HTC One (M8) – Wrapping it all Up

My time with the HTC One (M8) is almost up. Here are my parting thoughts on the device.

Introduction

My time with the HTC One (M8) is nearly over; and I’ve had one heck of a time with the device. There are some things I really liked; and there are some things that I really didn’t care for at all.

I’ve published a number of blogs here on Soft32. You can search for all of them if you like, or you can simply click through and check out the links below:
HTC One (M8) Unboxing
HTC One (M8) – Initial Impressions
HTC One (M8) – Performance at a Premium
HTC One (M8) – Duo Camera
HTC One (M8) – Is Retro Good Enough?: The Dot View Case

I wanted to take a few moments and give the device the proper treatment before I box it up and send it back, so here are the core essentials of a proper review.

The Specs
The device has some really nice hardware specs from a device perspective. The camera, as you can see in my review of it, leaves a great deal to be desired. It does OK, but if you’re used to 8MP or better on your phone, I think you’re going to be greatly disappointed. However, I also have a decent DSLR and take some (semi-professional quality) pictures. Honestly, I don’t want to be a camera snob at all, but I would definitely NOT buy the HTC One (M8) for its camera. I’m not even certain I would rely on it as a smartphone camera. My iPhone 5 takes much better pictures, and by today’s standards, its 8MP sensor with f2.2 lens is about average. There are smartphones (some Android, some not…) out there with much, MUCH better lenses. If you’re wanting to double up smartphone and camera needs, this is not the phone to look at, in my opinion.

However, as I said, the rest of the specs are quite respectable, and I think, worth the premium price. The camera would have made this a home run, and instead, it unfortunately makes the HTC One (M8) just a mediocre phone.

Quad-core 2.3gHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
32GB Solid State Storage
2GB DDR3 RAM
microSD Card Slot supporting up to 128GB cards
5″ HD Display
HTC BoomSound
HTC Duo Camera – 4MP, dual LCD Flash
5MP Front facing camera
Bluetooth 4.0

The device does not appear to have BT LE as part of its Bluetooth stack. I’m not certain why. My iPhone 5 does, and its 2 years older than the HTC One (M8). Very disappointing, and somewhat confusing…

The device has enough onboard storage to hold a movie or two as well as most of your music collection. I’ve got a HUGE music library and have about 2300 songs on my iPhone 5. I’ve got maybe 500MB of space left over after that and all my tech podcasts (apps, etc.) are on it. With only 16GB, I don’t bother with video. There just isn’t enough space.

However, the HTC One (M8) has twice that space, and as I said, you can hold 1-3 HD movies, PLUS a large music collection, PLUS other audio (like podcasts) and still have space left over. You can also stick in up to a 128GB microSD card in the device for a max total space of 156GB. The HTC One (M8) gives you enough storage capacity to take everything with you, without having to compromise.

Its 2GB of DDR3 RAM insures that nearly everything you run – games, video player, music player, productivity apps, etc., run smoothly. In the month or so that I’ve had the device, I haven’t had any performance issues with it. It’s been running smoothly and quickly. I really couldn’t have asked for a better performing device.
The Hardware
Despite the camera issue (which for me, is HUGE, due to my photography bent), the HTC One (M8) has a lot to offer. From a hardware only perspective, the (M8) hits a home run.
The Device Itself
The HTC One (M8) is a great looking, great feeling device. Its aluminum body is solid, and it doesn’t look or feel cheap by a long shot. The device is thin and sleek. As you can see from the pictures below, it makes the larger iPhone 5 (with a 4″ 16×9 screen) seem dinky by comparison. I’ve tried to give you a decent look at the device. You have the full 360, plus the device’s front and back.

HTC One (M8) -0001
The HTC One (M8)

However, I did find that with a 5″ screen, the HTC One (M8) REQUIRES two hands to operate. I am huge (and have been for well over 10 years) on one-handed operability. I live in my device, and often have a notebook, pen and cup of coffee in one hand and my smartphone in another, checking mail, messages and the location of my next meeting. I can do this with my 4″ iPhone 5 quite easily. The device is skinny enough that I can hold the device and work the screen with my thumb.

HTC One (M8) -0002

The HTC One (M8) and the iPhone 5 – front view

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HTC One (M8) – Duo Camera

You’re either going to love it, or you’re going to hate it. There is no middle ground…

So… I’m a huge digital photography nut.   I have two Nikon DX series DSLR’s and about 8 different lenses. I love taking pictures with them. My kids and my granddaughter are some of my favorite subjects to shoot.   That is, if you can get them to sit still long enough for me to get the camera out and the right lens attached.   While it is a bit harder with my granddaughter – at 18 months, getting her to sit still for ANYTHING is a challenge – this is the reason why God invented cameras in smartphones.   It’s much easier to whip out your phone and take a number of shots than it is to take them on a real camera, especially if you weren’t planning on taking photos.

htc-one-m8-duo-camera-smartphone-unveiled-03-570x712So, enter the HTC One (M8) and its Duo Camera.   The HTC One (M8) is the first camera that I have seen with a dual rear-facing camera with dual LCD flash.   The camera is supposed to pair its main UltraPixel module with a depth sensor that concentrates on depth of field information in the secondary lens. What you get is (supposed to be) a sharp foreground as the camera knows EXACTLY where everything is and what you’re really trying to focus on.   The camera has different tools related to both foreground and background (Foregrounder and UFocus, respectively) that provide specialized effects that can be applied to the pictures you take…and it’s all possible due to the extra depth of field information you get from the secondary lens.

