When the HTC One (M8) was first launched, many were disappointed at how HTC kept its UltraPixel camera at the back. It’s not a bad camera per se, but the 4MP resolution is simply too small and is certainly not up to par with such a gorgeous body and unique Duo Camera setup. Fast forward six months later, HTC replied with its next smartphone.
Instead of a beautiful metal unibody, the Taiwanese company has swapped it with a polycarbonate body, and it’s water and dust resistant. Say hello to the HTC Butterfly 2.
You know how people like to use the phrase “smooth as a baby’s bottom”? Well, I think it’s a bit creepy, and using “smooth as the white HTC Butterfly 2” might be a better description. HTC Malaysia passed us a white HTC Butterfly 2 for review and the first thing you’ll notice is how slippery it is despite being a matte plastic case. It’s so smooth that it literally slipped out of my hands a couple of times.
Unlike Sony’s Xperia Z series, which is known for its water and dust resistant builds, the HTC Butterfly 2 does not come with any flimsy flaps. This means that you won’t need to fiddle around just to get your phone charged, and you won’t have to worry about fitting in the flaps properly before taking it for a swim. You also won’t have to worry about the flaps falling off, ridding the phone of its water and dust resistance.
What I like most about the Butterfly 2 is unlike the M8, you won’t need any SIM tray ejector just to change your SIM card. You’ll probably need longer fingernails to pry the trays out though, as they can be tricky to pull out – but it’s definitely better than searching your entire office for a pin.
The HTC Butterfly 2 is almost identical to the HTC One (M8) in terms of specs, but what makes it stand out is its IP57 rating for dust and water resistance, and a 13MP Duo Camera that basically everybody have been asking for.
The HTC Butterfly 2 runs on Android 4.4 with the company’s own Sense 6.0 UI on top. One of my favourite Android skins, Sense 6 remains a joy to use with its beautiful and simple interface, even if I don’t use some Sense features such asn BlinkFeed.
My first and only HTC phone was the One X and even though it ran on a much older version of HTC Sense (Sense 4.0), using the Butterfly 2 brings back familiar vibes that made me miss my ex-phone quite a bit.
This may seem weird, but what I like most about HTC Sense is how the UI places your launch bar apps on the lock screen itself. I always put my frequently used apps on the launch bar, and to be able to access them directly from the lock screen itself is a bonus. This is something I’m missing most on my Sony Xperia Z3.
Sure, you can easily download lock screen apps from the Play Store, but I’m not a fan of using different launchers for my lock screen and homescreen. Besides, these little things should work right out of the box.
I’ve been using many Chinese smartphones in recent months, including the Oppo Find 7/7a, Xiaomi Mi 3, and the Vivo Xshot. Each smartphone came pre-installed with their very own theme store, offering a plethora of theme packs to customise your phone. I used to change theme packs frequently because while they offered something different, I couldn’t find one that I like enough to stick to. With the HTC Sense 6.0, I’m content with what it has got to offer. It’s simple, straightforward and more importantly, it’s light – everything is snappy, and there are little to no bloatware to speak of.
Just like on the One M8, the Butterfly 2 also comes with gesture controls called Motion Launch.
Sadly, if you activate Motion Launch, you’ll need to activate all the gestures at once. And that’s not a good idea especially if you, like me, like to hold your phone when you’re out. Just a small accidental swipe and you might end up calling random people.
Other notable HTC Sense 6.0 UI features include Car Mode, Kids Mode, and HTC Sense TV (which came in really handy because the remote control for my TV went missing one day, and setting the IR remote up on the Butterfly 2 is a breeze). You can even easily transfer your files (photos, contacts, music and more) to the Butterfly 2 from other phones (Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, Blackberry or other phones) right from the settings menu.
HTC Butterfly 2 uses a 5” 1080p Super LCD 3 display with 441ppi. For a 5” display, I honestly think a Full HD resolution is good enough – you really can’t see the difference with a sharper resolution.
Super LCD 3 has always been one of the best display technologies around, offering vibrant but true-to-life colours, good contrast and great viewing angles. The screen also has great sunlight legibility, though under the hot sun, the Butterfly 2 can get pretty hot with the display brightness set to maximum.
The HTC Butterfly 2 is equipped with two speakers at the front, and these are not your typical smartphone speakers, but BoomSound speakers. We don’t need to be audiophiles to really appreciate just how good these speakers are.
These speakers are so loud (up to 95dB!) and clear, watching something on your phone can suddenly be a social experience – friends and family just walk up behind you, attracted by the sound.
The camera interface of the Butterfly 2 is very straightforward – simply swipe left or right to switch between front and back cameras, and tap on the 3 dots to access the settings. You get almost identical settings on both the front and back camera, and there’s even HTC Zoe camera on board, which is one of my favourite parts about the camera software. Instead of capturing just a picture or a video, HTC Zoe allows you to capture a combo consisting of burst shots and a 3-second video clip all with just a touch of a button. After capturing a Zoe shot, you will be able to access advanced editing tools in the gallery, allowing you to remove unwanted objects, or create a Sequence Shot, and the Always Smile feature will let you select faces from different pictures so you can have one where everybody is smiling.
