This week, the new HTC One was announced at an event in London and New York. The phone, which goes by its M8 codename, is widely seen as one of the last chances for HTC to turn their company’s fortunes around.
Despite continuing to release critically acclaimed phones, HTC’s stock price has fallen 90% since 2011. This is largely due to marketing failures and supply chain issues, along with increased competition from rivals Apple and Samsung.
Now, HTC will need to eclipse its rivals, through releasing a phone that is both critically acclaimed and well marketed to customers. We’ll have to see how HTC accomplish that second goal, but for now let’s take a look at the first part: How good is the new One?
Initial reports are that HTC have done well once again. The One (M8) retains the cuved aluminium design and front-firing speakers of its critically successful predecessor, with upgrades in key areas and a few new features.
The standout feature is a dual camera system that pairs the Ultrapixel rear camera with a secondary depth-of-field camera that allows images to be refocused after they are shot. This effect has previously been seen in hardware with the Lytro camera, and in software in a range of smartphones, but HTC’s second camera approach is unique.
Unfortunately, the new camera hasn’t been well received. While re-focusing works well, a common complaint is that the camera still takes soft, low-resolution photos that lack detail.
HTC have also upgraded the front-facing camera to 5 megapixels, with a wide-angle lens that makes for “the ultimate selfie machine.”
Display, storage and battery upgrades
The usual round of performance upgrades are present and correct in the M8. The 1080p display has been enlarged from 4.7 to 5 inches to match the current standard, while the processor inside has been upgraded to the recently released Snapdragon 801. A new microSD card slot can add up to 128 GB of storage space. The internal battery has grown to 2600 mAh, and in combination with a new set of power saving modes provides about 40% more battery life than the previous model.
HTC have also improved their phone’s software, with the release of its Sense Six UI. This new version is based on Android 4.4.2 KitKat, the most recent Android release. The overall look is flatter and more consistent, although some interface changes seem to offer little advantage over stock Android.
HTC’s most noticeable apps – BlinkFeed and SenseTV – have both seen upgrades to make them more useful, with BlinkFeed now sitting immediately to the left of the first home screen, and SenseTV now including social feeds.
HTC are stepping up their efforts to provide quality first-party accessories for the HTC One M8. This year they are introducing a series of HTC One M8 Dot View cases in multiple colours. These cases have a grid of small holes cut into them, allowing light to flow through from the display below. This provides a unique dot matrix effect, which is used to show the current time and notifications like incoming calls or the weather. It’s a similar idea to Samsung’s S View cases, but it looks better and costs less.
The HTC One M8 may not be a success. HTC could easily fail to market it properly, particularly given the strength of their competitors at Samsung and Apple. But for what it’s worth, they do seem to have wrought a phone that is a solid upgrade over its predecessor, allowing them to retain the title of “best Android phone.” And that’s a start.