Maaaaaaaaaaate! Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. The new HTC One M8 is here, and we’ve been hands on with what might just be the best Android phone HTC has made yet.
It’s called the HTC One M8, and it comes after last year’s fantastic HTC One M7. The M7 was an internal code name which you probably never heard during its lifecycle, which is why it’s a bit weird to be hearing the M8 (maaaate) for the first time.
The One M8 is a single unibody aluminium phone, packing a 5-inch 1080p SuperLCD 3 display, hardened and strengthened by Gorilla Glass 3. It’s got a 2.5GHz quad-core processor from Snapdragon under the hood, and it’s belting along with 2GB of RAM.
Aussies will get the 16GB version, complete with a microSD card slot on the side of the device, capable of holding an additional 128GB of storage, as well as a free 65GB of Google Drive storage. That gives you 209GB worth of phone storage when you put it all together.
You’ve also got a 2600mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy and the ability to connect to just about every conceivable wireless network on the planet with Category 4 LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and a tonne of LTE band support. It’s mercifully running Android 4.4.2 out of the box for all you software junkies.
You’ve also got a dual Ultrapixel camera on the HTC One M8 which gives you better light performance than the previous Ultrapixel camera and the ability to add real 3D depth on your photos via the new HTC Camera app.
The device itself is heavier than last time thanks to HTC’s obsession with metal, but we’re willing to wear the weight thanks to just how freaking pretty this thing is.
It’s more rounded than before and finished beautifully in brushed aluminium on the rear of the device. It’s a more modern-looking device than the last One, which always had that timeless watch-like look about it thanks to polished silver aluminium. The grey metal model is the particular standout here. Make sure you go hands-on with that one as soon as you can just so you can see what we mean by gorgeous.
It’s awesome news that HTC haven’t messed the proverbial design bed when it comes to the the updated One. The last HTC One showed just how beautiful Android could really be both inside and out. This new M8 doubles-down on the pretty.
HTC’s proprietary Android skin, Sense, gets an upgrade to its sixth version on the HTC One M8, and it brings with it a new, flat and colourful version of HTC’s social news skin, Blinkfeed. I can’t say I’m a massive fan of the new redesign, given that it’s all flat and colourful. It matched the design language of the device being grey and sleek.
I am a fan, however, of the idea of “stacking” of stories. Rather than have you read the same story four or five times on different Blinkfeed screens, you can read the one story stack from multiple sources as they’re published. Blinkfeed is also better now at scrolling, allowing you to scroll infinitely rather than screen-by-screen.
The larger, higher resolution screen is muchly appreciated on the One, but it’s interesting to think how it will affect the future variants of the new One M8. There’s probably a Mini and a Max device on the way to cater to those who like bigger and smaller screens, so it’ll be interesting to see the screen sizes of those when they’re released.
Front-facing Boomsound speakers are back for another go around, and this time they sound a million times better than the previous model thanks to a new amplifier in the device, as well as larger speakers under the front-facing laser-etched grilles. Boomsound also now pertains to clever software which analyses your music and optimises to what’s playing so that you get a great experience across all genres. HTC claims that these new updates make it both 25 per cent louder and clearer which is nice. We’ll have to test that when we get a review device.
The real stand-out on the new HTC One M8, however, is the dual-cameras and how they interact with the fantastic software on offer. That’s right: HTC has built two cameras into the back of the One M8 for the best goddamn depth sensing shots you’ve ever seen.
It’s called Duo Camera: one camera captures the image, while the other captures a similar image from a different angle in order to feed a bunch of 3D depth data into the image.
Via the new HTC camera software, the phone can very intelligently detect and separate subjects in the foreground and background for better refocus masking. It does it faster and better than the Lumia Refocus app, and even the Galaxy S5 refocus app. The files are also smaller on the device helping you save space.
Using a feature called UFocus and Duo Effects in the phone’s camera software, you can intelligently refocus the subject of an image into the mid- fore- and background with one click. Having used both abilities, they’re pretty goddamn impressive. It refocuses quickly and intelligently on the middle, foreground and background of an image, and also allows you to mask out something or someone completely in Zoe mode. It really is like having a powerful, no-nonsense Photoshop client on your phone that anyone can pick up and use.
To make your night-shooting experience better, the HTC One M8 also has a dual-colour LED flash next to the rear-facing camera. It’s pretty much the same one Apple has in the iPhone 5s, thanks to a cross-patent licensing deal between the two.
The new Ultrapixel camera also boasts fast auto-focus capabilities, allowing you to capture a shot within 0.3 of a second. Compare that to the phase-detection sensor on the Galaxy S5 — which also promises to focus up an image 0.3 of a second — and you find that we’re about to have a great Android flagship camera showdown.
The Dotview case is also an intriguing concept, and it definitely works like it says on the box.
Dotview is a feature that activates when you double-tap the front of your device to wake it up with a specific Dotview case on. It then shines a light through the tiny perforations in your flip cover to show you info like the time, the weather and various notifications.
The One M8 also senses when a Dotview case is on the device when a call comes in, and displays the number or the contact who is calling and allows you to take the call without even opening the Dotview cover.
It’s pretty neat, but can be a bit hard to fathom when you’re in a bright scenario like outdoors or in a well-lit room.
The HTC One M8 launches on Vodafone, Telstra and Optus in April. We’ll bring you a full-review shortly!
Luke Hopewell travelled to New York as a guest of HTC.