Five reasons to avoid the HTC One (M8) smartphone

While it has an abundance of improvements, HTC’s flagship does have some pitfalls

The smartphone market has, for the most part, become one of preference; from a hardware, software, and usability (not a market share) perspective, there is no real down-right winner, as each vendor’s flagship model carries the same number of pros and cons as the next. HTC definitely won its fair share of fans with the One (M7), and is on the right track to do the same with the One (M8). That said, some issues continue to linger. We do maintain the HTC One (M8) is a great device, but the following are reasons which could persuade buyers to look elsewhere.

Click here to read our article on five reasons to buy the HTC One (M8).

Durability

While aesthetics are a matter of preference, it’s hard to fault HTC on the appearance of the One (M8). Its 90-per-cent-metal body is darker than its predecessor’s light grey, and is topped off by a sleek brushed finish.

The back of the metal HTC One (M8).
The back of the metal HTC One (M8).

That said, the HTC One (M8) isn’t perfect from a practical point of view. In terms of durability, drops onto hard surfaces are bound to have repercussions on the device. During our testing period, we managed to accidentally knock the smartphone from a desk onto thick carpet. Despite it being a small fall, it had an immediate impact on the smartphone’s sensor; we lost the ability to control the orientation of the operating system and applications.

For example, Sense 6 and Android stayed permanently in portrait mode; the stock camera app would switch between horizontal and upside down on its own accord; many apps (such as Twitter and Chrome) flicked to horizontal orientation mid-use and could only be switched back by relaunching.

Fortunately, we learned this could be amended via the G-Sensor calibration feature within the settings, but it left us wondering what would have happened to the internal hardware had we accidentally dropped the phone on concrete or tiles. No, it’s not HTC’s fault if you drop your phone, but considering the price of a flagship smartphone (and that a lot of contracts with carriers extend to 24 months), it’s good to have the peace of mind of knowing your device can withstand a few slip-ups.

It should also be noted that the HTC One (M8) has a smooth, rounded back, which, when combined with its tapered edges and width, can make it a slippery unit that isn’t the easiest to use with one hand (especially if you’re upgrading from a smaller phone).

HTC said it does not intend to go toe-to-toe with the Android big gun, Samsung. It is therefore unfortunate that its One (M8) has gone on sale ever-so-slightly before the Samsung Galaxy S5 (due to hit the Australian market on April 11). This is because the Galaxy S5 is certified to the IP67 standard for dust and water resistance. Add to that the fact that Sony has been pushing IP ratings quite significantly for a couple of years with its Xperia Z, Z1 and Z1 Compact smartphones. If you get your hands dirty or wet and need that extra bit of protection from the basic elements, Samsung and Sony remain the way to go.

Enclosed design

The closed build of the HTC One (M8) means that its 2600mAh battery cannot be hot-swapped. This means travellers, professionals, and heavy users will not be able to carry a spare internal battery.

You can use Power Saver mode, ‘Extreme Power Saving Mode’ (a feature that is not yet live on Australian devices, but is expected to be launched via an update in the coming weeks), and the likes of the Qualcomm Battery Guru app, but it’s important to remember that these can only do so much, especially as batteries deteriorate over time.

Those of you who need a few days of juice between charges will have to either look elsewhere (including the Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5) or purchase a charging case or portable charging unit.

Screen quality

The HTC One (M8) has a bright and crisp 5in screen with a 1080x1920-pixel resolution, giving it a market-leading 441ppi density. Text is crisp but not too sharp so it makes for comfortable long-term reading, emailing, messaging, and social networking. On the other hand, its colour reproduction is not quite as vibrant, dynamic, or rich as that of the Sony Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact, Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5, or the LG Flex. Depending on the media type and quality, blacks appear slightly washed out at times, too. Dropping the brightness to about 80 per cent fixes the latter, but that means losing overall visibility in well-lit environments.

Screenshots of 1080p video we streamed on the HTC One (M8).
Screenshots of 1080p video we streamed on the HTC One (M8).

Camera quality

The HTC One (M8) has a 4MP rear-facing ‘Ultrapixel’ camera, and a second rear-facing camera for depth detection, but this doesn’t always get photos over the line. It’s hard to say that the smartphone’s camera is especially good or bad in any situation because results are really hit and miss.

There were situations in which we captured extremely detailed and clear landscapes full of colour in naturally well-lit environments, while other photos within the same conditions produce an abundance of image noise. The same was the case in dim environments; on some occasions subjects in our photos were better lit than in real life (in these situations the phone blew its competition out of the water), while other images were overwhelmed with graininess.

The HTC One (M8)'s DuoCameras
The HTC One (M8)'s DuoCameras

If you’re a snap-happy user who needs a phone with a reliable camera that produces consistently high-quality photos, it’s best to stick to the likes of the Nokia Lumia 2010 or Apple iPhone 5s.

Photos we took with the HTC One (M8).
Photos we took with the HTC One (M8).

No vanilla Android version

Bad news for Australian consumers: while HTC has confirmed there will be a version of the HTC One (M8) with the stock version of Google’s Android mobile operating system, it said it has no plans for selling the model locally. This means importing is the only option.

Screenshots of the HTC One (M8) Sense 6 interface.
Screenshots of the HTC One (M8) Sense 6 interface.

That said, HTC’s Sense 6 user interface is clean and probably sits between Sony’s simply user interface overlay and Samsung’s overly-congested TouchWiz. Most day-to-day users will be happy with what it has to offer, particularly in terms of the sensor-based gestures which make day-to-day use a pleasure. At the same time, it would be good to have the option to completely remove some of the applications which don’t cater for all users rather than just disabling them.

Tinkerers, developers and power-users who want the full grunt of the hardware without the cluster of gimmicks and novelties will have to buy from overseas or stick to the Google Nexus 5. ROMing is an option, but is bound to void your warranty.

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Five reasons to buy the HTC One (M8) smartphone

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Nermin Bajric

Nermin Bajric

PC World
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