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HTC One (M8) deep-dive review: Smartphone sophistication made better

JR Raphael | April 3, 2014
HTC is working to bring a sense of luxury to its smartphones -- and with its new HTC One (M8), it's closer than ever to delivering the ultimate high-end device.

The leftmost home-screen panel of the new One is taken up by BlinkFeed, a news-reading service built into the phone. BlinkFeed lets you scan through articles and social media tidbits right from your home screen. It's gotten a visual refresh in this latest Sense incarnation that's helped it mature into a useful and inviting tool — and if you don't want it, it's now easier to turn it off.

Beyond that, you've got the usual mix of app shortcuts and widgets, all of which are now refreshingly easy to customize and arrange ( unlike on HTC's previous software efforts). Some of HTC's changes to Android are still mildly annoying — the Recent Apps tool is visually overwhelming, for instance, and the expanded Quick Settings panel is mysteriously missing the basic option to display your phone's battery level. But all in all, the company has finally started to get out of its own way and mold its software into something that's pretty pleasant to use.

(One major exception: bloatware. My Verizon review unit came larded up with loads of random garbage that can't easily be uninstalled. Sadly, that's par for the course with carrier-connected handsets these days.)

HTC is also guaranteeing the M8 will get major OS upgrades for at least two years from its launch date — a significant promise that sets it apart from other Android devices.

Bottom line
Last year's One was the start of a fresh beginning for HTC. With the new One, the company has built upon that foundation and created an exceptionally good device that's in no danger of becoming Just Another Android Phone.

At a Glance
HTC One (M8)
Price: $200 (with a new two-year contract from the major U.S. carriers )
Pros:Premium all-aluminum body; exceptional display with free one-time replacement; outstanding front-facing stereo speakers; great performance; good battery life; expandable storage; dual camera setup provides interesting image effects; polished and cohesive user interface; contemporary on-screen buttons; useful motion gestures; includes two-year OS upgrade guarantee
Cons: Tall body makes phone awkward to carry and use; power button in hard-to-reach place; inconsistent camera performance; no optical image stabilization; low camera resolution limits photo cropping possibilities

The new One has a huge list of impressive qualities: The phone is beautifully constructed, with an all-metal body that gives it a distinctly premium look and feel. It has a gorgeous display and outstanding speakers. The device provides great performance, commendable battery life and a polished and cohesive software experience. Its unique dual-camera setup opens the door to some interesting photo-editing opportunities, too, and HTC's "UltraPixel" technology shines when it comes to capturing photos in low-light conditions.

 

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