The camera also has one of the fastest shutters I’ve ever seen in any kind of digital camera, either DSLR or point and shoot.   The HTC One (M8) can take 9-12 continuous shots with an autofocus speed of 300 milliseconds.   The camera begins snapping shots as soon as you press the shutter button.   The shutter is so fast, you’ll barely even notice that its capturing shots, which is one of the reasons why I ended up taking over 600 photos this past weekend (literally…) in under 30 minutes. I’ve never seen any camera so fast on the draw in my life.   There are a lot of features here that the average user won’t ever get to or even think about using.   The camera is pretty advanced.

So, how did it perform in actual use…?

Eh…

I was very disappointed.   As I said, I take some pictures, and I’m used to taking several hundred in a single shoot. There are a few things that are a bit concerning about the HTC One (M8)’s camera that HTC hasn’t hidden, per say, but they haven’t advertised them very well, either.

First and foremost, the rear facing camera has a 4MP sensor.   No.   That’s not a typo. I meant to use just the number “4” by itself. It’s not 14MP, or 24MP or even 40MP. Just 4MP.   That’s it…   The front facing camera intended for Skype and for selfies has a larger sensor at 5MP. While the secondary lens is supposed to compensate for the reduced sensor size and provide extra background information to allow for a sharper picture, that’s not what I experienced.

Many of the photos that I took, in varying lighting conditions, were “cloudy” (and yes, I checked the lens and cleaned any dirt or finger prints off…).   Many of the photos were blurry, even in direct sunlight and when the subject (and the phone/ camera) were relatively still.   I tried some of the special picture features and was equally unimpressed. Many of those things are novelties anyway, and unless you find something you really feel is cool or interesting, they’re not something you’re going to use on a regular basis.   Most people are just going to want to take pictures. Period.

IMAG0104_BURST005 IMAG0009

For example, the rapid shutter setting can either be used to take a bundle of pictures or to take rapid, single, shots.   If you take a bundle of photos, you can have the phone pick the best shot in the bundle and then delete the others.   If you’d rather do it yourself, you wind up with, like I said earlier, between 9-12 shots that are pretty much the same, unless you’re taking pictures at a sporting event or of your children traveling faster than light.   You have to watch, as you can accumulate quite a bit of photos, very quickly.   That’s how I shot over 600 photos over the weekend.

Getting them off the device and on to my Mac, I think was the biggest train wreck I’ve experienced. EVER.

With most other smartphones, once you connect the device to the computer, the smartphone shows up as a disk drive, and you can copy or move files off the device; OR in some cases, its recognized as a digital camera and whatever tool you have on your computer that senses cameras starts up and offers to transfer files for you.   That’s what I expected to happen on my Mac.   I was severely disappointed.

On the Mac, you have to install the HTC Transfer Manager.   The app assumes you’re using iPhoto to manage pictures and not any other app. Unfortunately, I don’t use iPhoto.   I had to jump through a number of different confusing screens to finally get to a point where I was looking at the device itself; and where I could browse files.   The photos aren’t in the “camera” folder on the device.   They’re in the DCIM folder.

It’s nice that HTC Transfer Manager supports iPhoto on the Mac, but the app should allow me to configure the device to use any transfer method and/or to show up as a drive automatically. It was confusing to have to wade through all the screens I had to wade through only to have to hunt for the files after I finally located the DCIM folder on the HTC One (M8).

After I imported them into Adobe Lightroom the amount of retouching I had to do to get them to look right was extensive.   You’re also going to see that at just 4MP, you aren’t going to get a photo suitable for anything bigger than a 4″x6″ or 5″x7″ print out. 4MP shots just don’t have enough data to support a decent 8″x10″.   You’re also not going to do a lot of cropping here, either. There just simply isn’t enough detail in the photo (read: enough pixels/ resolution) to support any decent cropping or detailing of the shots you take.

This was HUGELY disappointing to me; as it will be to many potential HTC One (M8) customers as well.   Digital photography is something that nearly everyone does now-a-days, as its every easy with many smartphones now sporting better digital camera sensors and equipment than many point and shoot cameras you can buy at Wal-Mart or BestBuy.   I also do a great deal of post processing to my images as well. There are a lot of tools out there that make retouching and adding post process effects easy.   The lack of resolution at a time when digital photography is something that nearly everyone makes use of on their smartphones is nearly inexcusable.

Is there anything you want me to look at on the HTC One (M8)?   Are you as disappointed as I was with the camera’s performance?   Why not join me in the comments section below and give me your thoughts on the matter?   As I said in the beginning… you’re either gonna love this device as a camera or you’re going to hate it…

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