, the HTC One’s 5 Megapixel wide-angle front-facing camera. We’d be fibbing if we didn’t admit that we had tons of fun with this particular mode. Case in point.
Selfie mode offers a three-second countdown, so you can adequately prepare yourself for your brief moment of narcissism. HTC also brought back the Zoe camera and added the ability to record indefinite video. There are tooltips to help you learn how to use the feature. You’ll find Zoe especially helpful in making short Instagram-worthy videos.
HTC successfully managed to cram a plethora of valuable features into the camera application. Without making it overwhelming for the user. The main menu offers six options for taking photos. At the same time, the Settings button lets you quickly set the camera mode, exposure, ISO, and white balance. There are also additional settings for cropping and setting the video quality. You can save your own custom camera modes for use in the future. Every situation has many methods, from a high-speed burst shot mode, multi-exposure action shots, slow-mo video, and 360-degree panoramas.
HTC’s “Sixth Sense”
Sense 6 is a highly stylized version of stock Android. It’s not gaudy like Samsung’s own Android overlays. It brings finesse to the vanilla Android interface. HTC has kept the most essential parts of Android. On par with Android’s rendition to avoid scaring off die-hard Android fans.
HTC’s interface blends in more with the general design aesthetic. So there’s less of a jarring transition between HTC’s apps, say, Now. You can also access Android 4.4’s new features, like the Location panel wireless printing.
I’m still not a fan of Sense’s application drawer, however. HTC incorporated an extra column of icons, but by default, the apps are too spaced-out, using up precious screen space. I’m also not particular about the Quick Settings in the Notifications shade. The icons for each option are too big, and at first glance, it looks messy and crowded. But you can rearrange the icons and eliminate the settings you don’t plan to use.
Sense 6 is a bit more colorful, too, with the addition of themes. Though you can only choose from four different ones at the moment. HTC hinted that it’s considering opening up theming capabilities to its loyal Android base. For now, all you can customize is the wallpaper, font size, and font style. HTC brought color Themes to Sense 6, though you’ll only see the color pop through in certain apps.
Sometimes, gestures are a joke. A ploy on a manufacturer’s part to get consumers. To think that they can do more with their phones than tap at it. HTC’s Motion Launch gestures are honestly helpful. We applaud the company for making them a practical part of the user experience. Rather than something we immediately want to disable in the settings. HTC’s Motion Gestures are simple to learn and surprisingly helpful at times. The gestures work well, for the most part. We did have trouble double tapping the phone to wake it up. After the screen had been turned off for some time. But the side-to-side swipes worked almost every time.
Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss BlinkFeed
Apparently, HTC finally decided it would turn BlinkFeed into a full-blown news social network aggregator. We were not fans of the app on the first HTC One. But we’re slowly warming up to it now that HTC has made it worthwhile. Likely inspired by the death of Reader, now you can add any content you want to BlinkFeed. Just swipe to the right to bring up the menu, and type in what you’re looking for. Whether it be a favorite yoga instructor or a version of Android. Your BlinkFeed will then begin aggregating content with that search term and display it in its hub for immediate consumption. You can also subscribe to individual Twitter feeds and YouTube channels.
You can also use BlinkFeed to post to your social networks or get updates from various apps. HTC has opened up the BlinkFeed App to other developers. So expect more functionality to come to it in the coming months.
A Phone Worth Waiting For
The second-generation HTC One has charmed us all. It features a build-quality industrial design, a cut above all other Android phones, long battery life. Fast performance, nice interface customizations; excellent camera software; terrific sound. But it still lacks features we love, like a high-resolution camera and touchless voice commands. At least HTC offers this neat Dot case, which displays the time notifications through the cover like a Lite Brite. Lite Brite, Lite Brite, turn on the magic of shining notification lights. That doesn’t mean that the One isn’t a total package. It comes standard with a capable camera that can take good low-light photos. Not to mention incredible selfies, and a premium build. Amplified volume to aid in shower singing and extended battery life. And a simplistic Android overlay that isn’t bogged down with bloatware. However, your carrier of choice may force some on you.
The HTC One (M8) is a winner. But we won’t know if it can put a dent in HTC’s misfortunes until the end of the year. When we find out how many units it’s sold. The phones that will compete most directly with the One will ship soon. But HTC certainly is off to a strong start with what is currently the best Android phone you can buy.