HTC One M8 Google Play edition

Some of HTC's custom software survives in the latest member of the GPe ranks

Behold, the HTC One M8 Google Play edition. Same M8, less HTC. Look, there's not a lot here you haven't already read in our comprehensive HTC One review. Same 5-inch display. Same loud speakers. Same tall but sleek form factor. The difference here is software.

And as has been the case with other GPe devices, things get a little interesting here. While we tend to think of Google Play editions as "pure Google" devices, though that's not quite the case. There's still a little HTC code left over. That's a good thing, actually. The question is whether you want a phone stripped of some of the features that make it unique — and that explain some of the hardware peculiarities inherent to the M8.

Pique your interest yet? Let's break down this new HTC One M8 Google Play edition.

The hardware

Nothing's changed here. We've got the Glacial Silver model, which is basically the same finish as last year's M7. Looks great. Still feels great. And, yes, it's still pretty tall. Nobody's stripped out the dual cameras or anything. They're still there. More on all that in a bit.

The HTC speakers are still big, and still loud. There's no special audio enhancements that we can tell (scratch that — buried in settings), and music still sounds like music.

In the box we've got a standard HTC charger — the 1.5A variety, and remember that we're still waiting on a new charger to take advantage of Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0. (In fact, we'll have to see if that even works in the GPe model anyway.) There's also a pair of white earbuds, which was nice of HTC to include.

The software

This is where things start to get interesting. Standard Google Play edition/Nexus boot. Same animation, same setup process. Only you might notice that HTC Weather Service is listed. It's not surprising to see remnant code in the Google Play editions, but that (at least at first) seems like an interesting one. More on that in a minute.

As you'd expect, this phone's running Android 4.4.2 KitKat.

The launcher is the Google Now launcher. Large icons, minimal home screen mess. Pull up from the home screen to initially get to Google Now. Once you've confirmed you want to use it, you'll find Google Now as the far left home screen, and it works just like we've come to know.

HTC's Motion Launch feature is on board, sort of. This is the one that lets you double-tap a sleeping M8 to wake it. On the proper HTC model, you also can swipe on the darkened screen in different directions to wake the phone to, say, BlinkFeed, or directly to the app drawer, or to launch HTC's voice calling. On the Google Play edition, a swipe in any direction simply wakes the phone. That's it. Better than nothing, but not as good as it is on the proper M8.

The HTC One M8 Google Play edition cameras

HTC One M8 Google Play edition

This one's both hardware and software. No sense in having two lenses on a Google Play edition phone if you can't actually use them, right? You'll take pictures like normal, using the built-in Google camera app. And then you'll view the images through the Photos app. (Remember, Gallery is dead now in GPe devices.) From there, hit the edit button (either the pencil icon, or in the overflow menu) and choose "HTC Photo Edit."

And just like that, you'll have access to UFocus and filters and some other editing tools. Some of them are a little redundant to what Google has, but that's OK. Edit, save, share. Easy. (Though we'd prefer to see a more apparent link to the fancy tools, and not just hidden behind an edit button.) Missing, unsurprisingly, are Zoes and Video Highlights.

Photosphere is still on board, but HTC's implementation of it on the HTC version of the M8 is better than even Google's, we think.

The Dot View Case

HTC One M8 Google Play edition

The HTC Dot View case has quickly become one of the more sought-after HTC One M8 accessories. The small holes in the cover allow some basic information to shine through while still protecting the display — and it does all this with style. On the Google Play edition, Dot View still works. (In fact, you'll see the Dot View app update when you first sign in with your Google Account.) Only — and this is a recurring theme here, folks — Dot View loses a bit of its functionality here as well.

You can still double-tap or press the home button to see the time and the weather. (That's why the HTC Weather Service is on board, most likely.) And ... so far as we can tell, that's it. No notifications from the email app. No notifications from and the ability to accept or reject a phone call. Just time and temperature.

Again, better than nothing, but not as cool as proper Dot View.

The bottom line

As is the case with Google Play edition devices, you largely know what you're going to get. And in this case, it's some really cool hardware, minus most of the software that makes the M8 such a unique device. So long as you know that going in — and if you're researching a GPe device, chances are you do — then, cool.

It's worth mentioning as well that HTC Advantage is still in effect. If you crack your display in the first six months, HTC will replace it for free.

So if you're in the market for what some might call a monstrosity and what others call a smartphone as Matias intended, you can pick one up directly from Google Play for $699.

