*This device is a loaned review unit from HTC Malaysia*
Thanks to the amazing folks at HTC Malaysia, I was one of the first few bloggers who got my hands on the HTC One (M8). So early, in fact, when I have it, it wasn’t officially launched or on sale in Malaysia yet. I was feeling exhilarated of the amazing opportunity given to me. Unfortunately though, after reviewing the phone for over 2 weeks, it’s now taken me way over a month to finally write this review post.
See Also : HTC One (M8) Announced
On 8 May 2014, HTC Malaysia launched the latest flagship HTC One (M8) in Malaysia. I was unfortunately otherwise occupied and didn’t make the launch. However, I was lucky to be one of the first few in the country to get my hands to review the phone before this Malaysian launch event.
In case you’re unfamiliar, last year HTC blew the market away with their all metal unibody HTC One flagship Android smartphone. With the gorgeous and premium build quality, it won multiple awards as THE premium smartphone to beat n terms of design and quality. With new features like refreshed UI, front facing stereo speakers, new tech Ultrapixel camera and many more, HTC created a stunner. This year, as a refresh / update to that successful HTC One, they announced this year’s HTC One (M8).
See Also : HTC One User Review
Naming wise, this wasn’t great. Feature wise, they upgraded and improved the many features that made the original great and added on a few new features to continue to maintain the No. 1 position of the flagship premium Android smartphone space. Here’s my detailed review having spent a good amount of time using the HTC One (M8) as my primary phone for awhile.
Hardware Design & Build Quality
As a refresher, here’s a high level technical specs overview of the HTC One (M8):-
- 5.0 inch, IPS LCD, Full HD 1080p display (1920 X 1080) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor
- 16/32 GB internal storage (expandable microSD up to 128 GB) + 2 GB RAM
- Powered by latest Android 4.4 “Kit Kat” OS (with new HTC Sense 6 UI)
- 4 megapixel HTC Ultrapixel duo camera (1080p Full HD video with HDR), 5 megapixel wide angle front facing camera (1080 Full HD video with HDR)
- 9.35 mm thin, weighing only 160 grams
- 2,600 mAH non-removable battery (up to 20 hours of 3G talkltime)
- Connectivity : nanoSIM for 4G LTE/3g HSPA+, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC (3), DLNA
- Available in 3 colours : Gunmetal Gray, Glacial Silver and Amber Gold
As I got the pre-production unit of the HTC One (M8) for review, the box packaging is obviously not the final version. I got a plain white box with the bare essentials inside – the smartphone, 2 piece power adapter and a USB to micro USB charging / syncing cable. Of course, with the real commercial units, you would get more items like standard headphones, user manuals, etc.
In my hands, the HTC One (M8) is much longer than its predecessor. From the previous 4.7″ screen, it’s now upgraded to a 5″ screen while keeping the same design ethos as before. It’s still a unibody build, meaning there’s no removable backplate. All metal? Yup – this time, HTC claims to have included more metal in the build of the phone. It does feel a lot more solid in my hands. Although this also means the phone is slightly heavier, from the previous 143 grams to the new 160 grams.
Comparing both the old HTC One and the new HTC One (M8), it’s clear that the phone is now taller, not wider. And has a nicer brushed metal finishing on its back.
The M8 I have for review is the Gunmetal Grey coloured version, the current hero colour for this year’s flagship. Not the Glacial Silver colour which was the hero as before. As I said, the brushed metal finishing looks much nicer and more premium. It also feels nice and solid in your hands, especially when compared to other plasticky materials used in most smartphones today.
The front of the phone still maintains its predecessor’s front facing dual stereo speakers at the top and bottom (aka HTC BoomSound) which are coupled with their software based sound enhancement technology for truly amazing sound quality. The back of the phone houses not one, but 2 camera lenses now. Having improved the Ultrapixel camera lens, they added another lens at the top of the phone for better imaging technology. More on this later.
