It’s been a tough 12 months for HTC. Despite having close to what many critics considered the best Android smartphone of 2013, things just didn’t quite work out for the Taiwanese company. Not only did they lose out to Samsung with its Galaxy S4, HTC managed to also shoot itself in the foot with production of its HTC One not being able to keep up with the demand.
One year on, and HTC’s again calling its flagship Android smartphone the One. It’s been leaked all over the Internet by now, but HTC has managed to keep a few things a secret for its global launch. Head on after the jump to find out more about the smartphone HTC calls the HTC One (M8).
Two things stand out when I first saw the new HTC One (M8). First, it looks just like last year’s model. Second, it doesn’t look like last year’s model. This year, HTC is betting on a sexy Gunmetal Grey finish as its main colourway for the HTC One, featuring an irresistible hairline brush finish at the back – a design only found on this colour (the Glacial Silver option looks just like the previous-generation One). This grey colourway looks absolutely stunning, and the device feels amazing too: HTC says that the back of the old One was made of 70% metal. The all-new One is 90% metal, from the back draping all the way to the front edges of the device.
This all-metal body is slimmer than last year’s model, is more tapered with curved edges to make it more comfortable to hold, and has what HTC claims to be “jewelry-grade” finish. From the hairline brush finish, diamond-polished chamfers around the camera sensor to the micro-drill holes…it seems like HTC has found a balance between the cold, mechanical finish of the iPhone 5s with something more intrinsically human: comfort.
The HTC One (M8)’s tapered edges coupled with curved edges mean this device is really, really nice to hold. I’m not sure if this was due to the warmer temperatures we’re experiencing now, but back of the device also does not feel as cold to the touch as last year’s model. One-handed operation is not a problem, and it is also just as easy to use with both hands.
And, the improvements aren’t just on the exterior, either. Perhaps learning from last year’s mistake, HTC has equipped the new One with the most powerful chipset available today, and will run on the latest version of Android. The flagship smartphone now also sports a microSD card slot that supports up to 128GB cards. There’s an advanced antenna design called the Dynamic Antenna Tuner. The 2600mAh battery has a fast-charge feature which lets it charge from 0 to 80% in just one hour, and the Extreme Power Saving Mode lasts for 60 hours on just 20% battery. The HTC BoomSound speakers sports a brand new speaker system and amplifiers, making them 25% louder, with richer and punchier sound across all spectrum and a focus on vocal clips. There’s support for LTE Cat 4, and the new One only accepts nano-SIM cards. How’s that for making a statement?
It’s just a pity that HTC did not further furnish the new HTC One with dust and water resistance, which is fast becoming a norm among flagship smartphones these days. Because if they did, this is hands down the best all-round exterior of any smartphone that’s been released this year.
When mentioning the back, one cannot ignore that second, smaller circular black spot above the UltraPixel sensor. It is actually a secondary camera sensor which has only one function, but is crucial for the entirely new imaging prowess of the new HTC One (M8). This sensor collects only information about depth, which when paired with the new UltraPixel sensor (HTC calls this combo the Duo Camera) allows for some compellingly good feats.
But before that, it’s also important to note that HTC has done some work on the UltraPixel sensor itself. It has faced plenty of criticism with the UltraPixel sensor in the past, mainly with its resolution power and more recently with its “purple tint” issue. Well, the good news is the new HTC One has a new UltraPixel sensor which I was told sports new hardware that both eliminates the “purple tint” issue and is as a whole a faster sensor. The bad news? It is still a 4MP (or UP) sensor.
One subtle, but just as important, addition to the HTC One’s camera is a new dual-tone LED flash. Similar to the module found on the iPhone 5s, the HTC One detects the ambient lighting and automatically selects the right tone and intensity with which to fire the LED flash to match the surrounding lighting.
With the Duo Camera, the new HTC One can detect and separate the foreground and the subject, allowing for on-the-fly image editing features called Duo Effects, including UFocus, Foregrounder, Copy & Paste, Dimension Plus and Seasons.
The most interesting feature among all, UFocus is HTC’s take on capturing an image with multiple focus points. Unlike Nokia’s Refocus app and the Samsung Galaxy S5’s Selective Focus camera feature, HTC has gone for a hardware approach instead of the software solution that its rivals have done. And it is because of this that UFocus produces much better results compared to the others. With the depth sensor, the artistic bokeh effect is a lot more profound on the HTC One compared to the other alternatives. And the best part? UFocus is baked into the camera app and does not require you to select a “UFocus” mode. Just snap an image in Auto mode and that image contains all the depth information it needs for UFocus after. There’s no processing lag either, which is a pleasant surprise.
