We’ve been taking a look a Smart Watches recently, so it’s time to delve back into the ocean of smart phones to look at one of the pearls hidden beneath the waves; the HTC One M8 is one of the best smart phones to come out so far this year. Let’s see why.
As always, let’s start with the box. Basic in design, the box manages to pull off a quite sleek vision for the box, harkening back to the older iPhone box designs that seems to scream ‘class’ at you as you take it in. The main image that dominates the majority of the cover is a flipped image of both the front and the back of the HTC One M8 in all its glory, also representing an image of the current operating system, and impression of the aluminium design on the back and the look of all three cameras. The box has other information around the sides, including other features that you’ll be able to find on the factory mode of the device. Overall, the box gives a superb first impression. A trend with the device as a whole, something that begins with the box itself, is that the phone is worth the price tag. At roughly £500 SIM-free, you’re going to be expecting a high quality product, and HTC tries its best to ensure this quality.
The HTC One M8 continues to bring some great impressions thanks to the metal casing. One of the problems I’ve found with quite a few of the more recent smart phones is the trend to use plastic to lower the price; Samsung’s S3 is one of the main victims of this trend. The M8 manages to avoid this issue by giving us a case made up of 90% metal, giving it a clean look that feels great in the hand. The slightly curved back of the phone lets it sit nicely in your hand. Buttons along the side and top are present here that can turn the screen on or off, along with adjusting volume; the button design isn’t metal itself, but the overall look definitely fits the aesthetic. Swipe to unlock features are also present on the device, but these can become irritating in some situations, where the phone can be opened whilst walking around in your camera. The speakers sit on both the bottom and top of the front of the phone, an interesting change from the traditional side speakers that are present in the smartphone market. The speakers are subtle, and combat the common problem of muffling sound with fingers, thighs and the like. Unfortunately, the device is quite large, and as such is quite uncomfortable to use with one hand. Although it is possible to use the phone with one hand, it can be difficult to reach the top corners at times, making you have to angle the phone in different ways. It’s much easier to use with two hands, but this can defeat the preference that some people have. Luckily, we get a good impression when you finally turn the screen on, and the vibrant, colourful operating system presents itself.
The HTC One M8 runs superbly, having both a smooth interface and wonderful design. Harkening back to our Samsung Gear 2 review, we discussed the idea that simplicity worked well when an effective art style is used, and the operating system for the device certainly ascertains to this. Simple imagery is used to represent each application, each of which is rendered extremely well; application images from the Google Play store may vary due to the third party elements, so bear this in mind when downloading external applications for use. The phone is quite hefty, but this can be attributed to the better processing system that helps make the device run faster. The phone we were using had 312 applications, all of which did nothing to hinder the speed of the device as a whole, and high-end games such as FIFA 14 (the game that was given with the review copy) seemed to run extremely well, though overheating may occur, as the phone seemed to heat up slightly whilst I was playing. This isn’t too big a complaint, but is worth bearing in mind, as I was only playing for fifteen minutes and got a slightly warmed palm.
Applications themselves can be extremely varied thanks to the android operating system and the Googly Play store, which is notoriously flexible. The phone manages high numbers of applications well, and then can be managed from the applications list easily. Other features include the ability to purchase Movies, TV shows, Music and books through the store.
One of the main selling points of many smart phones is their camera. Unfortunately, the M8 is a mixed bag when it comes to the camera. Having both a forward and backward facing camera, the phone holds a standard maintained by the iPhone and Samsung equivalents, but does little to evolve the system. Some unique features, such as the U-focus feature, are quite interesting; the feature allows you to bring background blur and give pictures a more professional sheen. It ends up working quite well, but it can’t help being held back by the other problems present with the camera system. The photos are fantastic in low light, rivalling that of some higher megapixel cameras, but in scenes where sunlight is heavily present (unfortunately, quite a lot of the time), sun glare and over-exposure can ruin some otherwise fantastic pictures. The washed out effect is unwelcome, and a real shame to this otherwise quite impressive part of the device. Similarly, and mainly down to the mediocre megapixel amount, images that are brought to a larger screen, or are simply zoomed in often show a small degree of noise, ruining some of the close-ups you may want to achieve.
Luckily, the device comes with a whole slew of features that not only salvage it, but bring a reassuring tone to the whole phone. The sound quality of calls, music and video are fantastic thanks to the front-facing speakers, which deliver an impressively high quality sound. The keyboard is also perfectly sized for most hands, allowing for an easy experience when typing messages, emails and website addresses. The keyboard, along with many of these features, are also highly flexible thanks to the dizzying array of applications on the Play store. The HTC One M8 does, above all else, seem to aim for quality of life, and a high one at that. The £500 asking price ensures a level of quality assurance that you would not find with their cheaper models, specifically the Desire. It reaches the point where pretty much anything you don’t like can still be reached through the Play store.
As for battery life, the M8 fares much better than its predecessor. There is a lot of work yet to be done, and one of the largest problems remains playing games, which can easily drain 30-40% of the battery if you play a full hour on a graphically intensive game. Overall though, you’ll find it fares a bit better than some of the other smart phones to come before it.
You’re probably wondering why you would even resist buying a phone that is this good. Unfortunately, the price tag is extremely overbloated for the extra camera and metal finish. The HTC One E8 is out now, and although it doesn’t have the exact same specs, it’s going to cost around £200 less. In conclusion however, the HTC One M8 is by far one of the best smartphones on the market right now. You’d be doing it a disservice if you didn’t give it your undying attention, even if for five minutes in your local tech store.