As you see, design wise, it hasn’t really gone too far from the original HTC One design.
Looking around, you get your usual suspects. The Power On/Off button at the top right, which also doubles as an Infrared blaster to use with your Sense TV app to remote control your TV. The phone is nice and slim, still, at 9.35 mm, with the micro SD slot and volume rocker on the right, and nano SIM card slot on the left. At the bottom, you get the usual 3.5 mm headphone audio jack and the micro USB charging port.
I can’t tell you how much I really like the brushed metal back on the M8. If it was every possible for HTC to make things more premium, this is it. It looks and feels high end. The back is much curvier in this M8 version that it now sits much more comfortably in your palm. The etched HTC branding in the middle on the back of the smartphone is subtle yet stylish. I really really like this.
So, HTC has now changed the SIM card support on the M8. As most smartphones today support micro SIM, the HTC One M8 now takes nano SIM instead. You know, the really teeny ones that only iPhone 5 users use? Even with a relatively big phone like the M8, I suppose I can understand why HTC has decided to keep up with the latest technology and go with the smaller SIM size. For me though, I had to go to my telco service centre to get my hands on a nano SIM just to review this phone. *sigh*
See Also : Samsung Galaxy S5 Launched in Malaysia
From a design and build quality perspective, you kinda catch my drift now. The HTC One (M8) has nicer metal finishing, feels nice and solid in my hands and I really really like the build quality. Other than glass backs, metal is the way to go and I’m now officially spoilt with these premium materials, that I absolutely cannot accept polycarbonate (ahemmm… plastic) materials in high end smartphones anymore.
Take note, manufacturers! Metal or glass, nothing else.
Software – Sense 6 UI
As expected, HTC carried forward and improved several killer features to the HTC One (M8) bringing improvements and updates from its predecessor. Along with a host of other features new to the new flagship:-
- Beautifully designed, inside and out – improved high quality metal unibody design, a 5″ display screen, tapering to thinner edges, with softer curves for a smooth, more natural grip
- World’s first smartphone with a Duo Camera – HTC Ultrapixel duo camera with intelligent LED Dual Flash, and full 1080p HD video recording and creative photo editing features
- Improved Gallery and Photo Organisation – with Image match, a visual search tool that intuitively moves all the photos containing a particular subject into one album, and new HTC Zoe as a cloud based photo service
- Motion Launch™ – gesture controlled shortcuts to interact with the phone, without turning on the screen. For eg. auto answer a call by raising your phone to your ear, double tap to turn lock screen on/off
- Extreme Power Saving Mode – making power battery last 40% longer, with Extreme Power Saving Mode activated manually/automatically providing up to 60 hours of extra standby time at 20% power, 30 hours at 10% power and/or 15 hours at 5% power
- HTC BoomSound – Dual front facing stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers , with 25% louder than original HTC One
- HTC Blink Feed – improved speed, visual and layout for grid-like news and updates with over 1,000 content partners
- Pre-loaded Fitbit app – Better integration with Fitbit trackers to access advanced features like sleep tracking, smart alarm and fitness data tracking
- HTC Sense™ TV – replace your TV remote control with an interactive second screen. Follow conversations on social media on the show you’re watching, sports stats and live updates for 10 most popular sports globally
For more information on the technical specs and features, check out the HTC One (M8) website at http://www.htc.com/sea/smartphones/htc-one-m8/
Having spewed all the “killer features” that HTC wants to market to the consumers, honestly, there really should be a less than a handful that are really useful to the average Joes. While the list above may be extensive, there really is only a few features worth noting to you and me.
Firstly, I have always been a fan of HTC Sense UI compared to the other manufacturers. In case you’re confused, the UI is actually the skin or theme that manufacturers develop on top of the Android software to improve the user experience and add on other features on top of the classic, vanilla OS. Compared to the Samsung, Lenovo, Sony, etc – I think HTC’s new Sense 6 UI is a minor improvement from before, yet not too bloated that it slows down the speed of the phone.
