Looking back at the HTC One (M8)

by: Joshua VergaraMarch 22, 2015
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HTC followed up its very well received One (M7) flagship with the M8, a smartphone with a design that was further refined, which rightfully continued to win awards and fans. As other OEMs were only beginning to find their footing in the design and build quality department, some more so than others, HTC’s latest offering certainly brought with it the hope that this would be the One people chose over the competition. Shortcomings aside, its eye-catching profile and fantastic user experience did lead to a number of users snatching up the One (M8).

But that was then, and this is the HTC One (M8)… now.

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Unlike this year, when HTC launched its latest flagship in Barcelona just before the official start of MWC 2015, HTC chose to stay away from any trade shows last year, launching the One (M8) during simultaneous events held in New York and London. HTC has to be appreciated for the fact that they keep their device announcement events pretty simple, a similar philosophy to what we see in the company’s approach to its smartphones.

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The One (M8) brought with it the appearance of a second “eye” on the back of the phone, above the 4 MP “Ultrapixel” camera that HTC was still touting as the best low-light camera experience. Though the Ultrapixel camera proved itself in the One (M7) as a decent performer, its detractors focused mainly on the lack of high detail when zooming in, as the pictures were much smaller compared to other flagships.

htc one m8 outdoors aa (4 of 14)

This time around, a second camera module was going to bring depth data to photos, resulting in better depth of field, similar to what you’d get with DSLR shooters. This certainly caught a lot of people by surprise, given the rumors that suggested that the Duo Camera addition would be for 3D picture shooting, instead of something that allowed you to add effects to just about any picture after the fact.

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Aside from the phone, one nice aspect of this new flagship was the addition of many in-house accessories for the One (M8), something that wasn’t always the case with Android devices. And given the out-of-the-box thinking with the Dot View Case in particular, the HTC One (M8) felt like an “experience,” rather than just a device bursting with raw power to appease the the spec hungry masses.

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Once we actually got our hands on the phone, much of what we liked from the announcement and the first hands-on continued to impress. In particular, the One M8 stood out from the smartphone crowd due its metal unibody design, which made for a much better looking phone when compared to the plastic or glass builds from other manufacturers, like Samsung with its Galaxy S5. A smooth software experience that didn’t require you to fight with the user interface to get things done, and one of the best audio experiences available to users in the front-facing BoomSound speakers were definitely contributing factors as well. The One (M8) felt like a phone that just worked, which is exactly what many users are looking for in a phone.

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The One (M8) is not without its flaws though. The brushed metal is still one of the most slippery surfaces to use, and complaints about the phone slipping about have been observed. Though the rounded sides add to the look, we still don’t think they provide the best grip, even if the narrow profile certainly helps with this. The black bar at bottom of the display housing the HTC logo remains a point of contention for many users, even if HTC insists that the bar is necessary in order to accommodate crucial internal components.

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The improved HTC Sense is a pretty different take on the stock Android experience, but it is also one of the easiest to navigate. A vertical app drawer felt odd for a little while, but BlinkFeed was still a nice way of getting the general headlines from the news or social media feeds, and is still considered a better second homescreen addition than what we get from competitors. Though adding contextual colors to sections of the interface sounded like a good idea, I preferred to have everything be monotone or black. Personally, I felt this matched the general dark look of the Sense UI better.

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The one area that fell under heaviest criticism was the camera, an iteration from HTC that still included the Ultrapixel construction. While low light performance is always an issue with Android flagships, HTC hoped to alleviate their smaller megapixel pictures by trying to remedy this very problem. While in some cases it proved to be true, my biggest gripe with the One (M8) was its jumpy exposures. Often, I would get pictures that were simply not of accurate color reproduction or of proper exposure, opting for either blown out or darker images, depending on where your focus and exposure were tapped in the viewfinder. While getting good photos was definitely possible, it just didn’t happen as often as we would have liked. For a phone that tries to be easier to use across the board, having to fiddle around for a nice picture didn’t seem to align with that philosophy.