 

Reader comments

HTC One M8 Google Play edition unboxing and hands-on

93 Comments

I still don't understand the ridiculous price for this. Why get this over a Nexus 5?

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+1 totally agree .... If what your after is a stock Android experience why not just get the nexus 5 for much less $$$ ... I mean is having a metal body really that important that youd spend an extra few hundred dollars on it.. and then most likely put a case on it ?? Not only that if u really want an m8 isn't half the appeal sense 6 and it's extra features ?
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Because the Nexus 5 is not exactly a "pure" android experience since it uses the Google Experience Launcher. Google's take on what android should be like. This uses pure android. It doesn't justify the price, but that's my take on it.

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Seriously not to be rude, but re read the article (or for the first time) and then re read your comment.
Edit: and to point you in the right direction, re read the software part.
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You do know that Google makes android right? So anything from Google is pure android

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Someone actually just said that Google wasn't pure android....I can now say that I've officially read it all.
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They said the Nexus 5 wasn't pure. There are some that say AOSP is pure android. N5 isn't AOSP so they are kind of right. Everything else is wrong though as this device is further from AOSP than the N5.

Adamspoetic, You couldn't be much further from the truth. The Nexus 5 essentially is running a pure AOSP build with GApps. Those GApps include the Google Now Launcher (part of that code is in the open source app https://www.codeaurora.org/cgit/quic/la/device/lge/hammerhead/commit/?h=... but part is proprietary). Other than that, the Nexus 5 is open source. All libraries are the same as the AOSP equivalents.

The Google play editions, however, are not AOSP. They are built from a hybrid of Qualcomm's CodeAurora source and other tweaks from the manufacturer (making them closer to the stock, themed device, than AOSP). Essentially, the One GPe is the Sense one, but without Sense, rather than a Nexus, pure AOSP experience. Many core libraries are changed, such as dalvik, skia, and sqlite, and replaced with closed source alternatives from Qualcomm (well technically, the libraries are open source, but they build using proprietary static libraries). If you look at the root file structure of any of the GPEs, it's obvious that they are closer to their sister, themed device than an AOSP build and you can tell who made it. IE: Samsung has the configuration xmls and camera firmware dirs; HTC has the customize folder, etc.

A Nexus device is as close to AOSP as you'd really want because otherwise, you'd be missing all the core Google apps, such as the Play Store, which are not open source.

Thanks for the information. I do remember last year when we discovered that the GPe devices were essentially running themed Sense or TouchWiz firmware (if one chooses to think of them as closer to their own OS, than as a "skin"), which was why SD cards worked, the camera functionality remained intact, etc and also why there was a delay between Nexus software releases and the builds for the GPe devices, which came out separately. If it was as simple as updating a kernel and Google was doing the rest, it'd be a very short lag that could probably be handled prior to any actual roll-out beginning.

The Nexus 5 and the HTC One uses the same version of Android...Google Experience Launcher and all. If anything, the HTC One is even less pure Android since it has all the motion gestures and HTC editing software.

I thought about the same thing and I was in the same situation, but if you have money to spend... then, why not? I am not cheap but I don't have the money right now to buy the Google edition versus HTC one (m8) or I would have bought it over the nexus 5 bright red that I just purchased. I love the HTC one design and feel, just not making enough to buy the awesome phone.. :( the dilemma of being a soon to be graduate student ...

Body, speakers, screen, expandable memory card slot, larger battery capacity. Sorry but do you bother to read specsl sheets?

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Some people prefer a premium feel over functionality and cost, that is why some people would buy it over a nexus 5.

Call I dumb but that's just how's goes.

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Well at least they didn't neuter the camera / gallery features to my surprise.

Still not sure why one would get this over the N5, yet the blazing fast camera shutter on the HTC One should remain advantageous.
And, as you point out alex, all the goodness of Sense would be gone, unless one can download it, as announced, from Google Play.

With that, perhaps our reasoning will be a moot point except for the extra $50.

As defined by others including Jerry, the Universal GSM radio bands ATT non branded direct from HTC developer edition would offer greatest flexibility for a better price. And with that, one could always configure the HTC One as they desire.

Body, speakers, screen, expandable memory card slot, larger battery capacity. Sorry but do you bother to read specsl sheets?
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Can you confirm if it still has the option to create a custom filter? In the video you didn't scroll all the way to the end of the filter section.