It is way more colourful now, too. As you can see from the screenshot above, you get the bright green, blues and oranges pop in various apps.
One of the highlighted feature is Motion Launch, which allows you to use different gestures to launch different actions on the M8. For example, when the phone is off on standby mode, you can just double tap the screen to wake it up. Or swipe down to activate voice dialing to call someone without searching for their name in your phonebook or scrolling through your Call History.
While this may all seem very cool alternative for easier swipe actions instead of tapping to the menu and feature as you normally would. I can’t help but think this is a very copied version of Samsung’s Smart Motion and Smart Gesture functions. It’s all gimmicky and cool, but you’ll likely never really use it, unless to demo or show off to your friends. Personally for me, I had to turn it off after awhile. In my daily handling of the phone, the screen keeps coming alive unintentionally when I move the phone around in my hands. Rather annoying after some time.
Yes, BoomSound. The magic that is the dual front facing stereo speakers. This is amazing, as I said before in my original HTC One review. I have to stress that this is one design decision that HTC made that I absolutely love. The front facing speaker makes music, audio from videos and even the tiniest notification sounds loud and clear and facing you. I don’t understand why this is not the standard for every single smartphone in the market today. Every phone should have front facing speakers. Period.
The new BoomSound on the M8 is no different from its predecessor. In fact, the audio quality is now 25% louder than the HTC One and has better hardware in the form of new amplifiers and speaker chambers. Yes, audio does sound much much better.
HTC BlinkFeed is HTC’s feature for consolidated news, social media updates etc in on egrid styled layout as a homescreen. HTC wants this to be your one-stop location to catch a quick glance on the latest headlines and friend’s social media updates. There’s now over 1,000 channels for contents from news, shopping, sports, movies, etc, as well as allowing others to integrate with new SDKs. I personally use this quite a lot with my original HTC One, where I catch news headlines and all. Now, the new BlinkFeed even allows offline news reading, which is good when you’re in low mobile data coverage areas or when on a plane.
In my quick poll with other friends though, I realised that this BlinkFeed magazine view was not as regularly used for most. I guess I can understand that not everyone is like me who likes to constantly keep note of the latest trending news stories. 😛
As you can see, you still won’t have the option to disable BlinkFeed, but you do have the option to make another homescreen your default Home screen. In other words, kinda like hiding the BlinkFeed if you’re not a fan.
From a User Experience point of view, the M8 is nice to use and shares familiar traits to the older brother. Nothing out of the ordinary here, with the usual homescreen, widgets, notification shades, quick settings toggles and Google Now integration.
One of the features I like about HTC Sense UI is the People app, which allows me to link multiple accounts into one contact card – from my Gmail contact, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. It also pulls the latest social media updates from the contact, so you get a quick glance of the latest updates of that contact before you call or email them. Nice and handy!
The blue coloured theme continues with all productivity app on the M8. Good integration with multiple Google accounts for Calendar, quick dial by entering name to search for contacts using the Phone Dialer, and cleaner conversation view in Messages. All good with the new HTC Sense 6 UI. I like.
Ultrapixel Camera and Image Quality
While all those software features above might be the few highlighted features HTC wants to shout about, the real feature of the M8 comes from their camera technology.
If you didn’t know about the older HTC One flagship from last year, HTC introduced their Ultrapixel camera technology where better smartphone pictures are not related to the megapixel count on your phone, but rather how well it performs under different lighting conditions. Their then 4 megapixel Ultrapixel camera might seem like a low megapixel count to many, but it performed amazingly well in low light condition and produced really good images in clear lighting, too.
The new Ultrapixel camera on the M8 is a slightly improved 4 megapixel lens, but the image processing on the software side has been much improved. You still get a nice dual colour flash to go alongside the shooter, and it enables Full 1080p HD video recording.
But the real draw here is the Duo Camera.
