How has HTC's 2014 flagship stood up to a couple of months in the hands of AC's editors?
It's been just over two months since HTC announced and launched the One M8, its flagship smartphone for 2014, across two continents. An unprecedented Day 1 retail launch allowed buyers in the UK and U.S. to pick up the M8 just hours after its global unveiling, though only after an extended campaign of leaks had already spilled many of the phone's secrets.
The same day we took the wraps off our HTC One M8 review, praising the phone's performance and build quality, as well as HTC's flatter, more colorful Sense 6 UI. But we questioned the decision to stick with an "Ultrapixel" camera — an upgraded sensor, but one with the same 4-megapixel resolution as last year — while also pointing out its ergonomic issues, which is a another way of saying the M8 is sometimes a bit too tall and slippery for its own good.
We've used a great many Android phones over the past couple of months, as rival devices from Samsung, Sony and LG have emerged, but the M8 has never been far from our side. So how has two months with HTC's leading handset colored our opinion of it? Join us after the break for a two-month retrospective on the HTC One M8.
Shiny and slippery
One of the most surprising effects of the HTC One M8's launch was how quickly it aged last year's HTC One. That device was one of the best-looking phones of 2013, but put it next to the M8, with its elegant metal curves, and it's striking just how old it seems by comparison. With a wraparound aluminum unibody, the 2014 HTC One is without question the prettiest phone of the year so far, and no other handset quite matches the in-hand feel of the M8's cold, rounded metal. Sure, the LG G3's "metallic skin" coated plastic looks similar from a distance, but the in-hand feel is miles apart. LG offers a close imitation, but HTC has the real deal.
In a sea of nondescript plastic slabs, the M8 feels like something unique and special.
In a sea of nondescript plastic slabs, the HTC One M8 feels like something unique and special — a phone ahead of its time. But its futuristic look and feel comes at a price. The M8 is a lofty phone in every sense of the word. Its front-facing speakers give it sufficient height to measure up to 5.2 and 5.5-inchers like the Sony Xperia Z2 and LG G3, and that makes it trickier to one-hand than many phones of the same size. And while the M8's curved metal unibody feels great in-hand, it's also fairly slick, and trickier to hold onto than the high-end competition.
Having used the M8 in both silver and gunmetal flavors, the former is, in my opinion, the easier model to hold onto. The matte finish of the bare brushed metal is just a little rougher, making for a more secure grip. That said, neither feels as secure in the hand as plastic competitors. So it's a trade-off between build quality ease of use, and which side of that argument you come down on will depend on the kind of smartphone user you are. Personally, it's taken me some time to get used one-handing the large, slippery M8, but I'm now comfortable enough wielding it without worry. That said, I still feel like I'm babying the phone a little more than the GS5 or G3.
Using the HTC One Mini 2, the M8's clumsily-named sibling, has also been a revealing experience. Sure, the Mini 2 can't boast the same wraparound aluminum chassis as its big brother. It's screen isn't as vibrant as the M8's, nor is its BoomSound speaker setup quite as boomy. But the in-hand feel is as close to perfect as any metal handset since the original Nexus One. As much as I like the 5-inch M8, I can't help thinking the Mini is closer to my ideal size for this sort of phone.
Like its predecessor, the metal body of the M8 has held up pretty well in day-to-day use. The most visible areas of wear and tear on my gunmetal gray M8 have appeared around its chamfered edges, and I've also noticed a little fraying on the plastic seal that joins the display to the metal casing. On my device in particular, I've picked up one small scratch on the back of the phone, and another on the glass around the camera lens — though fortunately not directly over the lens. None of these imperfections stand out too much, but they are noticeable on closer inspection.