That is honestly one of my favorite features of the camera app. You can adjust exposure, brightness, levels, etc. It really makes it useful to get a useable pic from one that was either underexposed or whatever

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Who the hell cares about the authenticity of an unboxing, seriously? So stupid...

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LMAO

Exactly. Seriously, guys, he's taking something out of a box.

I remain lost as to why people want to watch other people -- not even in person -- open new stuff. If you love the smell of new electronics as much as I do, buy the device and open it yourDAMself.

...And I'm not joking about loving the smell of new electronics. I have been classically conditioned to understand that Christmas smells like brand new NES cartridges. Not my fault. :shrug:

Obviously he should go into the future and then come back and tell me. It's not that Damn difficult.

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I do prefer this color over the gun metal. Much more attractive. However, that ugly wasted space at the bottom bugs me. Ruins it for me. Well, that and the crazy price.

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The space at the bottom is not wasted. It hides circuitry, antennas, and other electronics. This has been proven by HTC and various sites that take it apart

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The fact that there is circuitry behind the branded area does not negate the fact that it is wasted real estate.

Well, other phones probably have the same stuff inside, but they didn't have to have that much extra bezel for it.

Google really needs to rescale their launcher so the apps aren't so much larger compared to the sense/touchwiz/non GEL versions. The icons take up so much space.

I do not see all the rage for these. You are losing out on pretty much every good extra addition (camera features, etc) With htc putting many of their apps in the play store as well as google, always needing the latest OS version is not near as important as it used to be. Stock android is just so "meh"

+1 the only thing I would ever buy with pure android is a phone from Google

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Who the hell cares about the 'reality' of thr unboxing? Are you some unboxing fetishist? Seriously such a stupid comment. Focus on the phone and the hardware, not how someone takes it out of the box.

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I ordered the M8 developer edition because I think Google blew it with the silver only offering which was a total deal breaker. I currently have a GPE GS4 and though I love this phone I absolutely hate the white color. Silver gets dirty and does't come close to looking as good as the gun metal variant. SMH @ Google

Later on you can probably flash the GPe ruu onto your gunmetal Developers model and have the best of both worlds.

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Dev = if you want Sense 6 and a ready unlocked bootloader for rooting and custom recovery

GPe = if you want stock Android UI

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Dev because in a few weeks you'll be able to convert it to a GPE anyway.

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Gaaaah, mine is sitting over at my leasing office, I can't pick it up until tomorrow afternoon ;o;

That being said, glad it'll be tomorrow and not 2 weeks from now! <3

Does the M8 have the dual STM mics that Nokia sued over? I believe HTC and Nokia settled this fiasco and assume the HTC M8 has the dual mics? If so, does the GPE enable them both? (the M7 did not). They are incredible for loud concerts.

Wouldn't it be easier to buy the original HTC One M8, and then install Google NOW Launcher?
Am I missing something?
You would end up saving $50 bucks that are worth the few months in delay of getting a buggy update.

Or you could always just convert the Dev to a GPE using the inevitable conversion method that is already in the works on XDA.

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Now why would you do that? Will you get your buggy update 5nths earlier this way? Then switch it to back to Sense and keep the update?

Phil your hands are holding a lot of water, you may have some cardiovascular issues. When was the last time you were checked out by your cardiologist?
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Does the GPE work with TMobile 3G and LTE?
I am waiting for a dual boot solution like it was release for the M7

Can anyone confirm that HTC will dump the gallery, camera and other core Sense apps to the Play store and this GPE phone will be able to use them?

If the device was $599.99, then it might be something I would have considered. I just sold my white Nexus 5 and purchased the red Nexus 5. I just don't see myself paying $699.99 plus tax..my nexus 5 bright red cost $389 with shipping and taxes. I thought about buying the nexus 5 and Moto g Google edition and still had left over money. I think $549.99 would have pushed this device to sell big time. I wonder if Google refuses to take the hit on the Google edition versions like the nexus 5....Well, anyways I love my bright red nexus 5!!

So...over on XDA they pulled the system/boot.img and CWM Nandroid...just restored the Nandroid to my ATT M8, and everything is working perfectly.

Does the M8 comes with its bootloader unlocked? If no, is it easily unlockable like other GPE/Nexus devices with the simple "fastboot oem unlock" command? Or does it still require going to HTC's website and getting an unlock code?

Thanks but I would really like confirmation from an actual owner of a GPE M8. For instance, I have read that at least at one point, the GPE Moto G still required a code from Motorola to unlock its bootloader.