The Duo Camera boasts a depth sensor in addition to the main HTC UltraPixelTM module, capturing detailed depth information from a scene and enabling a range of beautiful and creative effects that allow you to do more with your images than ever before.
Duo Camera, as you can see, is the second camera that HTC mounted on top of the main shooter. If you’re thinking that this reminds you a lot of 3D cameras, then let me explain this further. Actually the second camera serves as a secondary camera in addition to your main shooter, to give your pictures better depth sense.
For example, when you shoot a picture, the Duo Camera gives you better adjustments (before or after snapping the picture) to play around with objects from different perspective, closer or further away from you for better image manipulation. More on this later.
Holding the long-ish phone with a single hand can be awkward for me at times. The phone is so long…. But the accessibility to the on screen buttons for camera shutter was nice and big. I wish there’s a dedicated hardware camera button, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Many times, I would accidentally cover the secondary Duo Camera lens with my fingers when holding the phone with 2 hands. Of course, this pops up a message that tells me that the Duo Camera is blocked. Kinda annoying at times as I adjust to my finger placements and keep forgetting about that secondary camera so close to the edge of the phone.
Camera app is nice and easy enough for the regular person to use. If you’re like me who mostly keeps the camera settings at the default “Auto” mode, you’re in good hands. The default mode allows you to snap good pictures that’s nice, crisp and clear. One of the better smartphone cameras I’ve personally used. From switching modes from Photos to Videos to Selfie mode to Dual Capture (activates both front and rear cameras) and panoramic mode, there’s also easy toggle for other advance photography settings on white balance, ISO and more settings.
The HTC Zoe that was much hyped in the older HTC One is still present with the M8, but it’s a little hidden now. Also, it’s somewhat rebranded now. It used to be a feature that allows you to capture a few seconds video clip and allows you to select a frame from that video to turn into the perfect picture. It was handy when you’re trying to snap the perfect frame of an action shot (like running, jumping, blowing out birthday candles) and a burst shot is not good enough.
Now HTC Zoe is somewhat rebranded and refreshed as a HTC branded photo sharing and album viewing experience. It’s a little weird, to be honest. I assume the adoption wasn’t great before, and HTC is downplaying this feature this time round. Perhaps maybe slowly kill the product? At least for me, this wasn’t a feature that I used much, honestly.
Yeah, that front facing camera got a much needed boost. Especially most of us today taking way too much selfies at times (guilty!). HTC boosted the front facing “selfie” camera to a 5 megapixel shooter. This is as good as some mid range smartphone rear camera, really. And it’s wide angle too. So now you have a better quality front camera to take a sharper selfie, and the wide angle lens allow you to fit a bigger group of people in your selfie!
The downside, though is that all the fancy features available on the rear Duo Camera isn’t available on the front facing camera. 😦
However, there’s a Dual Capture feature, just like with Samsung phones, that you can activate both the front and rear facing camera to capture shots from both ends. Just like with the Samsung’s version, you can resize your front camera image and move it around the shot. Handy for the parents who want to snap pictures of their babies and their own reaction in the same shot.
Here are some sample pictures taken from the HTC One (M8). Image are not resized or edited in any way, so click to see enlarged version in its original size:
As you can see from the sample images, the M8 camera does take really good pictures in clear bright lighting conditions. Again, this is one of the best smartphone cameras I’ve used. In low light condition, on the other hand, while HTC boasts really good low light photography, I somehow feel like it falls a little short this time round, compared to its older brother. In really low light condition, the images weren’t as good as I’d hope. As I’ve seen the Nokia Lumia 1020 performing much better in such harsh conditions.
Images can’t seem to focus very well for action shots in low lighting conditions. In a club shot I took of some sexy girls handling the champagne order, it forced me to take multiple shots in this extreme low light condition to get one that’s acceptable without the harsh motion blur and correct focus. In more manageable low light conditions I took of some static objects (popcorn bags), it performed well enough to be able to see the background and the object itself, when snapped without flash. With flash turned on, the harsh lights created some major over exposure and completely blacked out the unlit background.
