Gear Review: A Photographers Take on The HTC One M8 (2014)

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HTC-One-M8 Last year HTC released their latest flagship phone known as the “HTC One”, which took much of the Android photo industry by surprise. While the Android OS has caught up and exceeded IOS in terms of features and functionality over the last few years (in my opinion), it was the first time that an Android manufacturer had released a phone that could easily go toe to toe with Apple’s revered iPhone in terms of build quality and design. With its near full metal body and gorgeous display, it was a pleasure to use (and REVIEW) but while it won a number of rewards and praise, it ultimately didn’t end up getting close to matching Samsung in unit sales (the current largest Android phone manufacturer). Fast forward to 2014 and this morning HTC has officially announced the One’s successor, officially known as the HTC One M8. Fortunately I was one of a few people in the world to receive a M8 early and I was able to put it to the test during a number of my adventures to Iceland, the Canadian Rockies and The Big Island of Hawaii. Does it stand up to the praise of it is predecessor? Can it compete with the latest and greatest Android phones coming out this year? Lets find out!

HTC One M8 Press Image

HTC One M8 Press Image

Specs

  • CPU - Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad core (2.3Ghz in US/EU and 2.5Ghz in Asia & China)
  • Memory – 2GB DDR2
  • Storage – 16gb/32gb w/ expandable storage up to 128gb
  • Display – 5.0″ full HD (1080p) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Camera – Duo Camera – HTC UltraPixel 4.0mp f2.0 at 28mm
  • Android – 4.4 with HTC Sense 6
  • Sim Card – NanoSIM
  • Battery – 2600 mAh
  • Sensors – Gyro sensor, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor
  • Sound – HTC Boomsound w/ dual front facing stereo speakers
  • Network – GSM, WCDMA, HSPA, LTE
  • Available Colors – Gunmetal Gray, Glacial Silver, Amber Gold
  • Bluetooth – 4.0 compliant
  • Size – 146.36mm x 70.6mm x 9.35mm
  • Weight – 160g

Build Quality

The first thing I noticed when I opened the M8 box was that HTC was able to maintain the sleek look and stylish design that I loved with the original. In was so good in fact on the HTC One that it made most of the other phones I have used feel like plastic toys. Back to the M8, once I picked it up I did noticed a few differences right away. First was that it was just a touch heavier (17g to be specific). It wasn’t soo much that it effected my thoughts on the phone, but enough for me to know it was heavier. Secondly, I noticed that they improved the design of the phone in a very subtle way…by rounding out what some had considered the hard edges of the phone. When I held it in my hand without a case, it felt smoother…more comfortable…much more natural. When compared to last years HTC One that was made of 70% metal, the M8 housing is now 90%, wrapping all the way around the sides of the phone, right up to the screen. This is a big plus in my book!

You can see the rounded edges of the HTC One M8

You can see the rounded edges of the HTC One M8

Screen

You will also find two significant changes when it comes to the screen used with the M8 over the original HTC One. First, it is now 5.0″ long, compared to 4.7″ of the original. Second, you no longer have the Android OS buttons (home and back) filling up the bottom bezel. Instead all three standard Android buttons (back, home and multi-tasking) are implemented into the usable screen space itself. The positive note in this is that the top and bottom navigation bars are transparent, so you end up getting more screen space regardless. This falls in line with Android’s recommend design ques and in my personal opinion, offers a better user experience. Both of these changes make for a better viewing experience and help to not make the phone look or feel much bigger than that HTC One, even though you get more screen space.

HTC One M8 displaying a photo of mine from the Canadian Rockies

HTC One M8 displaying a photo of mine taken with the M8 from the Canadian Rockies

The screen itself still offers a full 1080p viewing experience and I found the colors (including the black point) to be exceptional. Movies, as well as my images looked gorgeous and color accurate, something I value as a photographer that likes to show off his images to people while traveling on the road.

Color Options

When it comes to color options, everyone likes a little flare. It is nice having the ability to pick and choose the look of a phone that matches your needs. HTC had sent me the new Gunmetal Gray color and I fell in love with it. When I pick up the retail version of the phone, I plan on keeping the same look.

Gunmetal Gray, Glacial Silver, Amber Gold are the available colors

Gunmetal Gray, Glacial Silver, Amber Gold are the available colors

Software

Just as with nearly all Android manufactures, HTC installs a layer of its own software over the stock Android operating system, called HTC Sense. With the M8, Sense is now in its 6th version. While I will allow for other tech journalists to dive inside the ins and outs of the latest version of HTC Sense, I will touch on a few aspects during this review.

HTC Blink Feed from Sense 6 on the HTC One M8

Press Image of HTC BlinkFeed from Sense 6 on the HTC One M8

The first things I noticed is that HTC has seemed to tone down Sense a bit in the latest version. This is a plus for many Android enthusiasts that prefer more of a pure Android experience as if the software came straight from Google itself. Sliding left from the home screen and you will find HTC Blinkfeed (your go to source for news and social updates). You can easily customize your various main screens, adding widgets and apps as you see fit (just like any other Android phone). When it comes to HTC Sense Apps, you have the ability to customize the look (color) of the apps and menu bar with 4 main theme choices. There are however two additional handy features I would like to focus on…

Power Saving Mode

While the 2600mAh battery in the M8 isn’t breaking any records when compare to other Android phones, they do have a pretty solid Power Saving Mode that helps you drastically extend the life of your battery from a single charge. While my experience varied slightly, HTC is touting that the M8 battery itself is 40% better than before. Additionally, the new Extreme Power Save mode will give you up to 2 weeks of standby time while still allowing for manual access to make calls, send emails, texts and other basic functions. This is impressive and a feature I find myself using often when working on the road when I don’t know when I will come across my next power source.

