Pre-release leaks have given us a pretty good look at HTC's next big thing
We're just a couple of weeks out from the announcement of HTC's 2014 flagship smartphone, the "all new" HTC One — also known by the codename "M8." And thanks to a steady trickle of pre-release leaks, we've already been able to learn a significant amount about the M8, both inside and out, ahead of the expected March 25 launch.
It's no secret that HTC has found itself in a precarious position, amid falling revenues and tough competition from the likes of Samsung. And fielding one of the best smartphones of 2013 seems to have done little to counter that. At the dawn of a new smartphone generation, then, HTC needs the new HTC One to make a big impact.
So what do we know about the phone so far? And what are we expecting to see on March 25? Let's take a look after the break.
Industrial design and colors
A rounder HTC One with metal sides, on-screen keys and two cameras.
Let's start out with a statement of the obvious — the new HTC One will largely look like an HTC One. After rebooting its design language once in 2012 and again in 2013, HTC has settled on this style for its high-end (and even some mid-range) products. So it wasn't too surprising when the first reliable images of the phone showed many similarities to last year's model, including a metal chassis and "BoomSound" front-facing speakers.
But there are numerous intriguing differences. The plastic outer edge of the M7 is gone, replaced with a wraparound metal design. The capacitive buttons have been retired, with a move to on-screen keys allowing the M8 to hold a dedicated task-switching key. What's more, there are two rear cameras this time around, something we've not seen since the brief flurry of 3D smartphones in mid-2011. (That's HTC's "Duo Camera," which we'll talk about later.)
Various leaked images of the top of the device show a black plastic strip up above, housing the phone's power button. (This time it's moved across to the right side, but it looks like that won't be the only way to power on the new HTC One, as we'll discuss in the software section.) Other photos reveal microUSB and headphone ports on the bottom, and a microSD slot on the right edge.
Suitibly high-end internals, and a 5-inch 1080p display.
Rumors that HTC would step up to a five-inch screen for its 2014 flagship have been circulating for months, but the most complete information on the rest of the M8's internals was revealed earlier this week through a leaked sales guide and corroborated by a shot of the Verizon M8's box on eBay. According to both, the new HTC One will pack a 5-inch 1080p panel, a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 16GB/32 of storage (though a 64GB verion remains a possibility), backed up by microSD expandability up to 128GB. There's also talk of "Ultrapixel" rear cameras, a 5MP front-facer and a nanoSIM slot, as well as a 2600mAh battery, stepping up slightly from the M7's 2300mAh.
Or if you prefer tables —
|Platform||Android with HTC Sense|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, 2.3GHz quad-core CPUs|
|SIM card type||nanoSIM|
RAM: 2GB DDR2
Extended memory: microSD up to 128GB
|Display||5-inch, 1080p Full HD|
|Sound||HTC BoomSound, dual front stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers|
|Camera||Duo Camera with UltraPixel, BSI sensor, pixel size 2.0µm, F2.0 / 28mm lens, HTC ImageChip 2 with HDR video
Front camera: 5MP BSI, wide angle lens with HDR capability
1080p video recording, HTC Zoe
|Connectivity||3.5mm stereo audio jack and microUSB, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX enabled, Wi-Fi, DLNA, GPS/AGPS + GLONASS, NFC, 4G LTE capable.|
None of that is too surprising — though if it turns out the "base" M8 model does indeed come with 16GB of storage, it'd be a surprising step down from the M7's 32 or 64GB. At least you'll have that SD card, we suppose, and the 16GB model won't be the only M8 available.
There's still relatively little information available on the device's two rear cameras. Leaked specs point to a 1/3.0-inch sensor with 2µm pixels and a lens with f/2.0 aperture, which matches up with the old HTC One's camera on paper. It does sound like HTC has some novel uses for its dual-camera setup, though, which looks set to use the "HTC Duo Camera" branding. And we have to imagine HTC is using a different sensor this time around, after the M7's daylight performance was criticized last year.
