Gr8, it's the new M8! Ideal for that celebrity funeral selfie
A camera that lets you chat online
Grubby Mitts On Taiwanese phone-maker HTC unveiled its quad-core HTC One M8, the snappily named successor to the M7, on Tuesday.
Predictably, it's powered by a 2.3GHz ARM-compatible Snapdragon 801 chip from Qualcomm with 2GB of RAM, and runs Android KitKat 4.4. The battery isn’t removable, it has 16 or 32GB of on-board storage, and it can access up to 128GB from the microSD slot. It has a five-inch 1080 x 1920-pixel touchscreen, measures 146 x 71 x 9mm (5.76 x 2.78 x 0.37in) and weighs 160g (5.64 oz), and so on.
Phones have become so homogeneous, they struggle for differentiation. But there are some things that lift the M8 a little from the pack.
It is very nice to hold. The single-piece metal brushed case works well in giving a quality feel. It’s a bit slippery despite the “gentle curves and tapered edges” pointed out by HTC's design veep Scott Croyle.
The metal going right up to the glass screams repair nightmare, especially given the trade’s qualms about HTC’s repair turnaround time. Still, they do have a good reputation for reliability.
There is some real engineering going on here: HTC uses the metal case as an antenna, so more than 90 per cent of the back can be metal. This is quite an achievement; many phones that people think are metal are actually well-painted plastic. The M8's design also incorporates more space for the stereo speakers that, combined with a clever audio DSP, sounds pretty good, and those speakers are used for voice calls, too.
There are some interesting camera features. The main cam is a dual 4-megapixel design (2688 x 1520 resolution) with flash and an f/2.0, 28mm lens. On the other side, there's simpler 5Mp part capable of recording 1080p video. Apparently, though, they are not just pixels but HTC Ultrapixels, and so in some way better.
What makes the primary camera worthy of extra note is its dual-sensor arrangement that makes it capable of Lytro-style depth sensing. This allows automatic application of a range of special effects including the fashionable bokeh that keeps the subject of the picture in focus and blurs the background, or vice versa.
There are filter effects that can be combined with this to give a pencil effect or cartoon. Unlike the Lytro, you can’t save the photos with depth-of-field metadata from the camera hardware, but HTC is opening up a software interface to developers so there is an opportunity for someone else to do it.
Here comes the selfie machine
Here comes the selfie machine ... the HTC One M8
The photo gallery has useful sorting options and can recognize people in pics by their faces, which ties in nicely with a “selfie” mode as one of the quick camera settings. You can define shortcuts to control a host of traditional camera parameters such as ISO, white balance and shutter speed.
Ultimately, however, the specs don’t match up to the 20.7Mp cam from Sony on the Z2 and 41Mp on the Nokia Lumia 1020. Even if it isn’t just about the number of pixels, both Sony and Nokia have mechanical image stabilization. It may not be as great as the gear we have on The Reg's LOHAN, but it’s still better than none at all.
There is a special effects and sharing app called Zoe that stashes files in online cloud storage, and a video mode that takes twenty stills as it starts recording. The slow-motion control lets you choose what speed different bits of the video should be played in for Top Gear-style special effects. You can overlay music to a video and HTC’s software will help by setting edit cuts to the beat. The Zoe software will ship in the summer.
HTC's Sense user interface has been
fiddled with improved with color changes to reflect where you are in the menu structure. The home screen has a posh RSS reader called Blinkfeed, which serves up news and other stuff from HTC's big media pals.
Like Sony, the HTC M8 has – or at least will have as it’s not shipping from launch – an ultra-low power mode. This reduces the functionality to feature phone levels, but you will give two weeks on standby from the 2600mAh battery.
And for people who don’t want all the Sense 6 user-interface enhancements and the wall-to-wall software installed software, there will be a vanilla “Google Play” edition. The phone comes with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, LTE and so on, so you'll be able to connect to the internet and chat away – maybe even make a few calls if no one is on WhatsApp or Kik.
HTC has done an impressive job of rolling out the M8, having been stung by camera part shortages for the M7. The M8 is in 30 stores today and will be available across the whole of Europe by April 4. As a benchmark, Carphone Warehouse is selling it for £550 SIM-free, and over in the US it can be picked up for about $199.99 on a two-year contract from the usual suspects. ®