HTC unveiled its latest flagship phone at the Olympia in London at an event tonight that in terms of scale was reminiscent of Apple’s best handset launches. The AV presentation was certainly big, bold and brash, though with the best will in the world, HTC’s execs do not have quite the same flair as Apple’s.
It has less to worry about with the handset itself though – the HTC One M8, is a fine device. HTC clearly has an obsession with metal and its global head of design Scott Croyle boasted that 90 per cent of the handset consisted a a unibody metal construction, up from 70 per cent on last year’s HTC One M7. The finish is certainly polished and refined, and very premium in feel. This makes it slightly ironic that the case that HTC is touting covers all of that up.
The case does have bring a few neat tricks out of the phone, as it is covered with holes and when using it the phone display switches to show the time, weather, missed messages and incoming calls that can all be viewed through the holes with the holes. What’s clever is that you can also respond to all of them without having to even open the case.
There’s also plenty of good stuff inside the phone – a twin camera affair, even louder speakers, and Blinkfeed, HTC’s method of providing content that looks good on the now 5in LCD display.
In terms of network straining features though there’s it’s rather oddly named, “Zoe” video features, which as before creates a moving tableau from your pictures and videos – what’s new is that it will now upload them automatically to the cloud.
The rear camera is now up to 5-megapixels, and Coyle said that video chat is on the rise, and is expected to triple over the next few years.
At the top of the presentation, HTC Chairwoman, Cher Wang, said that HTC was a leader in next gen standards as demeonstrated by the fact that it was the first to launch a 3G phone and also the first to launch a 4G phone. However, in terms of next-gen LTE features though the M8 is lacking. It supports all the LTE frequencies you would expect now, including TDLTE support from Sprint in the US, but there’s no VoLTE support and no LTE Advanced, which sets it apart from Samsung’s new Galaxy S5, which has skews the support both.
When I put this to Graham Wheeler, Director of Commercialisation Product Management for HTC, he said that there it had not seen any call from the networks for these features at this juncture.
My feeling is that it’s more a case that compared to the manufacturing might of Samsung, HTC does not have the legs to produce handsets for limited markets, and it also does not have a network vendor arm behind it to push these new features.
Wheeler did say that the M8 offered faster Category 4 LTE courtesy of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset, making it able to handle up to 150Mbps. He also hinted that it did have the hardware to support VoLTE and this could possibly be added at a later date via a software upgrade, though clearly this would not be the case for LTE Advanced.
However, while VoLTE and LTE-A could be considered next year’s features, with the S5 samsung does offer the ability to combine both Wi-Fi and LTE speeds to double the download speeds if needed in bursts. That’s not on offer here either.
As a package though the HTC One M8 is a great looking phone that it likely to win many friends, even if it won’t be flying the flag for LTE’s cutting edge handset technologies.
Update: It seems that are variants for the US that will support carrier aggregation, something that the UK representatives for HTC that I spoke to were unaware of. Good news. I await news of whether this will be available on EE in the UK, which has announced that it will launch carrier aggregation on its network later in 2014.