Based on the leaked spec list (in addition to the couple of unauthorized hands-on videos that have emerged), the new HTC One appears to run Android 4.4.2 KitKat Sense 6, a new version of HTC's software. Unfortunately most of what we've seen of Sense 6 so far comes from renders, a handful of leaked photos and shaky YouTube videos. But from what we can tell it seems a little lighter and brighter than Sense 5, with renewed emphasis on vivid colors in apps like BlinkFeed and the Sense music player, as well as somewhat larger typography.
Further details have been brought to light by the leaked sales guide and an ad from Australian carrier Telstra, both of which highlight key software features of the new HTC One.
First up, that mysterious dual-camera setup. It's referred to in both leaks (and, more recently, an image of the Verizon M8's retail packaging) as "Duo Camera," and while it's unclear exactly how it works, we do know a little about what it does. From Telstra's ad:
Create vivid images even in low light and professionally edit memories after you've taken the shot. Choose where to focus, highlight what you love, soften backgrounds and add 3D effects.
HTC's 'Duo Camera' could let you refocus photos after taking them.
That's echoed in the leaked sales guide, which talks about "professional photo editing features," re-focusing after you've taken your shots and blurring backgrounds for DSLR-like effects. So it would appear that HTC, like Sony, Samsung and Nokia, has some kind of advanced focus controls built in. It'll be interesting to see whether the presence of two cameras allows HTC to enable this feature as standard for all photos, rather than requiring a special shooting mode. The mention of "3D effects" is also curious, though it'd be certainly easy enough to shoot 3D images on a dual-camera setup, even if that isn't the main purpose of the "Duo Camera."
On top of that, you can bet favorite HTC One photo features like Zoes and video highlights will be onboard, too.
Elsewhere, HTC looks set to implement touch-to-wake features in the new HTC One, similar to LG's Knock-On capability. According to the leaked ad —
HTC Sense 6.0 simplifies you smartphone experience. Double tap the screen to turn on your phone, swipe to access your favorite apps, news and social media feeds.
'Motion Launch' lets you double-tap the M8 to wake it up.
The sales guide elaborates on this somewhat, referring to the feature as "Motion Launch." Apparently double-tapping on the screen wakes it up and displays the time, weather and notifications — which sounds a lot like the standard Sense lock screen. And swiping the screen when it's asleep can also trigger certain apps to load, with the example of swiping right to access BlinkFeed mentioned in the sales guide. These new features should compensate for the M8's slightly weird power button placement, making it easy to switch on without having to reach up to the top-right corner.
Finally, "Motion Launch" is also said to allow users to answer calls by placing the ringing phone to their head — a feature we've seen on some Samsung phones over the past year.
Twitter leaker @evleaks has given us a look at a couple of M8 cases. The first appears to be a relatively run-of-the-mill hard shell case, but the second one is more intriguing. In what might be HTC's answer to Samsung's S View (and LG's QuickWindow), this unique dotted flip case allows the phone to display the time and weather through holes in the front while it's closed. It's unclear how this feature is activated — if it's always on, it'll be interesting to see how HTC is managing the power requirements, though it might simply be activated by the power button or some other method.
Any lead time HTC has on the Galaxy S5 could be hugely important.
HTC will surely be targeting all major carriers for M8, just as it did the M7 last year. In the U.S., we've already seen leaks of the device on AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, and we're willing to bet Sprint and a few of the smaller operators will be getting it too. Over in the UK, one or two retailers already have pre-order pages up, with speculative pricing in the £550 range, for whatever that's worth.
With the Galaxy S5 arriving in many countries on April 11, every day prior to that that HTC is able to have its new flagship on store shelves is vital. (Indeed, we've been hearing from sources for some time that HTC wants a very short window between announcement and general availability.) What's more, it's important that the crucial U.S. release of the device doesn't experience any delays of the kind that affected the M7 launch. At least it seems Verizon, the country's largest operator, is onboard from the get-go this time.
So that's what we know so far about the new HTC One. For sure, the numerous leaks of this device have given us plenty of information to mull over as we await the March 25 launch events. But we wouldn't be surprised to see some surprises from HTC on the day, particularly in the areas of software and camera capabilities. Until then, keep watching Android Central in the next couple of weeks for full coverage of the new HTC One launch, as well as any further leaks that emerge.