Motion Launch

On of my favorite features of the M8, surprising has nothing to do with the camera, but in how you turn the screen on once it has been turned off or automatically timed itself out. Instead of searching for the power button like the majority of phones, you can simply double tap anywhere on the screen to turn it on. Additionally, you can easily get access to your widget panel, HTC Blinkfeed or even answer your phone by simply lifting it up to your ear. While all of this might sound like something minor, it can help save seconds out of your day every time you use the phone, which trust me….adds up over the days, weeks and months. Below you can see an infographic with all of the details of the Motion Launch feature.

The gestures for the new HTC Motion Launch feature

The gestures for the new HTC Motion Launch feature

The Camera

Now for the reason most of you are reading this review in the first place….the new camera found on the HTC One M8. As technology has continued to increase over the years, both average users and photographers have become more critical of their ability to take high quality photos with their smart phone. While the Apple iPhone is considered one of the better options in the mobile industry, Android manufacturers have made great strides over the years to produce both compelling and unique camera features and functionality into their devices.

The M8 Camera App in use while in Iceland

The M8 Camera App in use while in Iceland

HTC One M8 Camera Specs

  • BSI sensor
  • Pixel size 2.0 um
  • Sensor size 1/3”
  • f/2.0
  • 28mm lens
  • HTC ImageChip 2
  • 1080p Full HD video recording with HDR video
  • Secondary camera: capture depth information

In my REVIEW of the original HTC One, I found that while the camera was able to produce great images (even comparing images taken with it to a $6000 Canon DSLR), it certainly wasn’t perfect. Does the HTC One M8 improve on the user experience found with the original One? Yes. Does it address the weaknesses of last years HTC One’s camera? Yes and no. Let me explain a bit about Ultra Pixel technology and the new Dual Cameras of the M8.

Ultra Pixel

In my review of the original HTC One, I extensively covered the technology behind the Ultra Pixel sensor they used, so I will be brief in going over it again. In essence, HTC opted to go with a smaller 4mp image sensor (instead of the 8mp – 20mp sensors of their competitors) and instead opted for a much larger sensor itself. This allowed HTC’s 4mp camera the ability to capture up to 300% more light than many of the 13mp cameras on the market today, effectively allowing it to work better in low light situations from a technical stand point. While the real world results from other photographers were a bit mixed, my experience definitely allowed my HTC One to capture more light in a given scene.

HTC UltraPixel

HTC UltraPixel Sensor Technology

The trade off in going with this route was that images where only 4 megapixels in resolution, which meant that while they generally looked good on the phone and even when sharing to Facebook, the moment you tried to crop into an image, the details of your photo began to degrade. If HTC was able to use a 8mp or 16mp image sensor with the same technology, it would hypothetically be able to both capture more light as well as give you the ability to to crop your images without loosing vital details. While most of my mobile images purely live in the social media world that easily exists within the 4mp resolution of the Ultra Pixel sensor, I did miss having a little extra resolution that most other mobile phones offer. In an amusing take, HTC choose to put a 5mp front facing camera for you to take high quality selfies with the M8 and yes…that means the front facing camera has a higher resolution that the rear facing camera that you generally use to take photos. Additionally, HTC choose to opt for software based optical image stabilization (to help with camera/hand shake) rather than have it physically built into the camera this time around. I haven’t experienced much of a difference between the two, but if it was up to me, I would always opt for in camera stabilization over anything baked into the software.

Near Full Manual Mode

In addition to the slew of camera modes that HTC offers with the M8 such as Night, HDR, Sweeping Panorama, Anti-Shake, Portrait, Landscape, Backlit, Text and Macro….HTC now offers a near full manual mode that allows you to adjust a custom White Balance, ISO, Shutter Speed (up to 1/8000th of a second), Exposure Compensation as well as the ability to manually focus. While this mode might take a little to get used to for some users, it does give you much more control over how your image turn out.

HTC One M8 with near full manual control

HTC One M8 with near full manual control

Duo Camera Technology

One of the most exciting new features of the HTC M8 is the new DUO Camera, which essentially adds a second camera that purely focuses on capturing depth of field information to help give you more tools and features when it comes to editing your images.

HTC One M8 Back of Phone

The most interesting of these features is called UFocus, which allows you to add artistic blur, otherwise known as “bokeh” to the background of your image. This allows you to refocus your shot on to any person or object in your frame, working similarly to a Lytro camera.

Camera Features

In addition to the Duo Camera and UFocus technology, the M8’s camera has a number of other pretty impressive features.

M8 Camera Menu

M8 Camera Menu

 

Smart Flash 2.0 The Duo Camera is the not only feature on the HTC One M8 that comes in a pair. The build in dual smart flash 2.0 does a solid job of determining the right lighting conditions to help your images have a more natural look to them. While not perfect, I found that it did a better job that the original HTC One in producing less washed out and poorly lit images when working in the dark.