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This brings us to the capabilities of the Duo Camera. In short, getting depth information for every single photo was a very nice idea, but the execution didn’t do it justice. When shooting a proper subject in a photo, the Duo Camera effects would definitely find the spot and try to stitch it out for a nice bokeh effect, but unfortunately, this effect would often bleed into the wrong parts of the picture. With this fundamental first step already causing some issues, trying to put extra effects on top of the bokeh seemed pointless, not to mention the fact that many of the effects were just impractical. One aspect we did like about the camera experience was the highlight reel made possible by Zoe in the Gallery. Though you might sometimes forget that you can use the Zoe camera to get short clips or even burst shots of your scene, doing so could result in a really nice recap of an event or day in your life. And when done well, it was a nice little surprise to come back to.

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In revisiting the HTC One (M8), it still looks like the phone everyone wants because of its nearly flawless design. It certainly is different from all other phones in the space, and if you’re the kind of person that wants to get a bit of attention for your phone choices, the One (M8) was certainly the best bet. It was just a disappointment that HTC couldn’t get the camera right, and even today, it is overshadowed by other cameras that forego tricks and gimmicky additions in order to provide an easy to use and effective photo taking experience.

htc one m9 vs htc one m8 10

While the day to day user experience of the One (M8) was one of the best upon its release, ultimately the phone was let down by a poor camera experience that would turn off many users who would have otherwise considered the device. All of that hopefully changes in the HTC One M9, which has a further refined design, a sign that HTC knows where their flagship line has its strengths, along with a much more powerful 20 MP camera. The Ultrapixel camera again makes a return, but this time as a front facing shooter. Furthermore, the Sense UI continues to evolve, without trying too hard to change what makes it so accessible.

As good as the One (M8) was, we are certainly very excited to put its successor to the test.

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  • eggsbenadict

    Defiantly one of the best phones from 2014. It started the manufacturing push for better build quality.

    • Chris

      because no one likes plastic

    • romanmccluskey

      Arianna . I agree that Kevin `s blurb is something… last wednesday I bought Honda NSX sincee geting a check for $5092 this-past/five weeks and-also, ten-grand last-munth . it’s certainly the nicest job I have ever had . I actually started six months/ago and almost immediately was earning over $76 per/hr . look at more info…..=——

      ========>>>>> ­

  • Chris

    no phone is without flaws but HTC does things right. no silly contests that make you destroy your phones or take photos of woman. no BS…. and who cares if it runs sense. stock is for those nerds in their mothers basements. what normal human being gets erections over an interface called material design? most guys get off on woman, not a cell phone interface!

    • AvalancheRyder

      At least you know exactly how much money your cell phone interface will cost you. Can’t say the same about a woman.

    • Martin Lane

      Yes, they clearly got the camera right, 4MP camera for the win, twice……

  • Marty

    The only problem I have with the M8 is software related. I have the unlocked version and it has a sync problem. Make a Google contact change on any other device or the PC and the M8 won’t sync it. Make a Google contact change on the M8 and it won’t sync to Google.

    The only way to resolve it is to remove the Google account and reestablish it. Then it will sync accurate Google account data up front. It doesn’t fix the sync issue, just allows the immediate data to be synced. Once synced, though, any other changes made and it won’t sync them.

    • Chris

      I have no problems syncing. Maybe I know how to use my phone

      • Marty

        “Maybe I know how to use my phone”

        Nah, that can’t be it. Must be blind luck.

    • David Onter

      Are you running the latest Update?

      • Marty

        Yeah. It’s an unlocked M8 so whatever HTC published is what it has…Android 5.

  • Meyah

    This video doesn’t even show the actual 5.0 android with sense with really blends perfectly plus the new updates for the dot view and other HTC apps. Can someone tell where to get these kind of updates?

  • Paolo T.

    The biggest problem I have with HTC, is that they absolutely never got the camera right. Yes, the Ultrapixel-Duo camera is a fine combo for Instagram/FB/SC/Tumblr/G+, sure. But it’s useless compared to a GS5/Oneplus One/Note 4/Z3. In most every scenario.

    At least we can thank HTC for giving us the Galaxy S6/Edge -> Better build materials and quality for everybody, thanks to them!

