The HTC One M8 is one of the top smartphones available right now, ranking highest on our list of best Android phones. But following the launch of Google Play edition and Windows Phone versions of the device, HTC's current flagship finds itself in a unique position: There are three versions of the device available, each with a radically different software experience.
Check past the break for a quick photo tour of the three different flavors of HTC One M8 — HTC Sense, Google Play edition with stock Android, and the M8 for Windows, running Windows Phone 8.1.
First up, the hardware. The Sense-powered M8 is available in a variety of colors, having launched initially in gold, silver and gunmetal. The GPe is available in silver only, while Verizon currently sells the Windows M8 in just the gunmetal color option.
The GPe and Windows lock screens are pretty spartan, though the latter can be configured with music info, calendar appointments and quick status details from certain apps. In stock Android you can also add lock screen widgets if you want. In HTC Sense you'll get quick shortcuts to the four apps in your dock, along with certain information under the weather readout.
The Windows and Sense M8s have their own version of HTC's BlinkFeed home screen reader, with news and social updates. On the GPe M8 that's replaced with Google Now's predictive capabilities.
Different dialer designs across the three M8 variants...
The Sense app drawer can be configured to show different grid sizes, arranged into folders and searched, whereas the GPe model just shows a horizontal-scrolling list. On Windows Phone you'll use an alphabetic list to find apps that aren't on your start screen.
Once again, a different approach to device settings across all three M8s...
Recent apps are shown in a 3-by-3 grid in HTC Sense; in stock Android there's a scrolling arrangement of cards. Windows Phone gives you a much fuller view of your recent apps in a horizontal view, but with fewer apps on-screen.
The different visual styles of HTC Sense, stock Android and Windows Phone are reflected in their calendar apps.
HTC's Weather app in Sense, Google News and Weather on the GPe, and Bing Weather on Windows Phone...
HTC's camera app is mostly intact across the Sense and Windows versions. On the Google Play edition you get Google's camera app, with fewer photographic options but 360-degree panoramas through Photosphere.
Buttons! HTC's re-skinned the standard Android buttons in the Sense M8. On Windows you get on-screen back, home and search keys, as well as the option to hide then at any time.
There's no Sense TV app preloaded on the Google Play edition M8, through it can be downloaded from Google Play.
And finally the branding — none on the Google Play edition, as you'd expect, nor on our unlocked Sense M8 (though some carriers may add their own badges around the back). On the Windows M8 there's a smorgasbord of logos — HTC, Windows Phone, Verizon and 4G LTE. At least the front of the phone is untarnished.
This continuity of hardware across three different versions of a flagship smartphone — one radically different, in the case of the Windows M8 — is something we haven't seen before. Extra choice is always good for consumers, though, and we'll be watching with interest to see whether this trend catches on.
For more on the HTC One M8 for Windows, hit up our sister site Windows Phone Central.