Pano 360 In a similar manor to Android Photo SpherePano 30 allows you to take large 360 full panoramas of the world around you. This gives you the ability to essentially create your own “Google Street View” of any scene you wish. It is a handy way to give a view a true sense of what it was like to be standing in your shoes!

Image Match Set inside the HTC Gallery app, Image Match is a simple visual search tool that lets you search for an image and create an album that has similar or connected content. Take a photo a number of images of a specific mountain or person and you can easily find them all using this feature.

Foregrounder Working in a manor similar to UFocus, Foregrounder allows you to select your foreground (part of the frame that is in focus) and than artistically add a funky background, such as Zoom Blur, Sketch, Cartoon, Colorize.

Camera Weakness

While the HTC M8 has improved upon the camera found in last years HTC One, as well as add a slew of very welcome new features, the decision to maintain a 4mp camera is still a choice that I am split on. There is no doubt that this camera can take good photos, but the lack of resolution to allow you to crop into a photo can be a bit frustrating at times.

Additionally, I found that the auto WB sometimes can be a touch off, such as during sunset/sunrise when there are a lot of magenta colors. This doesn’t mean the photos look bad when this happens, but color tones look a bit too unreal for my taste. Generally a manual selection of the White Balance solves the issue…for the majority of times this might come up.

The M8 also can suffer from the tendency for highlights to be blown out when taking photos with bright objects. This is a limitation of many mobile phones, but seemed a touch more pronounced on the m8 itself.

Photo Gallery

Most of these images were shot in situations with little to no light, essentially pushing the camera to its limits. Overall I found that it did a good job, allowing more light into a scene that any of the other phones I had with me would allow.

Final Thoughts

In nearly every way, the HTC One M8 is a step above the original HTC One from last year. It continues to have the absolute best build and design quality of any Android device currently in the market while the new rounded edges help give it a much more natural feel in your hand. The screen, much like last years model, is top notch with very accurate colors and deep blacks, traits any photographer should demand in a phone. While HTC and Beats Audio have parted ways since last years model, the speakers found on the HTC One M8 are still phenomenal, playing crisp, clear audio that has a good amount of bass. While I am not a fan of Blinkfeed, HTC Sense 6 has added a few new features while also somewhat getting out of the way of itself, something many Android manufacturers fail at doing. The camera on the M8 probably isn’t the best camera available, but it certainly does have its strengths. I am hard pressed to not be happy that they have improved both the camera application itself and the picture taking quality of the phone when compared to last years model. I found more details in my images, better focusing in low light and overall a more enjoyable experience. A near full manual mode was a nice touch. The down side? You are still stuck with a 4mp sensor, which in this day and age, can be a touch frustrating when you want a little more from your images. Additionally you will still notice noise when shooting in low light, even if you are allowed more light in your photos when compared to other competing cameras. For your average shooter, the M8, like the M7 will be just fine. If you buy your phones solely based on having the best camera available, you might want to look at other options.

As of today, this is certainly one of the better Android phones out on the market and it is one that I can easily recommend to a new Android user. If you are an owner of the HTC One, you will most likely enjoy all of the new features and upgrades. That being said, I am also intrigued by both Sony’s new Z2 waterproof smartphone as well as OPPO’s new Find 7 that houses the worlds first 2k screen and a feature that allows you to create 50mp images. Time will tell how everything plays out with all of the new mobile phones from Android and Windows Phone, but until then, I will most likely have the HTC One M8 as my go to daily phone.

Full Disclosure: HTC did not pay or ask me to write this review, although they did ship me a near final build of the HTC One M8 to use as I pleased

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  • Janettwokay

    Nice review. I, too, am disappointed at the lower-resolution image sensor size that was chosen for the new phone. That was my only complaint about the prior model. ~sigh~

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      The camera does take more detailed images @janettwokay:disqus, but I hear ya. I look forward to experimenting with the camera more, especially the new features and see how it grows on me. Overall, I still recommend the phone and camera…but maybe next years model will improve the resolution a bit.

      • etherspin

        fantastic photos and great general overview of the handset, is there any chance you can somewhere link the full resolution shots or even just a couple so we can see pixel for pixel just how much we have to work with? would those look good as a 4 x 6 print?

        • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

          I am on the road right now @etherspin but will try to get a few up soon (un-edited)

  • jnt

    Thanks for this review. The camera alone is what has me leaning towards the S5 over this. I loved the “feel” (if that makes sense?) of the camera on the original One, but was simply frustrated by cropping, as I take a lot of pictures of my kids from a short distance (playing outside, sports,etc). It sounds like with some software tweaks they’ve maxed out the detail possibilities as much as they could with 4mp…

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      Ya, I feel this generation has probably maxed out the potential for the 4mp sensor they are currently using. I am sure they will have to upgrade the resolution in the next model. My two main issues with Samsung’s Galaxy line is Touchwiz and the plastic feel of the phone itself.

  • jnt

    I just read elsewhere that they removed OIS to make room for the “double” lens setup – is that true?

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      Yup, there is on more OIS, but they do have a software stabilization that does a pretty good job built into the camera app itself.

      • jnt

        Interesting choice. I’m a phone camera snob (though by no means a professional like yourself), and simply wish some of these OEM’s would focus on taking the best pictures in the quickest and easiest fashion. That’s the strength of the iPhone…

        • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

          Overall I totally agree with you. The challenge I suppose is that each of these manufacturers want to differentiate themselves from each-other, so they keep trying new things…some of which are great features, and others that don’t live up to our expectations.

