HTC One M8: HTC’s big, beautiful last bet


The new HTC One M8 is demonstrated, Tuesday, March 25, 2014 in New York. HTC is updating its flagship HTC One smartphone by giving it a larger screen, better software and a camera that's easier to use. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The HTC One M8 is the newest flagship phone from the Taiwanese smartphone maker, and it is a beauty. With a five-inch screen, speedy quad-core Snapdragon processor,  high-quality speaker and standout camera, the HTC One M8 is an excellent successor to the HTC One (now retroactively the M7) and can cement HTC's place as the maker of the best Android smartphone on the market.

HTC has focused on design with this phone. It just looks good. The HTC One M8 has a sleek, mostly metal body that feels good in your hand. While a tad weighty -- the screen is on the larger side, after all -- the phone doesn't really feel too heavy. And while the screen is still a good size for watching video, it's not so big that you can't navigate with one hand if needed.

Like its predecessor, the HTC One M8 also has front-facing speakers so that the sound is actually pumping in your direction when you're watching a video, rather than potentially being blocked by a poorly-placed finger.

The main new feature of the phone is its camera, which has new software with some nifty editing tricks such as the ability to selectively focus a picture after you've taken it.

It doesn't work in every case -- if the original focus was bad, then you're just out of luck -- but if you snapped a picture and decided that you really want to focus on the foreground rather than the background, it's a nice feature to have.

Here is the same photo adjusted using that feature, called Ufocus. In the first photo, the focus is on the background and in the second it has been changed to the foreground.


Yes, there were probably cooler things to take pictures of than my file folders. (Photo by Hayley Tsukayama)

Or my purse. (Photo by Hayley Tsukayama)

Other special photo features include the ability to draw on your pictures, tilt your phone to pan through a "3D" version of your snapshot and a somewhat odd feature that lets you edit pictures with seasonal touches such as falling leaves. Most of these are not that useful, and certainly not killer features.

That's true, too, of other software features such as Motion Launch,  a group of gestures that let you control the phone. Some of them are great such as being able to answer a call simply by raising the phone to your face. Others are less useful, such being able to launch the camera by first turning the phone horizontal, raising it and then holding down the volume button. It's not exactly an elegant gesture.

Adding too many more of those features would have tipped the HTC One M8 into gimmick territory.  But the phone's overall fit and polish, however, save it from that fate. As a complete package, HTC has delivered a high-quality phone with  great battery life, meaning you can leave the charger at home while you're out. (Or at least tucked away in an inner pocket, if you're using it for a lot of video.)

Bottom line: this is a great smartphone. It's quick, has a good screen, an interesting camera and good sound quality. If you're looking for a phone that gives you an all-around great package of features for a smartphone, look no further.

But -- and there's always a but -- if you're looking for a compelling reason to ditch your current smartphone and get this one, chances are the HTC One M8 isn't going to provide it for you. If you're already in the market for a phone, wander over to the HTC table at the store and you'll be pleasantly surprised. But, sadly for HTC, there's no reason to break down the door.

The HTC One M8 is $199.99 on a two-year agreement; $649 off-contract. It is currently available on Verizon and AT&T. Sprint and T-Mobile are offering the phones online and they will be in stores April 10.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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