With the new One (M8), HTC is doubling down on the features that made the original One a favorite with the critics, if not a commercial success. On the outside and the inside, the Sense 6-running M8 is faithfully building on the foundation laid in 2013, bringing refinements and improvements more than anything else.
BlinkFeed, the content and social updates aggregation service living on the homescreen of the M8, is one area where HTC added a few touches, without changing the essence of the user experience, for better or worse.
BlinkFeed on the HTC One (M8) lets you change the color of the background and highlights, in a departure from the understated dark gray that you had to live with on the first generation. The default color is green, but you can opt for a few other paint schemes from the Themes menu.
Most tiles are now square, except for the highlighted tiles, which are large rectangles, and this small change lets content shine through a little better. Another subtle change is the scroll animation – before, each tile would “pop up” in a 3D effect, while now they just flow smoothly onto the screen. It’s a welcome change, that makes BlinkFeed feel less busy.
HTC made the new navigation bar on the M8 transparent, meaning that the icons in the dock will be shown on top of the tiles. This means it can be hard to tell the icons apart from the background, and we wished HTC found a better solution here.
Depending on your settings, opening the cover of the Dot View case will take you straight to BlinkFeed. If you don’t use the case, swiping right on the screen will wake up the phone and take you to BlinkFeed, while swiping left will show the classic homescreen.
Functionality remains mostly unchanged in BlinkFeed on Sense 6. You can add your favorite outlets from the list provided by HTC and you can connect to your social accounts to see updates from Facebook friends or your Twitter list. You can opt for the Highlights for a mishmash of content from all sources, or you can focus on just one content category or even just one source, all with just a few taps. HTC added icons to the list of available outlets, making finding your favorite websites a bit easier. But you can always just use the search box, which is fast and accurate.
HTC has made the BlinkFeed SDK available to developers, opening the way for more apps and services to show up in the content feed. Foursquare recommendations and updates from Fitbit are two examples of content you can now see in BlinkFeed, but many more will likely follow. In theory, having updates from more apps should make it easier for you to stay on top of everything. HTC calls this a Sixth Sense (get it?), but you’ll have to see for yourself if having this extra sense is as good as HTC makes it to be.
HTC announced it would make BlinkFeed available to users of non-HTC devices in the future, and the app is already in the Play Store, though you can’t install just yet. With apps like Flipboard, Play Newsstand, and others essentially doing the same thing, it remains to be seen if BlinkFeed will be successful in the Play Store jungle, but for the most part, we’re optimistic.