The New HTC One (M8)–My Favorite Phone, Just Not My Favorite Camera

Posted: May 20, 2014 in Android, HTC, Mobile, Phones
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been putting off finishing my HTC One M8 review for a couple months. I’m hoping to finish it soon, but for now, here’s my draft…

A Dilemma

Before I start my review, I need to explain the technology dilemma of new phones, and new laptops and desktops, too, for that matter. Technology has come to a performance and feature point that it’s hard for manufacturers to prove any necessity their new products in these categories. Case in point – my previous phone, the Galaxy Nexus, was perfectly fast for everything I did with it. Sure, it wouldn’t launch apps or take photos as quickly as the newer devices, but it was acceptably fast, so much so that, as I shopped for a new product, the newer devices weren’t obviously beneficial.

I imagine my dilemma similarly affects the PC market. For the average consumer, is the laptop of today that much better than the laptop of two years ago? If you spend most of your time plugged in, as many users I’ve met do, will they notice the processor speed? The display? They’ll definitely recognize the SSD speed and touch. Yet their old systems are acceptably fast. Lucky for them, new laptops are affordable. Desktop PCs? That’s a different story – there’s nothing really new about them that you’d need to upgrade, and you don’t see many shipping with SSDs.

Phones, unlike laptops and desktops, are lucky in that they are a) popular to drive consumers to buy when upgrades are unnecessary, and b) have sex appeal. You rarely tell anyone these days about their chic new laptop. Well, you used to… That desire has shifted to the phone, now a mini laptop in itself. Yet, beyond the better battery life, what makes a phone better today, other than you can get a new model up front, and paid off [again] in two years?

Anyway, I ignored all that introspection and needs analysis. I bought HTC One M8.

The Phone

First, let’s talk about the One. It’s beautiful. It’s slick. A bit too slick, as the aluminum is so smooth I often was afraid it would fall out of my hands. Thankfully, HTC provides one free screen replacement in the first six months. I like little support touches like that. The HTC Dot View case solved my grippiness issue, which I’ll discuss below. Wow, though – it’s a beautiful phone. I had a number of people ask me “Hey, what phone is that?” and often times heard “I think I’ll be switching to an Android phone next. Wow, that screen is big.” Maybe Google should be courting HTC for the its next Galaxy phone?

The Camera

The HTC One takes great photos. So why isn’t it my favorite camera? First, we need to explain the difference between HTC’s approach to phone cameras compared to practically everybody else: bigger pixel sensor size versus more pixels. The One sports 2 micron sensors vs. the 1.3 micron sensors used by practically every other flagship phone from Samsung, Google, and even Nokia. However, it only has a 4 megapixel effective resolution, versus 13+ on the others. True, the larger sensors bring in more light, and make the HTC One an excellent low light level camera. But when it comes to image quality, that lack of additional resolution makes every shot a make-it-or-break-it affair. With a 16 megapixel imager, for example, you could get a large shot and crop to something perfect. But with 4 megapixels, you’ve got to get it right the first time, lest you risk cropping to Facebook resolution. Definitely nothing good to print, and sometimes so few pixels there’s nothing good to display, either.

To be fair, the One takes excellent photos. Albeit quite a bit overexposed when there’s too much light… You can’t get balanced exposure between, say, the sky and the grass on a partly cloudy day. If you focus on the grass, the sky turns white. If you focus on the sky, the grass turns almost black. It sounds like something that can be solved with software… I’m hoping HTC has something in the works.

A few bugs I noticed, in case HTC is listening:

  • You can’t add stickers to a photo taken with a flash or low light. I have no idea why.
  • U Focus is not available for flash or low light photos, either.
  • Facebook uploads from the HTC One M8 appear to be very low resolution. I’ve seen this issue on many HTC Android phones. It looks like HTC has their own Facebook for HTC, but I can’t exactly confirm which uploader is being used when sharing.

The Dot View Case – The Sleeper Accessory Success story to what Austin Powers was to Sleeper Movie Successes

Long title, but true. The Dot View case may seem like a gimmick, but it does a great job at what it’s supposed to do. Lined with little holes that form letters and shapes when combined with the One’s screen gestures, you can check the time, make a phone call, answer and decline phone calls, and see if you have any messages all without ever looking at your screen. Samsung and other manufacturers have done similar things by putting cutouts in cases, too. Yet HTC’s approach is unique, and very, very cool. I think many folks who have seen my little demos of the Dot View case are thinking the One is their next phone. Maybe it’s just sheer luck for HTC, but I don’t think I’ve met anyone who’s contract isn’t about to expire this year. Good thing I’m not in charge of a survey! <grin>

Comments
  1. fb login says:

    I admit that from initial impressions that I like the M8 quite a lot. But since I already have a M7 that does almost everything that I ask of it extremely well I won’t be back until the M9 or even the M10…assuming of course that HTC is still around given their current sad state of finances. With the M7. ff there was one area that HTC needed to spend serious development time on, it’s the camera. For the most part my M7 takes very good images but the feature and controls sets were rather anemic in their flexibility and abilities. Also wasn’t particularly impressed by the flash, again confined by a rather middling instruction set.that still has me bringing along a dedicated point-n-shooter (my Canon G11) far too often, or allowing my wife’s Samsung S4 to do the heavy lifting when it comes to capturing images and video. That’s one area that the M8 really needs to improve upon over where the M7 left off at.

  2. محمد السيد says:

    i see that you select The great HTC M8 but what about OnePlus One
    i wait till i got My invite and finally i can say that i Have the BEST android phone

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