Moving on to the other image editing features found on the new HTC One. Foregrounder lets you highlight your foreground subject by allowing you to change backgrounds to anything you want. The depth sensor allows the image processing chip within the HTC One to accurately separate the foreground and include it into a different background. Copy & Paste allows you to recompose images, while Seasons add seasonal video effects to a captured image. The final image editing feature is called Dimension Plus, and is equal amounts of cool and gimmick. An image edited with Dimension Plus can be viewed from different perspectives, giving the image a 3D effect – but naturally, it can only be viewed with the HTC One.
The front-facing camera has also been given an upgrade too. It is now a sharper 5MP sensor with f/2.0 wide-angle lens. One cool feature about the new camera app on the HTC One M8 is when you flip to the front-facing camera with a swipe down, snapping a shot automatically engages a 3-second timer for you to pose for that perfect selfie.
Of course, no mention of HTC and imaging can be complete without HTC Zoe. The Zoe algorithm has been tweaked for the new HTC One, which produces better-quality Zoe video highlights. In addition, you can even personalize it by selecting your own content and even add in your own soundtrack.
More importantly, HTC will also release Zoe as an app on iTunes and Google Play, making it available for free to run on non-HTC smartphones. This is where things get a bit confusing. The Zoe app for Android and iOS is a mirror of the Gallery app within HTC smartphones, but the Zoe app for HTC smartphones is essentially Instagram with a touch of Zoe, where you can upload images and videos to the Zoe community. HTC Zoe users can then invite HTC Zoe users on non-HTC smartphones to contribute to the HTC Zoe app with their own Zoe compilations. Confused? We are too, though we’re pretty sure HTC will share more information regarding this later on.
Let’s talk about Sense. Sense 6, in fact, which is the brand new HTC UI for Android. Despite looking similar to Sense 5, HTC told us that Sense 6 has been had a “bottom-up redesign”. Sense 6 is now flatter, has easier controls, a new font, and simpler icons. Main apps are also colour-coded on Sense 6, based on categories such as productivity, games and more. On top of that, there’s a new virtual keyboard here too, which has been optimized for faster input, prediction and language switching. Finally, Sense 6 now also allows users to install their own custom fonts.
Sense 6 isn’t just a visual overhaul, however. Sense 6 introduces the new Motion Launch feature, powered by Sensor Hub. Motion Launch is a new gesture-based unlocking mechanism with a twist. You can double tap a sleeping device to wake it and see your notifications on your lockscreen, and then double tap again to put it to sleep. Swipe gestures from the four edges of the device will unlock the phone and activate various features, such as activating voice command, BlinkFeed and also the last used app. Finally, another Motion Launch gesture is by pressing the volume rocker when the phone is in locked in landscape mode, which will automatically launch the camera app.
Like HTC Sense, HTC BlinkFeed has also been tweaked. As unbelievable as it sounds, HTC states that as many as 70% of HTC smartphone owners use BlinkFeed, and over 2 billion articles has been read using this service. With the new BlinkFeed, HTC is making it easier for you to access news and article that you want to read. With the new Bundles feature, BlinkFeed can now curate news on a single topic, and even pull in related news as well as updates from social networks. Text on BlinkFeed is also now larger, while you can personalise your BlinkFeed better by signing in to Google+ or Facebook. Finally, BlinkFeed is now more easily accessible in a less intrusive manner: just a swipe to the right from the home screen, or a Motion Launch gesture away.
The HTC One (M8) will also see HTC moving into the personal fitness arena. Instead of providing its own solution a la Samsung S Health, HTC has instead roped in Fitbit, where the Fitbit app will come preloaded into each HTC One (M8). On top of that, the app will continuously monitor your daily activities such as footsteps taken, distance traveled and more, which can be viewed on the app as well as on BlinkFeed.
To make it easier for new users to jump to the HTC One (M8), HTC will also introduce several useful apps preloaded into the One. The HTC Transfer Tool and HTC Sync Manager will help you transfer your contacts and files painlessly to your new HTC One, while a new app called HTC Match is tailored specifically for iPhone users moving to the One. HTC Match will find an Android equivalent (if they exist) for apps found on iTunes.
Finally, we move to the accessories available for the HTC One (M8). All previous accessories for the One, including the HTC Mini+, HTC BoomBass and the HTC Fetch are naturally compatible with the new One. HTC will also introduce three new cases for the One: the Double Dip case, the HTC Flip case, and the most interesting of the three, the HTC Dot View case.
A slim and very light case patented only to work on the HTC One (M8), the flip cover of the HTC Dot View case is perforated and is thin enough to detect Motion Launch gestures. By simply double-tapping the front of the case, the HTC One will light up to display the time and weather/temperature combo for a few seconds, where the perforated case will allow the light to pass through. Other Motion Launch gestures are supported as well, as is the ability to answer and end a call without having to flip the case.
The new HTC One (M8) will be available in three colours: Gunmetal Grey, Glacial Silver, and a limited edition Amber Gold. There is no concrete word on its impending arrival in Malaysia, but we’ve been told that it will be launched in Malaysia by the end of April.