HTC One (M8) Review

Tl/dr: I like this phone. I’ve had this phone for about two months and it has met or exceeded my expectations in just about every respect.

I got the HTC One (M8) instead of the Samsung S5 primarily because my carrier — which I didn’t particularly want to change — offered a 32GB version of the phone, and only a 16GB version of the S5. Having hit the 2GB limit of my previous phone early and often, I didn’t want that to happen again. Also the S5 was reputed to have more phone junk on it; not that the M8 has none, but it’s easy to ignore. The other major advantage of the S5, a superior camera, wasn’t as important to me, although it might be to some people.

Here’s what I wanted from the phone:

First, it has to be a world phone (check).

Second, it has to be a good at making phone calls, with decent range (no problem so far, although I probably haven’t stressed it), and very good sound quality. The M8’s sound quality as a phone is good, certainly good enough, but I wouldn’t call it excellent. Oddly, the speakerphone is substantially better than the regular phone: it is excellent. Indeed its ability to play music and videos (neither of which is or was a requirement for me) is amazing. In fact, however, I mostly use earphones when I listen to podcasts.

Third, my phone has to have an SD card slot (very check: this one takes up to 128G cards!) so I can store my podcasts on it.

Fourth, I want lots of memory so I can download lots of apps. I haven’t historically played games on my phone, but I like calendaring and note-taking apps in particular, and productivity apps and weather and travel-related apps in general. Travel is the main time I’m likely to be far from a proper computer, so I need good substitutes.

Fifth, I’d like it to be fast, because I’m impatient. This phone feels fast.

Sixth, I wanted enough battery to get me through the day. On wifi the battery does great and on days when I’m primarily in areas with wifi I can end the day with over 50% of the charge left. Days that involve a lot of moving around off wifi chew more juice. How much varies. I have yet to actually run out of battery in a day, but I did come close once. The battery is not removable, which is not ideal. It does charge quickly though. Keep in mind that while I might use the phone’s apps a fair amount, I’m not playing videos which perhaps might drain battery on a different pattern.

Seventh, I don’t want a bad camera, but I don’t need state of the art. Check.

Lastly, I don’t have a Mac, and am used to Androids, so I pretty much ignored the iPhone options.

That’s it. Everything else is bonus.

For example, the phone’s voice recognition is dog-on-hind-legs good, which is to say a bit erratic. But the android ecosystem is coming up with interesting apps to take advantage of it, notably Commandr.

Google Now has promise, although I don’t make use of most of it’s features because I turned off most of the tracking and personalization.

Skype over wifi is of surprisingly good voice and image quality – much better than my old phone which basically couldn’t do it.

I do have two small complaints. First, the headphone jack is on the bottom of the phone, which I find awkward when I carry it in my shirt pocket, and at other times too. Second, due to a bug in the Android operating system, I can only connect to secure wireless when the lock screen is on. Neither of these is major.

I did have a temporary problem that I thought might be a deal killer: for a while I had a flashing bar at the bottom of my screen. It turned out to be caused by a misbehaving alternate keyboard app I had downloaded. HTC customer support helped me diagnose the problem by telling that I had to reboot the phone after erasing suspect apps, just deleting them would not be enough. (In contrast, the folks at Verizon gave me only bad advice as to how to solve the problem, suggesting I should do a factory reset as my first option.)

And, the phone’s generous screen size (although it is thinnish and light for its size) is a mixed blessing, although one it shares with its close competitors. The screen is very vivid and the real estate is nice to have. But it’s a handful, and so for most things that require interaction the phone can’t be operated with just one hand. Plus it sticks out of my shirt pocket a bit, which I was told is not an ideal fashion statement — advice I admit I ignored.

I killed the Blinkfeed screen within minutes of turning on the phone. This much-touted method of combining news, social media and updates never had any appeal for me. It seemed like a great way to run down the battery, though.

And of course the phone, like most modern smart phones, is a privacy disaster and a security issue waiting to happen. I would never put any banking or financial app or info on it. And it’s appalling how many apps feel entitled to trawl my address book, or record my location. Maybe my next phone will be a Blackphone.

Still, it’s useful, it’s fast, the screen is pretty, if you get the 32GB version it has a ton of memory plus the ability to expand a lot more with a micro SD card, and it works well as a phone. Plus I got a deal. So I like it.

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2 Responses to HTC One (M8) Review

  1. Earl Killian says:

    I would have thought privacy and security would have been somewhere on your checklist, and even pretty high up.

    Did you not consider the BlackPhone?
    https://www.blackphone.ch/

    The only thing is that it uses a slower processor than you might have liked.

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