Dual Capture was nice and fun to play with when I’m playing with my dog, and my vanity shot took when I was about to land in a recent flight I took.
Front facing “selfie” 5 megapixel camera was good. Not only does it have a higher megapixel count lens, the images were nice and clear enough, with my favourite wide angle lens that allows me to capture a much wider shot. Although, it once again struggles in low light condition. Guess HTC didn’t really put all those low light power in the front camera.
Just like with the older brother, the M8’s Gallery app allows you to sort images by source, events, date and location (if you have it enabled). The grid based layout, in the bright orange coloured Sense theme, is also easy to navigate and browse.
Photo Editor capabilities
The Duo Camera comes with plenty of photo editing features that makes your image editing a lot more powerful and fun. Like a Photoshop Lite in built in to your phone…
World’s first smartphone with a Duo Camera :-
- UFocus™ allows you to change the focus of your image after the photo has been taken
- Foregrounder lets you change background with creative effects
- Seasons animation allows you to add seasonal animation to your photos (eg, snowflakes for Christmas)
- Copy & Paste place your family and friends in a different photo entirely
- Dimension Plus™ presents a unique perspective on your photos by letting you view your image from a different angle by tilting the screen
- Slow Motion mode lets you shoot HD slo-mo video ad edit with selective slow motion in parts of video
With the Duo Camera comes great Photoshop-like photo editing capabilities. And HTC added a bunch in this new M8 and it’s really impressive.
UFocus is a feature that allows you to change the focus of the image you just took with the Duo Camera. You can tap on any part of the image to change the focus. In this sample image I took of my dog, I can shift the focus from my dog in the foreground to the speaker at the background, by just a tap on screen. With the image taken with both rear cameras, this is a handy feature to automatically adjust the depth of field in your images after taking the picture.
It essentially just blurs the background or foreground, depending on your preference, and gives you a nice artistic feel to your pictures.
Foregrounder plays around with the Duo Camera capture where you can tap on the subject on focus and adds different effects to the background. For example, in this shot, I focused on my dog, then changes the background with different effect selected from the options available, from Sketch (pencil like sketched), Zoom Blur (intense blurred background), Cartoon (comic like pen outlines) or Colorize (turns background into black and white).
Seasons animation allows you to add some floating animation to your picture, turning it into an animated photo of floating snowflakes, dandelions and more.
There are, of course, other usual photo editor capabilities that allows you to crop, straighten, rotate or flip images. As well as applying different filters (ala Instagram) to your pictures and frames and effects. I really like this picture of my friend’s kid with his menacing facial expression.
As smartphones become more and more powerful these days with fancy features and cool performance improvements, we can’t say the same with the battery. Smartphone Li-Ion batteries seem to have stagnated in the innovation and revolution department. It’s almost like these manufacturers stopped trying to keep up with the Joneses.
With the HTC One (M8), as with a lot of manufacturers now, HTC has introduced a new feature called “Extreme Power Saving Mode” that allows for better battery performance management to make your device last way longer with the heavy smartphone usage.
Just like when I was impressed with the battery life of the HTC Butterfly S, HTC carried forward this amazing battery management feature and then some.
See Also : HTC Butterfly S User Review
The M8’s Extreme Power Saving Mode optimizes power consumption to make your phone battery last 40% longer.
Fully charged it will deliver 14 days’ worth of battery power, whilst still allowing you to receive calls, texts and emails – perfect for when you are travelling. Activated either manually or automatically, it delivers 60 hours of extra standby time at 20% power, 30 hours at 10% power and 15 hours at 5% power so, whether you are out late at night or hiking in the mountains, you never have to worry about running out of battery again.
In my 2 weeks use of the HTC One (M8) as my primary phone, I was pleasantly amazed at the battery life. I managed close to 2 days of use with the M8 with about 10% – 25% battery juice left!
