HTC One (M8) Review
Interface and Functionality
Sense 6.0 continues to be one of the more visually superior looking custom UIs. Unlike others, it doesn’t try to overcomplicate things with the new features in tow, but rather, they’ve kept it simple and to the point.
Drastically unique from what we’re accustomed to seeing from any Android smartphone, HTC Sense 5.0 on last year’s flagship product proved to be an inviting endeavor. Visually, the design of HTC’s customized Android interface was unequivocally a star in its own right – thanks primarily to its cleaner, modern looks. Best of all, it was an unobtrusive skin that provided users with a simple feeds list, the HTC BlinkFeed, that aggregated activities in one centralized and uniform area in the homescreen. Whereas other customizations threw everything at us, including the kitchen sink, Sense 5.0’s offering kept it uncomplicated, inviting, and most importantly, simple.
Enter HTC Sense 6.0 running on top pf Android 4.4.2 KitKat, the next step up to HTC’s Android skin. As a whole, the design language doesn’t make any dramatic departures that would diminish Sense’s already established looks. Instead, it retains mostly everything that we like about the UI – plus, a few minor tweaks here and there. Just like before, the homescreen is arranged in the same familiar layout where the left most panel is the HTC BlinkFeed, and everything else to the right is the traditional Android homescreen. This time though, we can designate which of the screens we want to make as our main homescreen.
Specifically targeting the social networking crowd, the HTC BlinkFeed is smarter in the way it delivers relevant information – as if it ‘sensed’ what you like most. Naturally, it aggregates the same content from before (Facebook, Twitter, etc), but they’ve added Fitbit to the mix. It’s a nice touch for those who use it, but unless you have some diehard Fitbit pals that are socially active with the service, you won’t see a whole lot of it pop up in the BlinkFeed. Beyond that, it’s more aware in what you ‘like’ in Facebook, so that it delivers the content that matters most to you.
There’s no questioning the absolute chic look of the UI, one that’s a cut above its competition with its ‘flat’ design language, but there’s a subtle change that some people might overlook. Depending on what core application you’re using, like the phone dialer, messenger, or calendar, each one will be marked differently with a particular color at the heading of each app. To be more precise, a blue highlight will be attached to communication apps like Mail and Messages, green for data-centric apps like HTC BlinkFeed and Weather, entertainment apps like the Gallery and Music will be attached with Orange, and black will be reserved for settings. It’s nothing major, but a small visual tweak that gives better organization – albeit, it’s tough to say if it monitors other third party apps, especially when they have similar color themes already in them.
At the end of the day, the same visual treat is present here with Sense 6.0 – complemented by some added new features and minor enhancements. In comparison to some other customized skins, it’s just inviting that it still combines a modern looking skin with software features that aren’t over the top or redundant. Like its clean and modern presentation, Sense 6.0’s operation is straightforward, simple, and sensible.
The biggest new undertaking with the Sense 6.0 experience is seen most in how it employs various gestures to accomplish certain tasks when the phone’s screen is turned off. At the core of it all, these particular set of features provide us with quick-peek functionality. HTC’s interpretation is a pleasant addition and consists of using swipe gestures from all sides of the display.
Determining the time or date normally requires us to physically press the power button to turn on the screen, but a double tap from our finger brings the screen to life – and by that, we mean that the entire screen is powered on, as if we pressed the power button. Yeah, it’s great that it’s a convenient way to see the time or date, but it’s not entirely as great of an interpretation as the Moto X’s Active Display feature.
Swiping down from the top bezel gets us into voice dialing, something that will probably appeal most to phone chatters. To quickly unlock the phone, all we need to do is pick it up so that it’s in portrait orientation, and from here, just swipe up to unlock it. Again, it just eliminates the task of physically pressing the power button. If we want to jump straight to the widget panel (the usual Android homescreen panels), a swipe to the left does just that. Conversely, swiping right gets us into HTC BlinkFeed.
HTC has also sprinkled on another other motion-based gesture that automatically accepts an incoming call when the phone is picked up and placed next to the ear. We’ve seen this execution before on other handsets, so we’re not entirely wowed by this. In addition, we can launch the camera app by placing the phone into landscape and pressing on the volume button (any of them).
Processor and Memory
The latest piece of silicon from Qualcomm shows its veracity by providing the new HTC One with all the power and goodness to keep its performance in tip-top shape.
Befitting enough for today’s modern marvels, the HTC One M8, much like its other highly esteemed rivals, is powered by Qualcomm’s latest chip. It’s powered by a quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC coupled with 2GB of RAM and the Adreno 330 GPU. Outfitted with this behemoth of a chipset, it’s not all surprising to find its performance improved over its predecessor. Everything, and we mean everything, is accompanied with that snappy feel – something we’d expect to come from such a high-end piece of silicone. From playing intensive 3D games, to simple tasks, the new HTC One M8 barely loses any steam with its performance.
Interestingly enough, HTC will also have a particular variant of the handset for the Asian markets, which will be packing a slightly faster 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801.
Nowadays, it’s laughable to find a premier smartphone with only 16GB of internal storage. Unfortunate for this beauty of a smartphone, that’s the tally what we’re given with HTC’s prodigy. Nonetheless, the new addition of a microSD slot is a comforting gesture that gives us better expansion, but accessing it is a pain because we need that pinhole sized adapter to gain access to it.
Donning a more spacious sized screen, the result here in the messaging experience is just the larger layout of the on-screen keyboards. Using either of them is a cinch, as it’s uber responsive to the touch and packs a decent auto-correct feature. On top of that, several numbers and symbols are accessible from the main layout – so there’s less need to get into some its secondary and third layouts.
Moving over the Mail app, there’s nothing out of the ordinary here that we haven’t experienced before. Aside from the particular theme color splashed along the top of the app to indicate it’s part of the messaging category of apps, everything else is pretty much in line to what we expect.
Going through the various core organizer apps, it’s quite evident that there aren’t any dramatic differences between last year’s model. Functionally and visually, they all pretty much mimic what we’ve seen already – though, the color theme accent is the only noticeable difference.
Accessing Google Now is done in the same manner we’re accustomed already, which is accessed by doing a long press on the home button. From here, we can see all of the pertinent information that Google Now is known to precisely deliver.
Internet and Connectivity
HTC didn’t do a darn thing to really change up the web browsing experience. Out of the box, we can choose between HTC’s stock web browser or the always familiar Google Chrome. Both are more than equipped for the task at hand, as they perform flawlessly thanks in part to their quick page loads, buttery smooth navigation, and on-the-fly page rendering.
Seeing that our review unit is the international version bound for the European markets, it’s not able to receive 4G LTE using it with AT&T’s network stateside – so we’re left to using nothing more than HSPA+ connectivity. However, there will be different versions for major US carriers, and we can expect nothing but lightning fast speeds with LTE connectivity. Not surprisingly, the new One is outfitted with the latest connectivity gear, which consists of aGPS with GLONASS, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX enabled, dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, NFC, and video out functionality with the aid of an optional MHL adapter.