There are various modes for the rear camera like the usual night mode, macro, landscape, HDR, anti-shake and more, but HTC also included a manual mode so you can set your own shutter speed, white balance, ISO and even focus.
While both the front and back camera allows you to set the make-up level in the camera’s settings menu, you can retouch faces even more under the default image editor.
That being said, I have a love-hate relationship with the 13MP rear Duo Camera on the HTC Butterfly 2. I love it because of the two-sensor setup, one of which captures depth information.
With the added depth information, you get some awesome editing tools. My favourites are U Focus, which lets you change the focus point of your picture, and Foregrounder, which cuts out your subject and gives the background a cool effect.
Best of all, these can be done without activating anything at all – there’s no need to change your camera to a different mode, no settings to fiddle with; just pick up the phone and snap. Brilliant.
I also like how there’s finally a high-resolution 13MP sensor, something a lot of HTC One (M7) and One (M8) users have been asking for. The UltraPixel camera sounds promising in theory, but the 4MP sensor is just too small, hugely affecting detail resolution and just looks horrible when you do 100% crop image comparison with other smartphones in the market. Check out our camera comparison that puts the 4MP HTC One (M8) next to other flagship smartphones here, here and here.
But, I really dislike the Butterfly 2’s camera for how slow the autofocus can get. Especially in low-light conditions, the autofocus can be painfully slow.
Case in point: once at an event I tried taking a photo of a model, but the venue was pretty dark so I had the flash turned on. I swear, she was probably cursing me under that smile of hers for shining the LED light on her face for about 5 seconds, only for the focus to fail. So I had approach here again and put her through the torture of a blinding focus assist flash.
The result of my second picture?
It wasn’t bad (thank you dual-tone flash!), thankfully, but the flash bounced right off the device she was holding, rendering this image unusable. Embarrassing moment, temporarily blinding a model, and I couldn’t even use that photo.
Unless the frame is in focus, the camera will not fire. This means that it will keep trying to focus onto something before capturing anything, which is very annoying. Sure, it does snap after several failed attempts at focusing, but those attempts can take up to 5 seconds – so imagine having a blur picture after keeping your hands still for 5 seconds.
But when the autofocus does play nice, the Butterfly 2 can take some very nice photos. As with most cameras, under bright sunlight, the Butterfly 2’s camera performs well.
And, with the water-resistant body, the Butterfly 2 can be one of the best smartphones to have for your outdoor holiday shots, especially by the beach.
Take it for a swim!
At the end of the day, I think the Duo Camera setup makes the camera on the Butterfly 2 worthy. Sure, the focus may be slow, but it’s forgivable. Furthermore, when the camera does manage to focus and snap a picture, the quality is actually pretty good. Advanced users can use the manual mode in the camera to take even better pictures – I’ll stick to automatic since it does a pretty good job on its own.
The Butterfly 2 may have a 2700mAh battery on board, which sounds pretty small for a 5” Full HD display, but it can easily last a day, and maybe even more. On normal usage, it can easily last me for over 24 hours. If I need to go around town for the day and rely on GPS, I can get about 16 hours with about 30% battery to spare.
It charges up pretty quickly too, the same charger takes forever to fill up my Note 3’s battery.
Do note that Power Saving mode is off and I usually have my brightness level on automatic
Despite being not hyped as a flagship device, the Butterfly 2 is actually a flagship device…or so it seems with the specs and price. It packs some of the best hardware available in the market right now, and is slightly cheaper than One (M8).
The One (M8) is known for its beautiful build and is easily one of the sexiest Android smartphones in the market. HTC has an alternative for it too, called the One (E8) that has almost identical specs as the M8 (minus the Duo Camera), but with a much cheaper price tag of RM1,699, it’s getting more attention than the RM2,299 Butterfly 2. That being said, the 13MP sensor on the E8 is pretty disappointing.
Another competitor to the HTC Butterfly 2 would definitely have to be the Sony Xperia Z3 because of its water and dust resistant build. The Xperia Z3 has a higher water and dust resistance rating of IP68, but its slots (microUSB, microSD and SIM slot) are covered by annoying flaps that are hated by many. The Xperia Z3 is also a tad more expensive than the Butterfly 2, retailing at RM2,399.
It’s such a sad thing how the Butterfly line-up of devices from HTC is overshadowed by beautiful One series. The Butterfly 2 has all that the One (M8) has to offer, yet the attention seems to be only on the more expensive variant. Even the One E8 seems to be getting more attention than the Butterfly 2.
I must say, I enjoy using the Butterfly 2 a lot. Perhaps it’s because I have a toddler around, so being able to wash my phone under the tap has become a really useful feature for me. You know how they say your smartphone probably has more bacteria than the toilet seat? Well, with the Butterfly 2, just wash it!
The Butterfly 2 is a pretty great and underrated phone, but it has the potential to be even better. Like the M8, HTC fumbled again on the camera. I love the Duo Camera setup and even the picture quality is great, but the autofocus can be cripplingly slow at times, making it an unreliable camera.
For RM2,299, I think the Butterfly 2 is a little too expensive for what it offers. If only HTC worked just that bit more on the camera, this would have easily gotten my vote for best Android phone this year.