HTC used to be a pioneer in the Android world, but lost its way a few years ago after it failed to compete with rival OEMs due to a poor pricing policy and device release cycle. In a bid to get its act together, HTC now features a leaner smartphone portfolio centered around the One series and Desire series. That said, the HTC Butterfly series is still intact and going strong.
In a lot of ways, the Butterfly series offers the best of both worlds, boasting the high-end specifications of the One series, while featuring the design and build quality elements of the Desire lineup. So what does the latest addition to this series have to offer? We find out, in this comprehensive review of the HTC Butterfly 2!
In terms of design, the Butterfly 2 looks a lot like a plastic version of the HTC One (M8), with the BoomSound speakers up front, and the Duo Camera setup at the back of the device. It is every so slightly smaller and lighter than the HTC flagship, but is a tad thicker. At 151 grams, the Butterfly 2 is somewhat heavy given its all-plastic build, but its heft actually contributes positively to the overall handling experience.
The tapered edges of the device make it feel thinner than it is, and allow for a very comfortable feel in the hand. That said, the tapered edges does prevent the phone from sitting flush on a flat surface, so if you’re someone who is used to typing while the phone is kept on a table, you will find the phone rocking back and forth slightly.
Around the perimeter of the device on the front is a chrome ring, that adds a subtle flair to the phone. This chrome color element is found on the volume rocker, placed on the right side, as well as the HTC logo that blends into the back of the device. On the right side is also where the microSIM card slot is, with the microSD card slot found on the left.
The size of the device allows for a relatively easy handling experience, and while it’s taller than it should be, it’s not that difficult to reach across the display while using the phone with one hand. The plastic build material is smooth, the tapered edges allow for the device to sit comfortably, and its weight makes it feel solid in the hand. Overall, this is one of the best handling experiences and feel I’ve had with an all-plastic phone, with the build material not taking away from HTC’s penchant for premium quality and design.
The HTC Butterfly 2 features a display that is similar to the One (M8), with a 5-inch LCD3 display coming with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, resulting in a pixel density of 441 ppi. While the viewing experience on both is almost identical, one issue that did seem to crop up with the Butterfly 2 screen is with regards to brightness. The display seemed a lot dimmer than the one of the One (M8), that could cause its fair share of issues while using the phone outdoors.
Beyond that, it still a very sharp display with good saturation, contrast, and white balance, and color reproduction is spot on. You’ll have a great time doing anything on this display, be it reading text, watching videos, or playing games, at least while you’re indoors.
Under the hood is a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, clocked at 2.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 330 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. With the exception of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 that will be available soon, this processing package is what you get with all current Android flagship smartphones, and as expected, this translates in terms of performance as well. Opening, switching between, and closing applications is smooth and easy, multitasking is a breeze, and there were rarely, if any, instances of stutter or lag while playing any processor-intensive games. While the outside packaging may not be considered flagship, the performance is certainly at that level.
In other hardware, you get the now staple HTC feature of dual front-facing BoomSound speakers, that offer an audio quality very comparable to what is available with the One (M8). A microSD card slot allows for expandable storage by up to 128 GB, on top of the 16 GB or 32 GB of on-board memory. All connectivity options are also available, including an IR blaster to take advantage of the HTC TV Remote application. When it comes to the battery, you get a 2,700 mAh non-removable unit, which is slightly larger than the one found with the One (M8). As such, the battery life is equally, if not more, impressive with the Butterfly 2, and most users shouldn’t have any trouble comfortably getting a full day of use out of this device.
We’ve been comparing the HTC Butterfly 2 a lot to its flagship counterpart, the One (M8), throughout this post, but there is actually something that the former offers that makes it stand out. The Butterfly 2 is capable of braving the elements which is certainly very helpful, featuring an IP57 rating for protection against dust and water. What is more impressive is the fact that HTC managed to do so without any extra covering for ports.
Unfortunately, HTC isn’t the first name that comes to mind when talking about great smartphone photography, and while the company is attempting to change its image with the HTC Desire Eye and the Eye Experience software package, that prowess doesn’t make its way to the Butterfly 2.
First, it has to be mentioned that Butterfly 2 features a 13 MP rear unit, as opposed to the 4 MP Ultrapixel camera of the One (M8). The Duo Camera setup does return here though, with the addition of a depth sensor located at the top of that feeds depth data to the main camera for every shot you take. The Butterfly 2 also comes with the 5 MP front-facing camera with a wide angle lens, that will be great for all you selfie lovers out there.
When it comes to image quality, you actually get some pretty good shots when the lighting conditions are right. But even with the higher megapixel count, issues with image quality that have plagued previous HTC smartphones rear their ugly head here. Zooming into an image shows a lack of color, jagged edges, and loss of detail. As expected, as lighting conditions deteriorate, so does the quality of the image, with exposure levels being off, color lacking even further, and lot of noise and loss of detail. In fact, even with the 13 MP camera, the image quality isn’t that much different or better than what you get with the One (M8). This continues with video as well, with the lack of image stabilization, and poor color reproduction leading to disappointing video quality.
When it comes to the software, the HTC Butterfly 2 runs Android 4.4.2 Kitkat, with the latest Sense 6 UI on top. This is the best and lightest iteration of the Sense UI yet, allowing for a smooth and lag-free overall experience. Anyone familiar with the Sense UI from previous iterations will still feel right at home here though, with features such as the vertical scrolling in both BlinkFeed and the application drawer making a return.
BlinkFeed also makes a return with a slightly new look, and a larger pool of resources. Content is mostly curated by HTC, but there’s an increased number of sources to choose from now, including social media outlets. Ultimately, it’s a great way to check all your feeds at a glance, but it’s easy to focus on just one source if that’s what you prefer. Another big feature is Motion Launch, which uses the sensors to determine when you pick up the phone and lets you perform a few swipes or taps to wake the device and jump to certain sections of the UI.
What is another great aspect when it comes it to the HTC Sense software is the fact that applications like BlinkFeed and more can now be updated directly from the Google Play Store. Not having to wait for a firmware update to get the latest features with these apps is a huge plus, and a great way to ensure that the software experience is always up to date, even if the device itself may not be running the latest version of Android.
The HTC Butterfly is 2 is available in the US directly from HTC or Expansys for $619.99. Unfortunately, the option for subsidized rates from network carriers isn’t available.
So there you have it – a closer look at the HTC Butterfly 2! The Butterfly 2 is basically the One (M8) in a plastic body, offering the same user experience that you’d get with the flagship device. Additions such as the resistance against dust and water are useful, but even with the upgraded camera unit, image quality is still found lacking. While the HTC Butterfly 2 could have served as a way to fix some of the issues with its flagship counterpart, it ultimately ends up offering not much more or less.