HTC M8 Musings

March 31st, 2014 | Posted by Kevin Wright in Features - (Comments Off)

 

This is NOT a review. I have had the phone only for a few days, and do not like it enough to keep it long enough to write a review. I just wanted to give one personal view on the latest phone from HTC, and give a few ideas why it is going to get sold on even quicker than usual.

Lets take a look back at the original HTC One, which will be referred to as the “M7″ from here on. M7 was a code name, but it appears that M8 is the official name (well, part of it, HTC One (M8) is the real name) HTC are using, so its M8 from here on in…..

The M7 launched in April 2013, and in May, according to the  Verge via the Wall St Journal it had already sold 5 million units, very impressive (unless you compare it to Apple who sell about that many new iPhone models in the first weekend), but it does highlight something very odd if true.

According to figures by IDC,  HTC has sold 6.4m M7 units in the full year, which means it only sold 1.4m between June 2013 and March 2014? It makes you question the original 5 million in first month story, or, it makes sense of why HTC are in so much trouble?  In its best ever quarter, Apple would sell 1.4 million iPhones in around 3 days, so it really puts the HTC One in perspective.

So, with the new M8, HTC have given us more of the same really, better build for sure, the new metal looks and feels nicer in the hand (but boy does a TPU case ruin the whole experience) and the new larger screen is very nice indeed, 5 inches now, up from 4.7 in the M7, but it is now even taller, almost 10mm taller and just over 2mm wider. In fact, it is not that much smaller than the Note 3, and if Samsung manage to keep reducing overall size, the Note 4 later this year could end up being barely any larger.

Of course, we have to accept the M8 and M7 have to be taller than other phones due to the placement of the front facing and truly excellent speakers. This time around, the Dr Dre (not a real Doctor BTW) “Beats” branding has gone, but the “Boomsound” tag is still applied. They still sound as good, if not better than last time, although a recent test I did against the iPhone 5S did throw up some surprising results, you can download my little test here if interested, see if you can tell which is which. Having said all of that, no other Android phone comes close at the moment, at least in my experience which does exclude the Sony phones.

One of the biggest disappointments for me in the M8 is the rather large bezel at the bottom of the screen. It is the same size as the M7, but this time, there are no capacitive buttons, the new M8 uses the onscreen buttons now, so sometimes you have over 1 inch of black space at the bottom of the screen. They could lose at least half of that if they would join Apple and Motorola in getting rid of the hideous front facing Logo, but I guess vanity and lack of confidence will never allow this? Its ironic really, its not as if anyone could mistake the M8 for any other Android phone.

 

This photo taken from the Ars Technica Review shows it very clearly, and it actually looks like you have less space than the old one!

The M8 screen is the same 1080p LCD 3 version as the M7, but this time it is actually a little less dense, having 441ppi vs the 468ppi of the M7, this is entirely due to being larger. It is now Gorilla Glass 3, which as 3 is higher than 2, must be better!  It now weighs in at 160 grams which is up 17 grams from the M7. For reference an iPhone 5S is 112 grams, or 42% lighter. Hardly a fair comparison I know, so how about comparing to a Note 3 at 168 grams, or the upcoming S5 which is 145 grams.

Have a look at this great tool for an idea of overall size of various phones. You can change the phones shown easily, and click on the “Layered View” button to get a better idea. Now have a look at this one, the LG G2 Is actually a bigger screened phone.

This all leads to the M8 being a fairly hard phone to use one handed, and my thoughts are if you are going to have a phone this big, get a Note 3, which has far more actual screen in view at any one time, and has the useful stylus as well. I fully accept for some people, that is a non starter due to the build materials used by Samsung, and a lot of those people will be very happy with the new M8. It really is the only Android phone that comes close to the build quality of an iPhone, and just like the M7, this will be seen by many as the iPhone of the Android world.