    • AvalancheRyder

      I think its a safe bet that Samsung was inspired by Apple to increase their build quality, not HTC. Why waste time emulating HTC when Samsung has significantly higher market share than they do?

    • Rufus MD

      idk how to put this into words but that camera was essentially right for social media.. lower pixels = lower size means will save alot data for u.. and don’t compare it to other OEMs because HTC was taking a diff approach and more about utilizing the phone to harness its user experience.. not bombarding users with specs and pixels.Did you even bought a HTC one phone and experienced it before commenting here?

  • I’m not a fan of the camera. Took some pics in a store today, and the results are just terrible. I do prefer a dedicated option though, but when you need to take a shot quickly, sometimes the performance of this thing is disappointing. But it’s still a solid phone, and one which I’ll hang on to, and skip the M9. I’ll wait and see what the M10 or whatever it will be called has to offer

  • Chris

    Not interested… HTC has nothing for me. The new HTC ONE M8S should be priced at $499.00. I don’t take them seriously.

    • Rufus MD

      if the phone has nothing in you then why do you took your time to comment?

  • tonkemaskin

    I really, really wished they could have gotten the dual camera working properly. The bokeh effect looks great when it works, but it’s totally hit and miss what parts of the picture are considered foreground, midground and background.

  • Will S.

    I came really close to buying the One M8 but instead went for the GS5 – the mistake HTC made with the camera, one of the most basic yet important aspects of smartphones was simply unforgivable.

    • Lmao!

      • Will S.

        What is soo funny and why have 4 FUCKERS upvoted you?!

        • There are 5 and one of the fuckers is you. You almost made the most retarded choice of your life lol

          • Will S.

            Oh! I get it now! Here have some more upvotes!

  • Awayze

    You can’t have everything but the speakers, the touch screen feel and the metal body was superior to the other Android phones. Why they don’t just stick a Sony camera sensor in baffles me. Also as I recall the audio quality through headphones was superb to and the best on the market.

  • Good article. I am really looking forward to the M9 and I’m … ‘Glad’, I ( currently ) waited for the new release. Let’s see if HTC does some REAL marketing and promotion. Waiting for the M9 with great interest …

  • JY

    Chinese OEMS, blackberry and windows wont be a phone i own anytime soon.

    M9 great phone apart from the camera apparently, sense not my cup of tea stuff like vertical scrolling which a launcher can change I prefer stock or touchwiz despite the outdated icons and bloat with the latter is mostly gone, but I do like the theme engine pretty neat feature like on windows 8 with the colour changes, looks better than the m8 since the m9 looks like the m7 one of the best, pun maybe intended haha even better speakers but not one came close but i guess they had to improve it in someway to persuade you to buy the m9.

    Sony z3 has great everything almost, display, camera, battery, build, waterproof, front facing speakers not boomsound but at least on the front, only downside outdated ui, will z4 change that.

    lg least favourite brand but g3 super thin bezels making a 5.5inch display phone almost a small as a 5.2 inch device but a terrible 2k display affecting battery life and viewing experience which the g2 and g flex had amazing battery life, g3 has a removable battery which the g2 didn’t and the g flex 2 doesn’t so saying lg is now the only option for removable battery nobody knows if it will, it could take advantage of samsungs customers that want removable battery and microsd card, great camera with ois, again the ui major improvement over the ghastly g2 but still a touchwiz copy in some respects better and worse or touchwiz with on screenbuttons. G4 will it take samsungs strong points and use it for their advantage?

    moto x, I have a soft spot for Motorola back in days of flip phones, great design, the dimple M, like the idea of moto maker unfortunately not in the uk, has front facing speakers same reason I said for sony, but the display, camera and battery life seems poor or not as good compared to the other rivals, but it is mostly stock android look and feel with some cool moto features, but i can make software look like lollipop with lauchers and google apps on other OEMS, hardware I cant change and camera is important to me.

