HTC One (M8) Android smartphone (Preview)

Does the HTC One (M8) have what it takes to beat Samsung's Galaxy S5? Have a closer look

HTC has named its new smartphone the HTC One, which is also the name of its old smartphone. For the sake of making this preview easy to read, we’ll refer to the new HTC One as the M8, which is it’s official name, while the old One will be called the M7.

Design

Almost 90 per cent of the M8’s body has been constructed from metal. The details that render the craftsmanship beautiful really have to be seen up close. The metal body has a hairline brushed finish to it, and the edging of the smartphone has been recessed with diamond polish.

Metal is a worrying material to use on a smartphone. It is conducive of heat and it could potentially interfere with cellular and internet connections. HTC’s product manager Darren Sng reassured Good Gear Guide during a private briefing that HTC has overcome any obstacles.

“Despite being metal, we’ve managed to improve IR, Wi-Fi and cellular signals”, Sng said.

The premium material adds just 17 grams to the HTC M8. It now weighs 160 grams in total
The premium material adds just 17 grams to the HTC M8. It now weighs 160 grams in total

The older M7 had two capacitive touch buttons — rather than the Android standard three — that really hindered how you use the smartphone. HTC has avoided making the same mistake twice by ditching keys altogether in favour of on-screen buttons.

The screen can afford to forego some space as it is a larger 5-inches and has a native Full HD (1920x1080) resolution. This gives the HTC M8 a density of 441 pixels-per-inch; that’s higher than Sony’s Xperia Z2 and Samsung’s Galaxy S5. It’s also more than a hundred pixels-per-inch more than Apple’s iPhone 5S.

Complementing the screen are enhanced BoomSound speakers. HTC’s partnership with Beats has come to an end, but it appears to have had little effect on the company as the new stereo speakers are 25 per cent louder.

An ergonomic curve makes the HTC M8 comfortable to hold. Various traits hint that this is a second generation device, but there are a couple of characteristics that are new, innovative and exciting. Above the familiar 4MP Ultrapixel camera is — wait for it — a secondary camera. HTC has also incorporated a dual-colour LED flash, which should improve group photos taken at night.

The DuoCamera

HTC is betting on its camera technology once again to help set its smartphone apart from Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and Sony’s Xperia Z2. The Ultrapixel camera outperformed rivals in low-light situations. The new DuoCamera takes that technology and adds the ability to refocus images after they have been saved.

The camera isolates people in the foreground and makes it possible to blur the background for a bokeh effect. What's really impressive is how accurately it separates the elements. Clippings aren’t pixelated and the DuoCamera is adept at distinguishing fine details, such as fingers.

HTC has optimised this function by adding a suite of effects. Snowflakes can cascade down the photo, but because the camera knows where you’re standing, the snowflakes that drop behind you will disappear. The company has even made the SDK available to software developers in an effort to increase the range of effects.

The DuoCamera effect can be applied to any photo captured with the M8
The DuoCamera effect can be applied to any photo captured with the M8

Isolating the foreground from the background is made possible with the information ascertained by the secondary camera. It measures the placement of objects within an image. “We are capturing vector depth information,” Sng said. “There are infinite focus points,” he added.

Other notable camera specifications include the ability to focus in 0.3 of a second, a sensor that captures 300 per cent more light “than a standard 13MP sensor on a smartphone camera”, and the ability to capture 11 frames per second in burst mode.

The Selfie phone

Sony and Samsung’s upcoming flagships have a 2MP front facing camera. HTC’s One (M8) comes with a 5MP front camera that has f/2.0 aperture and a wide angle. Technically, the front camera has a higher resolution that the Ultrapixel camera found on its back; however, HTC claims the rear camera’s low-light sensitivity deems it superior.

What’s inside a leading smartphone?

On paper the HTC M8 is neck-to-neck with the Samsung Galaxy S5. The Android smartphone has a Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM and, in Australia, it will ship with 16GB of internal storage. A new addition compared to the M7 is support for 128GB microSD memory cards.

The 4G smartphone has a clever 2600 milliamp-hour battery. HTC’s Sng claims the M8 can last 40 per cent longer than the original M7 despite featuring more powerful components. A full charge will see the smartphone last for 10 days on standby in Extreme Power Mode, Sng said.

Software

The HTC M8 will ship with the latest 4.4 KitKat version of Android differentiated by HTC’s proprietary Sense 6 user interface.

Sense has undergone several refinements that make it look better and help it deliver more relevant information. Applications are now thematically linked by colour, while the BlinkFeed interface now bundles related newstories and presents in-line pictures. HTC’s SenseTV interface has been overhauled too, and the company has followed Samsung’s example in fitting the smartphone with a fitness application.

When can I buy it?

Australians can get their hands on the new HTC One (M8) on the 1st of April, 2014. The smartphone will be available in Gun Metal Gray at launch. Glazier Silver and Amber Gold versions could be launched at a later date.

The HTC One (M8) will retail for $899. Check out our buying guide for Vodafone, Optus and Telstra's pricing.

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