HTC (M8) Design Review

HTC-Two-concept-M8

As you can guess from the introduction, the HTC One (M8) is a phone that is as much about premium design as it is about packing in the latest version of Android and a decent processor. The brand took great pains to point out that the One (M8) is a phone that builds on the heritage of last year’s One, but improves in just about every arena. The metal chassis is still there, and the aluminum casing now makes up 90% of the frame, up from about 70% previously. This is probably the most significant change, along with the fact the back and sides are now more curved, as it brings a really impressive feel in the hand. If the original One was characterized by first-time users saying ‘Wow that feels lovely’ the next iteration takes that message further.

There will be very few brand-agnostic people that wander into their local phone emporium, pick up the HTC One (M8) and a couple of competitors, and find that the Taiwanese brand’s new device is streets ahead in the design stakes – and I’d bet that most would be unable to resist a purchase after that. The difference here between the One (M8) and the iPhone 5S – the two phones that lead the way in the design stakes – is weight and screen size. Having something that feels premium is incredibly important when you’re spending so much on a phone per month, and while the iPhone is beautiful in its metal casing, it’s too light to feel like you’re getting something really premium.

There’s a subconscious reaction when you pick up something for the first time, a natural expectation of how it might feel in the hand, and the HTC One (M8), with its 9.35mm thickness and 160g weight, marries those two very well. It’s no coincidence that smartphones are packing on the grams a little bit these days. Where around 120g was the fashion a couple of years ago, now we’re seeing heavier phones as designers try to meet a new paradigm (plus all that new technology needs to go somewhere, after all). Let’s look at the actual design of the HTC One (M8) – and it’s definitely equal parts evolution and revolution.

The flagship version will be this metallic grey, although a silver version that evokes the previous model and a champagne / rose gold option will be both available too. However, this brushed metal effect is stunning, and helps distance the One (M8) from its predecessor. Holding it in the hand is a really pleasant experience, one that makes you feel like you’re holding something you should spend a lot of money on. Quite rightly some will baulk at the larger chassis, mostly down to the decision to include the Boomsound speakers above and below the screen, but once you’ve heard them in action you’ll struggle not to agree that they’re not a worthy trade-off.

The iPhone 5S and even the Galaxy S4 / Galaxy S5 have a more compact design language than the One (M8), which is larger thanks to the speaker addition, but overall I don’t think this detracts from the overall effect.The headphone jack has been moved to the bottom of the phone, which will anger some users. I still think this is an unintuitive place to add the port, as I’ve become used to having it at the top. Arguments that it makes it easier to slip in and out of the pocket don’t hold water, and it makes the phone hard to hold in portrait when listening to music.