Other hardware changes are evident, such as the fact it now uses a Nano Sim, rather that the much more common Micro Sim found in most other smartphones, and indeed the M7. HTC are now joining Apple, Motorola, and Nokia in embracing this new smaller standard. One rather odd thing is the size of the Sim tray in the M8, it is easily big enough to take a Micro Sim (almost big enough for a full size Sim!), but the answer turns out to be very simple, it is designed to take 2 x Nano Sim cards for certain markets where this is a common feature.

The M7 was one of the first phones to come with 32gb of storage as standard, but the new M8 will almost only come with 16gb (32gb is technically available but probably never become easy to buy). Unlike the M7 though, the new phone adds a MicroSD slot, in a tray that quite a few of you will have mistaken at first for the Sim tray! It seems odd the move back to add on memory cards, and to me it seems like its basically copying Samsung, who have had far more sales success than HTC, and not suffered from lower (shockingly low in the case of the S4) internal storage.

I don’t have much preference for one or the other, although as I do like to put about 25gb of music onto my devices directly, I like to either have a 32gb unit, or to have SD available. One side effect of this though is that under Android 4.4 (KitKat), you can not store apps on the SD card, so not a phone for big gamers maybe?

So what about the camera then? Well, a lot of attention has been given to the fact it is pretty much the same unit as the M7, and still only a 4mp sensor. I think we are all aware that the megapixel count is not in anyway a measure of picture quality, but for those people that want the very best chance of zooming and cropping later, might find that this camera ultimately does not compete with some other phones. However, lets not forget that the vast majority of people will only ever view the photos on the phone, maybe a tablet, and on Facebook, Twitter etc, and for this, even 4mp is overkill. It is only when you zoom into landscapes and the like that you are likely to notice any real difference.

Almost every phone these days has to launch with that one USP. For Apple it has been Siri, TouchID, and for HTC it has been the build materials, and the larger actual pixels in the camera sensor, the so called Ultra Pixels. With the M8, it appears to be the addition of a mass of gimmicks.

We have UFocus, which Steve Litchfield describes as the “kludge of all time”, I will leave him to explain that one. Then we have various filters which seem to mimic Instagram, and finally the frankly ridiculous “Seasons” feature, which is supposed to show your scene in one of the four periods of the year, but end up just looking rather sad. The rumours suggested Nokia style camera chops from the “second camera”, but that turned out to be simply an extra sensor to grab depth information which is used in the Ufocus “kludge”!

I have mentioned quite a few times on here and on TTUK that I take most of the photos at work for our cars, and they go up on the Autotrader site, plus out own website. We used to use a standalone camera, but with the advent of the iPhone 5, that camera really was good enough to do the job, and a great spin off was that Autotrader has a trade app which makes it so simple to get the cars up quickly. I used the M8 on Thursday to take a few shots of the cars, and to be fair they were just fine for that, although when I went into the gallery to sort them (no app for Android sadly) I was confused to find all of them were being flashed in front of me into some sort of slideshow. I guess that is one of the selling points of the HTC, but it was not at all welcome in that use case, but I suspect it would be possible to turn that off if I stuck with it.

I think the above App does make me biased against any other device on this one subject though, so take my comments here in that vein, I still thing that if the HTC One M8 excites you for the build, and the unique take on the Android software build that is Sense 6, then you can probably still make it work on the camera side. On the other hand, you can buy my Nokia 1020 and Richard Yates M7 and still only be a few quid worse off than getting an M8 on PAYG from Three UK

Don’t forget you can still get a great Sim Only One Plan Sim for £20 per month (£23 on a one month rolling), just take a look here and use our affiliate link if you can.

 

Kev

 

Back for a second show this week, we  talk about Three UK killing off the best mobile phone plan ever (but you can still get the SIMO version, hurry up before it goes away,  We also chat about why the tech media goes crazy as Apple release an iPhone 5c 8GB, and why Kev’s LG G2 only lasted a couple of days!

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