    nexus, good hardware for the price although the 6 did change that and it was too big, perks, lastest software and updates, no bloat pure android, i think lollipop is the best looking ui than anything right now, the new flat icons, animations, the notification panel, look of the apps and settings,clean new and fresh, not everything is nice the white app draw the, red battery saving mode is just distracting, i wish it had a dark mode like on google keyboard, and things like power saving and multi window since its sometimes too bare, i hope the new Chinese or lg nexus will be smaller and cheaper, i would buy as a second device. although lollipop like i said can be somewhat created on other devices and have lollipop features with OEMS goodstuff.

    iPhone 6 i thought once apple made a bigger device i would switch since i like to try things, ios 7 looked great i dig the minimalist design great camera, added android like features but i like customising my phone which i could’ve put up with and sharing between apps and android being more open. iPhone 5s only problem was screen size, iPhone 6 perfect? no it bugged that the 6 didn’t have the plus better 1080p screen, ois and battery life, but once i accepted that it didn’t make a difference in the real world apart from physics with the battery size. but then the design with the protruding camera on one side which made it wobble when on the table, the ugly antenna lines, again look past it all, and thought too many compromises, maybe the iPhone 7 will be my cup of tea since we know the 6s will be the same and me being super picky and android is just superior made it hard to switch or easier to stay.

    Finally Samsung, i own a s3 but i will try to be fair i promise if anyone even read any of this haha, Samsung make great displays, camera’s and have great battery life, im the same as everyone else with the lag, bloatware, touchwiz needs a refresh with old looking icons and ui, From the s3 naturally next would be the s5 but i hated the chrome band that looked ugly even the s4 look better, thought the water resistant was quite cool but it had a flap which sony also has but then the s5 mini was also water resistant but without a flap and the swiping fingerprint scanner, so i decided pass, then the alpha and note 4 wowed me being the best of both worlds with metal rim, still with micro SD and removable battery and the note 4 was almost perfect with better design, camera had ois, only niggle was touchwiz but mainly i prefer smaller phones, the s6 and edge is amazing better build and design, awesome hardware, awesome looking camera, a touch finger scanner, the icons look even more cartoony to me but less bloat on touchwiz seems much faster, apps look clean with material design shame about the notification panel i like how it looks on stock i guess i wanted to see a bigger change. The glass back is a worry and is a fingerprint magnet, the front logo is still there which ruins the look, no micro SD which doesn’t bother me, i use one but only because 11gb isn’t enough 32gb (23gb) is enough or 64gb is a safer bet, not water resistant, shame since it was on the s5 thought it would stay without the flap like the s5 mini and since sony can do it. No removable battery i swap batteries since my charging port broke and instead used a battery charger and quick swap and ive got full battery life, amazing when your outside, 1080p+2800mah vs 2k+2550mah its a worry, maybe 2015 battery life will be amazing for my usage plus theres quick charging and wireless charging, if so the s6 or edge will be my new phone!

    big rant, its long i know my bad if anyone took the time to read this, give yourself a pat on the back lol.

  • Oliver Steinfeld

    There are many things about the M8 that are still top notch.
    What made me buy the M8? The SPEED! I mean the snappy performance was and still is #1 reason I bought it.
    The awesome body, the beautiful screen, great battery life, brutally loud speakers, etc. we’re all pros, but the speed was the key I bought it.
    I was tired of laggish phones that I used before, that’s why I still appreciate the M8 very much.
    The camera isn’t on par with the competition, but as I don’t use it that much it definitely wasn’t a deal breaker for me. The ultrapixel camera is good enough for my ‘social media needs’.

    Now that the M9 is out, the price of the M8 will continue to drop, and you can get a new unlocked 32GB M8 for less than 280 bucks. I don’t see a better phone in that price range.

  • On a Clear Day

    “The camera experience is the shadier – or, somewhat blown out – other side of the experience.”

  • Robyn

    I love my M8 but ever since Lollipop it is starting to annoy me. I lost a lot of the signal strength and that’s what I liked about it most (before Lollipop). Maybe they need to work on a Lollipop performance update.

  • brendanhohoho

    The new HTC One M8 improves upon the One M7 that we used for nearly a full year as my primary device. The competition in the hardware fit and finish has caught up to HTC though, and there are solid competitors in 2014.