    • Fraize

      I don’t think “make room” is the right verb here. The engineers couldn’t make OIS work with two lenses practically. There was probably a certain amount of lag between physically stabilizing the two lenses that would end up causing the resultant image to be blurrier than if they just left it out. If they can mount both lenses on the same gimbal, that would probably work, but we’d end up with a much larger phone.

      • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

        I might reach out to HTC and see if I can get a clear answer on this. When I do, I will update the post and respond here in the comments as well.

  • Dt Bell

    Thanks, good review

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      Fair point @dtbell:disqus, although it is still a beautiful and functional piece of technology. Hard pressed to do better than the Snapdragon 801 right now, although the 805 is right around the corner as well as 2k screens. It is a good time to be a tech geek afterall :)

      • Keisu

        Good review. I don’t really care about 2k screens personally, as I can’t see how I’ll be able to tell them apart from a 1080p screen with the naked eye. That’s not even taking into account what a battery-drain they will be.

        I’ve ordered the One (m8) and I’m excited to get it on tuesday. I had hoped for a 8mpx camera this time around, but I’m satsified that they have at least improved the software to reduce some of the issues with sharpness in the old One.

        • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

          Good point on the 2k screens, although I want to see a few in person before I decide if there is not that much difference. Where I could see it being beneficial is in both surfing the web and displaying my professional images to others, but that is speculation at this point.

          I am interested to hear your thoughts on the M8 once you get it in. Until you hold it in your hand, it is hard to be an accurate judge, something many mobile phone aficionados tend to forget :)

          • Keisu

            I’d love 2K on my laptop or desktop screen. I just don’t think we’re able to look closely enough for it to matter on a phone. For a 1080p TV the guideline is that the closest you can sit before noticing the pixels clearly is one and a half times the height of your TV, so for a 32″ TV about 1.25 metres. Now, for a 5″ phone screen I imagine you cant even focus that close with your eyes :). When I get the phone I’m going to look as closely as I can on high res photos, webpages etc to try this theory. Maybe you could try the theory too?

  • Jared Lawson

    Great review Colby – I am considering moving from my trusty iPhone to something a bit different, but just can’t seem to make the jump until after I see what iPhone 6 brings. HTC seems to be making strides, but I am not quite sure the camera is there yet after reading your review. Travel Photography

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      I hear ya @jaredlawson:disqus. When I first made the switch away from the iPhone years ago I felt the same way. Honestly the best way is to just dive in. Find a phone you like and give it a whirl. Most major carriers give you a 30 day grace period to make sure things are working on your end.

  • http://blog.joshsouzaphotos.com joshsouzaphotos

    I hate Sense UI, and the low resolution of the camera kinda stinks… but like you said, that sorta stuff usually lives in the social area anyways. On the fence, waiting to hear more about the Sony Z2 and the S5 (only features I’ve heard tech bloggers talking about is HDR..lol, nothing about potential controls??)

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      I am generally not a huge fun of any “skin” on top of Stock Android, but I do find Sense Tolerable and even kind of useful at times with some of their proprietary apps. I too am waiting to get my hands on the Z2 and the Oppo Find 7 as I said at the end of the review. Lots of good phones out there. However until I find something better, I will be switching between the Nexus 5 and M8 depending on my needs.

      • http://blog.joshsouzaphotos.com/ joshsouzaphotos

        The Oppo 7 looks great, but I do believe it isn’t coming to America, which is an issue for me personally.

        I haven’t been able to find out if the Galaxy 5 has manual camera controls, which should be a normal thing at this point. (not sure if the Z2 does either)

        • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

          I should know soon. They sent me a N1, which I enjoyed for a bit, but generally prefer the 5-5.5 inch screen size as 6 is just a touch to big for me.

          Even if the Galaxy 5 doesn’t allow manual camera controls with the stock camera app, you could try “Focal” or “Camera FV-5″ to regain some of those controls…although maybe not true manual mode.

  • Eugene Cornelius

    Great to see your pics from the #HTCOneM8 Colby . I can see why people might have issue with the 4mp resolution especially when it comes to cropping.. But as someone who tries to frame it right from the get go, I can live with minimal to no cropping with the HTC One. From what I’ve seen, HTC has upped its camera performance, focus IS faster, and colours look that much better. and am very intrigued by both uFocus & the manual controls (which I was hoping would come in feedback on the m7) can’t wait to get a retail unit to really put it through its paces over here in real world shooting conditions.

    P.S. Any plans to pop by Singapore anytime soon, give me a ping and perhaps we could do a photowalk or something, the last time you were on the way back from the PH I believe and only on a stopover!

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      Great to hear from your @eugenecornelius:disqus and thanks for the kind words. As for cropping, ya…that is really my only gripe with the camera on the M8. In reality do I crop mobile images all that much? No…but it is a nice feature to have when needed.

      Feel free to re-share these images as you see fit. I don’t have any set plans for Singapore this year, but I do have a good amount of work around the Pacific Rim, so there is always a chance. We will definitely do a photo walk next time I am in town :)

      • nik

        Hi @ColbyBrown:disqus thanks for the reviewand i would like to add to what @eugenecornelius:disqus was talking about cropping and composing, i feel the difference is when your subject is at a distance. Say you take an image of a mountain and to frame it well you need to take the foreground out as you cannot walk towards your subject, in this instance you can only crop and i find this happening with phone camera as you have no optical zoom. But DAMMMM the m8 is so pretty i can almost forgive her smarts lol ;P .
        I would like to ask you if you think the z2 would be better for photographers? i have the sony a7r and am really impressed by sony hardware.

        • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

          Hey @disqus_LY7Ya4aDkQ:disqus . Thanks for chiming in. I totally get what @eugenecornelius:disqus is saying and I agree, it is handy to have more pixel detail to be able to zoom in or crop your images in post processing. However most people that use smart phones don’t do that. Even myself, who would of rather had atleast an 8mp sensor from HTC, rarely truly takes advantage of that extra resolution, although the photographer in me really wants to have the ability.

          She is certainly a good looking phone…no doubt about that :)

          As for the Z2…I couldn’t tell you as I haven’t used one just yet. In the next month or two I am hoping to have the Z2, Oppo Find 7 and new OnePlus phone in my office for testing. When that happens, I might do a fun comparison post, but probably won’t do an in-depth review for each of the phones. We will see :)

  • Adam Jones

    “Second, you no longer have the Android OS buttons (home and back) taking up valuable real-estate.”

    It’s the exact opposite of that. They’ve been moved onto the screen (taking up space) but the bezel is still there. Have you… have you actually ever seen the phone?

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      Oh how I love comments like these. Precious. Yes…I do have the phone. In fact…I am responding to you on it. As for your thoughts, they are both right and wrong. Yes, they have moved to the screen, but when compared to the HTC One, which I have right next to me as well, you get a touch more screen area, including the transparent navigation bar that shows on many screens and abides by Google’s recommendations for design.

      I suppose my glaringly obvious response however would be…do you have the phone or are you speaking from Internet research?

      • http://blog.joshsouzaphotos.com/ joshsouzaphotos

        lol!

        • Adam Jones

          Did you see the part where he is objectively wrong? Just look at the two phones. It’s the exact opposite of how Colby described it in the post.

          • http://www.levimills.com levimills

            Are you like this in your everyday life? It’s a cell phone review. No need for the attitude

          • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

            Some people are just bitter @levimills:disqus & @joshsouzaphotos:disqus. I just have to smile and nod as any other response makes me shake my head :)

          • nik

            @disqus_66gRy2i5SO:disqus for me the htc logo adds to the design not detracts, i like the bordered thick bezel its like a picture frame.

      • Adam Jones

        “Oh how I love comments like these. Precious. ”

        Oh, so you’re a pretentious asshole.

        “As for your thoughts, they are both right and wrong.”

        Meaningless.

        “but when compared to the HTC One, which I have right next to me as well, you get a touch more screen area”

        Yes, the screen is larger. Irrelevant to whether the buttons are taking up space on it or not.

        “including the transparent navigation bar that shows on many screens and abides by Google’s recommendations for design.”

        Also irrelevant. Nothing you have said in your reply actually rebuts my argument. Let me quote you again:

        “Second, you no longer have the Android OS buttons (home and back) taking up valuable real-estate”

        This is, quite obviously, the exact opposite of the truth. On the M7, the buttons are on the bezel, not taking up any more space (‘real estate’) than they need to. On the M8, the bezel is still there, but the buttons are on the screen – taking up more space than they need to. They could have just been on the bezel. But they’re not, and now the bezel is functionally useless externally, and screen space is wasted on buttons. Therefore, you now DO have the Android OS buttons taking up valuable real estate, where they didn’t before.

        Again, I implore you to simply *look* at the phone before replying. It should be immediately obvious that what you said is objectively incorrect. Like, *immediately obvious*. It’s not a matter of opinion or anything that can be argued. It’s objective face and it should be clear within two seconds of comparing the two phones.

        Checkmate.

        • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

          So you don’t have the phone? Is that what I can summarize from your elegant response?

          If you dropped the attitude over a cell phone review, you would of read my response and understood that I said you were partially right. However, with the nav bar being transparent and with the larger screen, the phone does over more screen real estate while also abiding by, rather than going against Google’s own Android design protocol.

          Overall this is a much more enjoyable experience, again speaking from actual experience, and is in line with how Android likes these phones to work. Additionally…and the point of my response, is that there is more space….so opinion or not, I stand by my words…you don’t like it…go bug someone else and for goodness sake relax. If my opinion is worth you getting angry and defensive about, the size of the M8 screen is at the bottom of your problem list.

          • mike

            checkmate, colby! the internet sure brings out the jerk in people @ adam jones. and nice review btw, very helpful. thank you!

        • beatles

          nothing but a scamsung troll

  • Dave Paulino

    Awww no! My mobile plan is ending on April and I was pretty decided in getting the LG G2! Then the M8 comes out to add confusion!

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      Haha. I hear ya. Good luck :)

  • Robert J. California

    If they had gone with a bigger sensor for the main camera, I would sell my S4 and buy a Google Play Edition One M8 in a heartbeat.

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      Maybe next year @aycockonxion:disqus. I have had some very good results with the m8, in spite of the 4mp resolution limitation, but in the end you should use what you are comfortable with. Lots of good phones/cams coming out this year. Time will tell which one has the best offering.

  • Armando Severino

    I have the HTC one (M7), and I loved the pics from it – especially low light pics and it really benefits from the OIS. I have a two year old so it comes in handy. The replacement motion stability feature in the M8 seems to be adequate from reviews I read. This will probably be my next phone. Thanks for the great review.

