Yesterday afternoon HTC finally let us in on the big secret it’s been keeping for the past year or so: the HTC One (M8). Yes, the phone became so well known by its codename that HTC is keeping it in the official name.
We’re kidding of course, as frequent tech blog visitors will know that the new phone was the worst kept secret in recent tech history with numerous pictures, reports and even lengthy hands-on video reviews giving the game away. Nevertheless, the phone is now official and available to buy exclusively on Verizon Wireless in the US, but is it worth the upgrade if you’ve already got the current HTC One?
On the surface, the old One and the new One look remarkably alike. Once you get the phone in your hand you’ll start to notice the differences however, such as the smooth curved edges, corners and back panel which make the phone sit naturally and comfortably in the palm of the hand.
Due to the larger display which we’ll come to later, the new HTC One is slightly bigger than its predecessor: It’s almost a centimetre taller, and ever so slightly thicker and wider. The first One was touted as a tough and beautiful metal unibody device and was 70% metal, but the new One is now 90% metal and that shows in the weight increase – up 143g to 160g.
HTC proudly showed off a brushed metal finish on the new One which it claims is very difficult to achieve on a curved phone, and we think it looks pretty darn slick. Asides from that, the headphone port has been moved to the bottom of the phone, there’s now a micro SD card slot on the right and the SIM format has changed from micro SIM to nano SIM.
Screen size increase
The main reason for the new One’s increase in size is a larger display. HTC has stuck with the gorgeous Super LCD3 screen type at 1080p Full HD resolution, but has bumped the size from 4.7-inches to 5-inches. The display is technically less sharp on paper – 441 pixels per inch on the new One to 469 on the old One – but we’re told that the difference can’t be seen.
Additionally, HTC has switched from Gorilla Glass 2 to Gorilla Glass 3 which is even tougher and yet lighter than ever before.
Out of all of the rumoured features revealed in the lead-up to the new One’s reveal, the presence of a second camera on the back of the phone was undoubtedly the most intriguing. HTC calls this Duo Camera and we now know that the second, smaller camera which sits above the regular lens is used to gauge depth of field. In other words, by using two sensors instead of one, the new One can determine which objects are in the foreground and which are in the background. This leads to an awesome new feature called uFocus which allows the user to choose the point of focus in an image after taking the shot, similar to the excellent Lytro camera. The rear camera also now matches the Galaxy S5 in terms of its super-fast 300ms autofocus time, and is capable of capturing slow-mo video.
On the front, HTC has taken the age of the selfie seriously and upgraded the sensor to a wide angle 5 megapixel offering. The company claims the new One is the king of selfies as a result, complete with a dedicated Selfie mode in the camera app. There’s also a redesigned and simpler camera interface and the option to manually tweak settings and create your own presets.
A new processor
In terms of power, HTC is matching the Galaxy S5 blow-for-blow by using the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset. It’s a powerful quad-core Krait chip clocked at 2.3GHz and also features updated Adreno 330 graphics. HTC has opted for the same 2GB of RAM as the original One, rather than jumping to 3GB as LG and some others have done recently.
A much improved battery life
It’s really come to something when you get excited about a smartphone because of the batter y life it can offer. The M8 has a slightly larger battery compared to last year’s model – 2,600 mAh compared to 2,300 mAh – which HTC claims will help its new phone to last 40% longer than the previous top model, but that’s not the best bit.
Built in to HTC’s new Sense 6.0 user interface which runs on the M8 as standard is an Extreme Power Save mode. You can set this mode to kick in when the battery gets to a certain level and it will disable most features, simplify the menu structure and offer only calls, texts, manual email refreshing and a few other simple options. HTC claims that even if this mode is enabled when your phone has 5% battery remaining, you’ll get up to 15 hours out of it before it needs charging up, which sounds unbelievable.
HTC’s favourite buzz-word ‘BoomSound’ really does apply to the new M8, as the dual speakers which flank the display are now even louder and provide a superior quality of sound when compared to the original One, which offered the best sound from a smartphone we’ve ever heard. This improvement is thanks to a finely tuned amplifier and even deeper speaker chambers, we’re told.
Although the current HTC One is in the process of upgrading to Android 4.4 KitKat, the M8 comes running Google’s newest OS right out of the box. This comes in partnership with a new, revamped version of HTC’s own Sense user interface; Sense 6, or ‘sixth sense’ as the company is calling it – no, really. Asides from the usual KitKat additions and improvements, Sense 6.0 has the new look BlinkFeed with more content from more providers, a dedicated app for the gif-like Zoe camera feature, gestures for wireless sharing and the option to double-tap or swipe in a specific direction on the display in order to unlock it and head straight into an app. Anyone with the original HTC One won’t notice much difference here.
So there we have it: More metal, a more curved design, a faster processor, micro SD expansion for storage, a considerable battery upgrade, a slightly bigger screen, new software, an intriguing but not necessarily better rear camera setup and a front facing camera that seems somewhat overkill. Some will look upon the HTC One (M8) as a minor upgrade over the original and on the surface it may not appear worthwhile to jump from the original One to the new model if you’re mid-contract. We’ll reserve full judgement until we’ve got our hands on it.