The HTC One (M8) is out now, but what makes it tick? We've been speaking to HTC to ask the important questions, and to find out what makes it such a winner.
HTC has unveiled its new flagship phone, and it’s a real beauty. The HTC One (M8) launched last week and is now available to buy at Vodafone UK, and it’s already getting the tech press pretty excited. But how do you go about making the sequel to a multi-award winning phone like the HTC One?
HTC is a company that prides itself on attention to detail, so when we recently caught up with HTC’s Director of product commercialisation, Graham Wheeler, we wanted to grill him about every one of those details. Here’s the HTC One (M8) dissected…
How do you top the HTC One?
“With the HTC One, we had an amazing device, and we won some amazing awards for it. Even last week we won the GSMA Award for phone of the year. And that was given to us for a phone that was launched a whole year ago. We’re incredibly stoked that a year old phone could win such a great award up against such newer competitors, but what we wanted to do was to take all those great things and build upon them, and make something even better.
“With the HTC One (M8), we’ve created a device that’s absolutely better in every regard.”
What’s the inspiration for the new design?
“What this phone does is take all of the aspects that we had in terms of design, but go a little bit further. Take the metal design – we’ve brought the metal up and round to wrap right around the edges. That means you get strength at every point you hold it, because you’re holding the overall structure of the phone. We’ve taken away the plastic side walls to create a much nicer feel in the hand. We’ve thinned out the edges, too. We’ve done more with component stacking within the phone too, making it elliptical to the edges.”
“As well as that, we have a brand new finish. The gunmetal grey has striations in the metal frame, made by polishing machines that go over the device as its being produced. The attention to detail that has gone into to creating that effect is incredible. We had loads of different versions changing the number of times the polisher went over it, and the number of oils used. We tried 130 different oils to lubricate the polishing machine to get the right kind of sheen to that metal.
“The display is now 5-inches, up from a 4.7-inch one. It’s a Super LCD 3 with Gorilla Glass 3, but what we’ve done is increase the angles at which you can see the display – it’s just remarkable. The colour saturation, the white balance and the brightness are all really nice here.”
How big is too big when it comes to phone screens?
“A few years ago, 5-inch was considered the biggest phone on earth, but compared to the HTC One from last year it’s not all that big. It’s about changing perspectives over time. Width-wise, the HTC One (M8) is the same size as its predecessor, but it feels smaller in the hand because of the new curved design.
“I think the screen found on the Desire 816 is the upper most limit. That’s a 5.5-inch display, and I think that’s the sizing just before a phablet or tablet. That’s a one-handed phone but it’s incredibly large. We can always look at making things thinner and stripping down width, but that size is definitely a phone, not a phablet. So I think that the 5-inch HTC One (M8) is definitely a comfortable phone size.”
Same UltraPixel sensor, better pictures. How is that possible?
“The sensor is the same 4.1 UltraPixel sensor, but the HTC One (M8) has our new Duo Camera. That captures the spatial data for every pixel of every picture you take, and what that means is that you can build up a map of the depth of the picture. And when you have that information you can start to do cool things with it, like changing the focus afterwards.
“To improve the picture taking we’ve linked the image technology in the Qualcomm chipset to our own separate processor, and that allows us to do much faster focusing (300ms). It also produces a much better clarity and quality of picture – you’ll get great shots in any light. On top of that, we’ve improved the flash; it detects the colour intensity that should be associated with the environment to give you a more natural flash. The camera UI is much simpler and cleaner now, too.”
How does Motion Launch work?
“What we’ve done is created a separate piece of silicon in the phone that can turn a range of different sensors on. Even when it’s in sleep mode and the screen is off, it’s constantly sensing how I’m holding it and its angle, as well as using proximity and light sensors to figure out if it’s in my bag or pocket. That allows me to do simple things like double-tap on and off, so I don’t need to press the power button.
“Likewise, if I quickly want to take a picture I can just hold the phone up and press the shutter button. I can swipe left and right to get to my Blinkfeed or my widget panel. If I swipe up I go straight to my last application.”
How does that affect the battery life?
“The sensor that Motion Launch uses has an impact on battery, but it’s very minimal because it’s separate from the application processor. It just monitors things that are very low power, and it does so intelligently.
“The HTC One (M8) is constantly sensing how I’m holding it…”
“If the phone’s down on a table for a long time, for instance, the chip turns everything off except the gyroscope, which measures movement. Only then will the proximity and light sensors kick into gear – to figure out if the phone’s in a bag or pocket.
“You won’t notice this happening – it’s all automatic – but the system keeps the power drain to an absolute minimum. Crucially, it doesn’t keep apps running.
“On top of that we’ve managed to squeeze in a much larger battery – it’s a 2,600mAh battery. With that, we’re aiming for a 40% improvement in battery. To help that even further we’ve got a new ‘ultra power-saving’ mode. Switch that on at 10% battery, and it’ll give you 30 hours of standby time.”
Are we in an age of mobile evolution, rather than revolution?
“I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that. If you put the HTC One (M8) next to last year’s HTC One, it has a very similar forehead and chin, for instance. But the sculpting up around the design is a massive evolution when it comes to the feel of the phone; I would challenge anyone to pick the two phones up and claim that they’re too similar.
“I would challenge anyone to pick the two phones up and claim that they’re too similar.”
“The reason why it’s not just an evolution, though, is through extra ideas like our accessories. The HTC One (M8) Dot View Case is a great example, where we’ve taken the simple flip case and taken it further. We wanted to show the design pedigree even in its accessories, which is why the HTC Dot Case exists. It’s incredibly simple, but incredibly powerful in its execution.
“We also have a partnership with Fitbit, which tracks your activity. That isn’t us saying that that’s our only partner, but it’s one cool way for us to use the HTC One (M8)’s unique processors and sensors.
“We’re making it possible for people to use those sensors and Blinkfeed in the development of their apps and services, so we’ll be excited to see what really innovative new things come out of that.”
Will HTC work with Android Wear – Google’s new smartwatch platform?
“We’re super excited about taking the idea of Android Wear and evolving it into actual wearable technology. We’ve already said we’re very actively looking at wearables, but that’s as far as I can go right now. HTC never really talks about our future products and services, but watch this space and you’ll see some great things. We’re a company that really focuses on design and detail, and that’s what will continue to set us apart.”
So there you have it… The definitive HTC One (M8) teardown, from the man who knows the most about it. What do you think? Let us know if this is your phone of the year using the comments section below. You can order yours here.