    • Armando Severino

      I forgot to ask – one of the great features on the old HTC One (M7) was the ability to take pictures while recording video or while reviewing your recorded videos, can you still do that on the M8? thanks in advance

      • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

        I just double checked @armandoseverino:disqus and yes, you can still capture stills while recording a video with the m8 :)

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      I too have a 2.5 year old son and yes, it certainly does help (OIS) in the m7. With the m8 it is all software based, but I have found it work in a very similar fashion. I usually prefer a hardware solution, but this seems to do a good job.

  • Keisu

    On image IMAG0112 if you look closely in the water you can see lines of digital noise going vertically along the picture. This is a problem on my old HTC Desire as well. I got it whenever I used the built in app to upload the pictures to facebook. It is solved by using the regular facebook app to upload (or the other way around, I dont remember, but try switching apps). I do not know why it happens, but it’s wierd that the problem is still there 4 years after HTC Desire was released.

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      @Keisu:disqus – Ya, I certainly noticed digital noise in a number of my images, although I was expecting that as most of these images were shot in very low light situations, usually well after sunset or before sunrise, in order to truly test the limits of the camera. The m8 does seem a touch better with noise than the m7, so maybe there is some software changes going on.

      I rarely use the in house gallery app to share images as I tend to use 3rd party editing software and share from there, or my gallery app of choice, which is QuickPic.

  • м ч × Φ м α † ● s €

    Hey thanks a lot for this comprehensive review. However, I have two doubts that I didn’t find cleared: one related to the camera(s) and the other related to the updated sense UI. If you’d be so kind to answer I’d be thrilled (and please excuse my english, which is not my native language).. So, first: I understand they removed the -hardware- optical image stabilization system and ‘replaced’ it with a software artiffice, then I’d like to know if -in your opinion and experience- this is a downgrade, an improvement or if there isn’t a noticeable difference (and even though I love the photos you make and think they’re exceptional, please try to consider for your answer the real-life usage of the average person snapping shots).. Finally, second -and easier: is there a way to get rid of the colours that the new sense 6 includes at the top of its proprietary apps (including the notification bar), or at least change them for darker ones?.. Thanks a lot in advance for your answers

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      Thanks. I am glad you liked the review and I am happy to further answer your questions.

      In general, I usually always prefer a hardware based image stabilization system as I have found historicly to do a better job. That being said, I have not noticed much, if any, difference between the m7 and m8 in terms of image stability improvement or degradation. This leaves me to believe that when working with 4mp images, it really doesn’t make all that much of a difference. If the m8 had an 8mp or 16mp image I would think we might see more of a difference, especially when we zoomed in to confirm sharpness of an image.

      As for the colors, as far as I know, there is no way to change the colors of HTC Sense. Your best bet would be to root the m8 and install a custom mod that allows you to have those features if color pallet is important. I too look forward to the day that we have near full control over the look and feel of our phones, but I have to say that with Android, we have it much better than our IOS fan counterparts.

      • Potato

        I read somewhere that there is an option to change the color, am I wrong?

        Quoted from Engadget:
        ”HTC put more emphasis on themes and colors this time as well. Most
        Sense apps and features comply with specific shades depending on which
        color theme you choose (by default, BlinkFeed is green, for instance),
        but you can change to other themes if you like.”

        In the photo below, they have changed it to black.

        • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

          Poking around with settings now :)

          • http://www.rubenalamina.mx/ Ruben Alamina

            I read that you can set it to black, which is exactly as Sense 5-5.5 on the M7

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      After some quick digging thanks to @disqus_WNBEbaqDfL:disqus I found that you can make “some” changes to adjust the colors of the HTC Sense apps. The notification bar and nav bar are both transparent when outside of apps, but inside HTC apps you have four themes to choose from that have different color schemes.

  • Potato

    The images looks pretty good to me. I don’t know why people are whining about that. Okay, I got it, the resolution is very low compared to other flagships but honestly there is not a major difference in the photos taken by a 16MP and 4MP (or UP) UNLESS you zoom in the photos. The quality is nearly the same.
    I checked you old review of HTC One M7 where in the end of the article you compared a photo sample of HTC One with a $7K DSLR, there was not really a MAJOR or NOTICEABLE difference UNLESS you look it at very carefully or tried to zoom in.
    I am using smartphones for years but TBH I rarely zoom in the photos, so its not a big deal. The most important thing is the camera optimization (to me) and I think HTC has done it best in this phone!

    Not only this, the UI, the design, the Boomsound, the gestures, the ergonomics and the display… almost everything of the device is the perfect. Its a pretty solid device overall. However, I still believe that more megapixels could’ve been be a better idea.

    Nice article Cobly! :)

    P.S Sorry for my pathetic English.

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      @Potato – Your English is great…no need to apologize :)

      Thanks for the kind words about my review as well. I am in the same boat as you in that I don’t zoom into images all that much, so the 4mp limitation is generally not that much of an issue. But I would be lying if the photographer in me didn’t want to have a bit more freedom when cropping or zooming in. Maybe in next years model ;)

      • Potato

        Yep – At-least we can hope. I wish they will bring OIS back. Hardware stabilization is better than software’s.

        On a side note: Have you done the review of Xperia Z1 and Lumia 1020? and will you do the review of Z2? …as all of these devices are camera centric.

        • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

          I never got a hold of a Z1 but I do have a Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520 as I have been working on a few side projects with Nokia. I sadly never did a 1020 review and feel it is a bit too late to do one now. That being said, it is still the best mobile phone camera available. Still constantly impressed with the images. From a OS and App standpoint though, Windows Phone has a ways to go.

          I might do a z2 review. Depends on a few factors.

          • Potato

            May I give you a suggestion? :D

            If you will get a chance to do a review of Z2, please make a photo comparison of Z2 vs Lumia 1520 vs Lumia 1020 and HTC One (M8). That would be great.

            It will be the perfect answers for those who are still stuck in dilemma whether the 4UP is sufficient or not.

            P.S Do you have any account on 500px or Flickr?

            Thanks :)

          • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

            Good point @disqus_WNBEbaqDfL:disqus . I will see what I can do :)

          • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

            Oh and to answer you question, yes I do have a 500px and Flickr accounts, although to be honest, I don’t upload all that much to them anymore. Regardless the links are below.

            500px – http://500px.com/ColbyBrown

            Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/colbybrown/

          • Potato

            Thanks!
            So, I should follow your site for the photography?

          • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

            I would say my website and or my social media profiles…namely Google+, Facebook and Instagram (all three links found at the very top of this site in the right hand corner).

            I will continue to upload content to 500px and Flickr, but it isn’t a priority and doesn’t always get the latest stuff :)

  • http://www.rubenalamina.mx/ Ruben Alamina

    Thanks for for this brief and actually useful review. I have the M7 and it has been really great for me, including the camera. The only issue I have with the camera is that on the M7 most of the time outdoor/daylight pictures end up being a little blown up on bright areas and the sky.

    In the end, this phone pushed me (something I appreciate now) to learn to frame my shots before pressing the shutter button. Also it is better to know when details will be blown out and be able to tweak the exposure and saturation but sometimes this takes away from the great focus performance on the OIS that allows me to take my phone out and shoot very quickly.

    What’s your take on daylight performance and quality? Have you noticed improvements on saturation or exposure in bright conditions? Thanks in advance!

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      @rubenalamina:disqus – I am glad you found the review useful. I too enjoyed the m7 and my wife (whom now has my old m7) has loved it. I do hear you about over exposed areas in images, especially skies. I have noticed that it is a bit better with the m8, but still an overall problem with most mobile device as they force lock exposure and focus into the same area. While the M8 has a near full auto mode that I talk about in the review, if you are just pulling your phone out of your pocket, you might not have time to “setp up”. I wish more manufacturers allowed users to separate exposure and focus locks, such as the Camera Awesome camera app in the Google Play Store does. This way you could press on the area you want the camera to focus on while pressing additionally in the area you wish the camera to expose for. It is truly a handy feature!

  • Britani

    What would the photo quality be for printing? I take most of my photos with my phone and I do want to print them off, but I still want a decent looking picture when printed.

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      That is a good question @disqus_tCoYzxP5JR:disqus. Judging from the resolution of the M8 (4mp) I would think a 4×6 image would be fine, but once you go up in size, details might be lacking. In reality this is the same for many mobile cameras as the sensors in devices that are continuing to get smaller, lighter and thinner don’t allow for that much pixel detail.

      • quwerty

        If we where to compare the HTC 4 mp with other 8+ mp mobile phone cameras, should’t we interpolate the 4 mp up to 8 mp and then compare? Because if for example the 4 mp is a less noisy and cleaner image which was the idea with HTC’s bigger censors in the first place, it can be easier to interpolate and actually better at same dpi (300) than other higher pixel cameras. Is this the case here? I have done this with comparison with other cameras. Even when the pixel count is higher on one camera it doesn’t give a way any useful details when both camera images are “stretched” to same dpi. The same principle apply to cropping. Final comparing pictures should always have same dpi in my opinion. In printing magazines and so on, 300 dpi as been considered the benchmark for years (That’s where Apple have got their retina idea from isn’t it?).

  • Hollander

    Nice review and the photos look great but would love to see a comparison, in person, after the photos have been printed before making a judgement on the camera specs.

    My phone choice will be made between the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5 on the Verizon network. I feel confident that the bootloader can be unlocked in a few weeks on the HTC One M8, but unlocking the bootloader is out of the question for the Samsung Galaxy S5. The Verizon version of the S4 cannot be unlocked. I have great expectations for the ViperOne custom rom that could take the HTC One M8 to an elevated user experience level. The low camera resolution and not having a replaceable battery option keeps the Samsung Galaxy S5 in the decision making process.

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      Good points @disqus_dc5mrybLwB:disqus. When it comes to the camera on your smart phones, do you tend to zoom in and or crop your images much? I ask because I feel most people “feel” they need high megapixel cameras, but in reality don’t ever take advantage of their increased resolution. If you do, then use…certainly keep it as a factor in your choice for the best smart phone for you.

  • http://profiles.google.com/gallimichael Michael G. Galli

    Dude, they paid you to write this puff piece. Such bullshit.