This is some amazing power management at work here!!!
To be fair, these are days when my phone usage was light. From a few short phone calls and SMS, some light social media updates and light email checking.
With medium to heavy usage, the M8 still shows some amazing promise. The phone lasts me a good 17 – 19 hours on normal usage with much more battery juice to spare.
The weird and amazing thing is – this thing is awesome with its battery performance. You can see the screenshot above, that shows 12-15 hours of use with more than 70% – 85% battery left!
What is this sorcery?
HTC One (M8) has one of the best battery life performance I have ever seen in powerful multi-function smartphones today. The best I have seen so far! Simply amazing!
Pricing and Availability
The HTC One (M8) is available on sale since 8 May 2014 in Gunmetal Grey and Glacial Silver at a Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of RM 2,399 with HTC authorised resellers nationwide.
Yes, this is on a high side for sure. With other Android flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 on sale at the same RM 2,399 price tag, with even the iPhone 5S bearing the same price, you really have multiple choices for your flagship phone of choice if you were to part with this amount of money.
If you prefer to get your smartphones bundled with a telco plan, you’ve got plenty to choose from:-
- Maxis plans with device from RM 1,499 or monthly fee from RM 78 / month HERE
- DiGi plans with device from RM 1,299 or monthly fee from RM 78 / month HERE
- U Mobile plans with device from RM 999 or monthly fee from RM 58 / month HERE
At time of writing, Celcom has no bundle plans for the HTC One (M8) on offer. Perhaps, it’s coming soon?
Having been a major fan of the flagship HTC One last year, I had high hopes for the new iteration of the HTC One M8 this year. Sad to say, I was a little disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong – this is an amazing phone. If you skipped on getting the HTC One last year, because you were unsure, you should definitely look at getting this HTC One M8 as it has a bunch of improved features and build quality. If you’re like me and bought the HTC One last year, and wondering if the M8 is a good upgrade, then I’m not too sure.
While there really is some good improvement with the new M8, and the inclusion of the Duo Camera is surely a great feature to add to your smartphone photography interest, the other features are not exactly as jaw dropping as when the original was first released. It’s still a great phone, just a smaller evolutionary upgrade, in my opinion. A HTC One “S” type of upgrade in Apple speak.
What I Like
- Duo Camera added some great photo editing capabilities (before or after shooting)
- Battery life is out of this world, lasting close to 2 full days
- More metal and still an amazing build quality and design
What I Dislike
- 5″ screen can be a bit too big for some, and the taller phone is not my favourite
- Motion Launch got annoying for me after awhile, as I’m not a fan of gesture based actions to wake up screen
- Low Light photography can be improved some more, especially with motion shots
See Also : HTC One User Review
If you’re in the market for a flagship Android smartphone, and deciding between the many options available in the market today, would I suggest the HTC One (M8)?
If you’re coming from a different manufacturer, then YES, go buy this phone. HTC again did an amazing job with this year’s flagship.
The battery life and build quality alone should be the biggest reason to sway you here. The phone has amazing features without being bloatware that slows down the performance of your phone. They’re handy and barely in your face when you don’t need it. It’s a good flagship, and a beautiful one at that.
If you’re coming from upgrading last year’s HTC One like me, there’s not enough to sway me to part with RM 2,399 for this slightly improved version. The original HTC One was a great phone and still is. It still performs very well and is on par with a lot of flagships today. While the new M8 is a great phone with some improvements, just not great enough to warrant an expensive upgrade, in my opinion.
If you’re coming from other mobile OS, like iPhone or BlackBerry, then YES, A a thousand times YES, go buy this HTC One (M8) now!!!
Kudos to HTC once again for another amazing flagship Android smartphone. If it’s ever possible, HTC made the 2014 Global Mobile Award for Best Smartphone even better!
For more information, visit HTC Southeast Asia website at http://www.htc.com/sea/ and *LIKE* HTC Malaysia Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/HTCMalaysia