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      While your choice of words reflect your wisdom, the reality is that US law stipulates that one must disclose any financial transactions that occur when reviewing a product. You may not care for my opinion, which this review is based off of, you also don’t have to be here. Plenty of other sites on the internet where you are free to share your wise words :)

  • Ramakata Oblonsky

    No words about sound again. I have impression that reviewers either deaf or just copy each other review without really looking at a device. For example I use phone more frequent for listening music and the former is high definition music. It is Bluetooth connected in a car, headphones connected at home or work. Having stereo speakers is nice but for listening hi definition music you need to know more detailed specification what DAC is used, how it works for playing music above CD quality. If a reviewer used headphones, it is important to know which specifically, what kind of music fragments were used, how recorded and what software used for playback, because in most cases poweramp will produce crappy sound, so no use for trustful reviews. Phones still have camera inferior to any DSLR, so focusing review on camera quality is near to be stupid.

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      @ramakataoblonsky:disqus – Well considering that I am a photographer and this is a photography website/blog…I find it strange that you feel it isn’t important to focus on the camera side of things with my review. If you want to learn about the audio side of the m8, maybe you should check out an audio focused website?

      All in all, the speakers on the m8 are still better than 99% of other smart phones out there and so I am happy with them. If you want a more in-depth response than that, you probably have to look else where.

      • Bryan Kam

        Strange indeed, to comment about sound when this review is clearly a review on the photography aspect of the phone.

    • http://www.rubenalamina.mx/ Ruben Alamina

      I can’t speak for the M8 (yet) but the M7 has a headphone ampliflier and HTC has included it in the M8 as well. This amp will drive any pair of high end headphones better than any phone on the market. The volume and quality are awesome. This is something most people don’t know about the sound of the M7/M8.

      I agree with you that most reviews should include aspects like audio and other things, but like Colby replied to you, he choose to focus on the camera side as it fits his needs or the scope of his site.

      In the end, if you are looking for a phone with the best audio quality (speakers and heaphones) there’s no better choice than the M7 or M8. Take your pick. Regards.

      • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

        Thanks for chiming in @rubenalamina:disqus :)

    • corona10

      Seriously, did you even read the article? Its focused on camera functionality. And calling someone’s work stupid because you wanted it to be about something else YOU’RE interested in makes no sense. The title of this article indicates pretty clearly what its going to be about.Everyone knows camera phones are still inferior to DSLRs. Which is why this article is about getting the most out of this device’s camera. If you want something about audio why don’t you make one instead of criticizing someone else’s work?

  • Nick

    Well, it does help to take pictures of pretty things when showing off the capability of the camera.

  • http://www.simmermanphotography.com Bob Simmerman

    Excellent review, Colby, my mind is made up and I’ll be picking up the HTC One M8 in about a week and a half.

  • Adam Lein

    The UFocus thing does not work like a Lytro camera at all. I found it pretty embarrassing. All it does is apply a flat Gaussian blur to whatever “layers” are not selected. It doesn’t change the focus point at all, just applies a filter. Nokia’s “Refocus” app is a little closer to the Lytro effect but it takes a series of photos with different focus points and then merges them in-software. http://pocketnow.com/2014/03/28/htc-one-m8-duo-camera-vs-nokia-refocus-video
    I’ve been doing a lot of shooting with the Lumia 1020 which has 41 megapixels. It also has similar manual controls (no aperture control of course). At a concert, I can crop in about 10x and still get a picture with approximately the same quality as the M8’s 4 megapixel photo had I been standing in the front row. I usually shoot RAW DNG with it and crop it later as opposed to using digital zoom though.

    • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

      @adamz1977:disqus – While the Lytro camera has specific technology that is unique to itself, for your average user, the experience is the same, hence my comment. Samsung and potentially Android itself is working on similar technology as this…all doing the same thing as Nokia…taking multiple images and doing focus blending. How they take multiple images is different. With HTC it is two images from the two cameras. With Nokia, it is 5, giving it a more accurate “shift” in focus.

      As for the Nokia 1020, I too have that…and the 1520. Overall, the 1020 is still the best mobile camera on the market and I too enjoy the cropping in nature of having that much resolution. The 41mp title is a bit misleading though in that the jpg images coming out of the camera itself (to share on FB or Google+) are actually 5mp in size, but as you know you have the full resolution file (DNG raw if you enable that) stored on the phone that you have to manually transfer to do something with.

      All in all I think these are different phones for different people. I usually have the 1020 with me on trips, but my wife absolutely loves here HTC M7 and will get the M8 later this year when I move to a different phone. Its limitation at 4mp is only truly a limitation for more advanced users as your average user doesn’t crop or even edit there images…but simple take photos share them right away to their social network or email of choice. In those situations…4mp is more then enough.

  • John

    I think I’ll have this phone over S5 and Z2. 4mp on a smartphone screen is really not bad, I think you wouldnt be able to tell the difference if you look the images on a smartphone unless you crop or zoom them, right?

    if I really want to take really good photos and share them right away when I dont have a camera capable of sharing them online, I might as well bring my DSLR with me (which I always do when I know I’ll be taking not just your average photos), then have a USB on the go then share them using my phone! not much of a hussle for me. I really like the design and features of M8 so, yeah, Ill go for this One.

    A really nice review btw!

  • Guest

    i think ur so good photographer. i wanted to ask u one question. what are u doing when u have to take photo an object if its sun’s side?

  • Bulent

    i think ur so good photographer. i wanted to ask u one question. what are u doing when u have to take photo of an object if its sun’s side?

  • Ibrahim G. Aurakzai

    will this smartphone get software video stabilization in the future updates? i am okay with all the rest of the features, its the best android phone i have seen up to date.