I find it’s becoming increasingly difficult to review mobile devices unless your audience really is interested in the detailed minutiae of the technology.
Even though I’m a technology journalist, I’m not really a product reviewer. I’m not megabothered about the megahertz of my quad-core processor or the megapixels of my camera. I’m even less interested in the angle of the bezel on the screen or the difference between Gorilla and Sapphire glass.
All I really care about is whether the device will do the job I want it to do.
So if you’re anything like me and want the most straightforward of reviews, then I can tell you now with confidence that the HTC One M8 is a very good phone, you won’t be disappointed with it, and if you like Android and can afford a top-of-the-range device, then you won’t find anything that’s much better.
If you want to find out a little more about what it’s like to use the M8 based on my experiences over a couple of weeks, read on. If you want to know a bunch of detailed specifications, check the HTC website. But if you just want to know if it’s worth spending your cash on one, then be reassured – it is. Thanks for reading this far.
I’ve been a fan of HTC for some time, which is why I fancied a look at the M8. I used to have a Desire, then an HTC One X+, but I’ve since been unfaithful and currently have a Nexus 5 from Google/LG, which is a perfectly good device but a lot cheaper than its equivalently spec’d HTC or Samsung.
You see, that’s the problem with being an Android phone – one similarly priced device is not that much different from another. You might like the supplier-specific add-ons of course – personally, not that bothered – but really, on a day to day basis, they are all fairly interchangeable.
It’s also difficult to assess a phone specifically for how well it operates in the workplace, because most of them are equally capable in one way or another. Not that it matters, since nobody really worries about how a phone will perform for work when buying one for primarily personal use – not unless you’re the bloke in the latest Windows Phone advert, at least.
So why might you choose an HTC One M8? (And I should say that I really hope M8 is not meant to be a chummy attempt to call a phone “Mate”)
Well, its main attraction is that it’s a bit of a beast – it’s big and meaty, fast, powerful, with an aesthetically appealing brushed metal case that sends out the message: this is a serious phone for serious phone users. If you have small hands or small pockets (physically or financially) this is probably not the phone for you.
The big problem with HTC has always been battery life – that was another reason I switched away to try the Nexus, only to learn it’s just as power hungry. But in two weeks with the M8, I found I was often getting a couple of days of average use between charges – although my past experience has been that HTC battery performance degraded quickly after about six months of regular use.
I use a reasonable amount of data – getting towards a 1MB monthly allowance – but reserve video/music streaming or downloads for Wi-Fi. For regular browsing, social media and email – the M8 is as fast a phone as I’ve used, making up even for some of the vagaries and unpredictability of the O2 data network.
And to be honest, that’s as much as I needed to know. For the rest of it – it’s Android, if you like Android (I do). It has a camera that is up to the quality you would expect of a flagship device – although I’m sure there are better cameras on other phones, but unless you’re a real aficionado I expect it will do everything you want it to do at a perfectly acceptable level of quality.
Music playback is perfectly good. Usability is fine, the buttons are all in sensible places. I can access all the fun personal apps and information I want, and I can download all my work email quickly and efficiently. It’s as useful at home as it is in work.
It does the job I want it to do.
Niggles? Well, a few, but nothing major. I found the screen to be somewhat over-sensitive, often accidentally starting apps I didn’t mean to start with a careless mis-swipe of a clumsy finger.
I’m not a great fan of the HTC software customisations on the phone, but they were easy enough to switch off – although the box suggesting I use HTC cloud storage that kept popping up at frequent and unpredictable moments despite ticking “Don’t show me this box again” every time, was getting very annoying.
The review device we used had an HTC flip case – a bit like on an iPad, it automatically puts the device in and out of sleep mode when you close and open the cover. But I hated the case because it was spring-loaded and that meant you always needed to use two hands or it flipped shut when you didn’t hold it open. But that’s easy to remove.
Will this phone be a success? Well, that depends on other factors.
If you’re like me – a keen smartphone user with a passing interest in the detailed specifications – you will be pretty happy with it.
If you’re a dedicated Android fan who really likes a top-spec device – you’ll be very happy with it.
If you’re the 80% of smartphone users who just want something you can afford, with a reliable brand name, that does everything you need it to do – frankly, you’re unlikely to buy the M8 because it’s not an iPhone, nor is it Samsung, nor is it Nokia or Sony or LG. It’s poor HTC, which has never quite got it right when it comes to consumer mass marketing.
So there you have it – the HTC One M8 is a very good smartphone, for people with sufficient interest to want to find out about it, and who don’t automatically buy the obvious and most popular brands.
Good luck to HTC – I hope sponsoring the Champions League proves worthwhile.
Meanwhile, for those of you who like the specifications – here they are, freely cut and pasted straight from the HTC website:
- Size: 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm
- CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, quad-core CPU
- Weight: 160g
- D isplay: 5.0 inch, Full HD 1080p
- SIM Card Type: Nano SIM
- Total storage: 16GB, available capacity varies; RAM: 2GB
- Expansion card slot supports microSD memory card for up to 128GB additional storage
- Rear camera: HTC UltraPixelcamera, BSI sensor, pixel size 2.0 um, sensor size 1/3″, f/2.0, 28mm lens. HTC ImageChip 2. 1080p Full HD video recording with HDR video
- Front camera: 5MP, BSI sensor, wide angle lens. with HDR capability, 1080p Full HD video recording
- Networks supported: 2G/2.5G – GSM/GPRS/EDGE, 850/900/1800/1900 MHz; 3G – WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100 MHz with HSPA+ up to 42 Mbps; 4G – LTE 800/900/1800/2600 MHz
- Battery: Embedded rechargeable Li-polymer battery; Capacity:2600 mAh; Talk time: Up to 20 hours for 3G; Standby time: Up to 496 hours for 3G
- Screen: 5-inch AMOLED 1920 x 1080 Full HD
- Camera: ZEISS 20-MP PureView
- Chipset: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 @ 2.2 GHz
- Memory: 2 GB
- Storage: 32 GB (no expansion)
- Operating System: Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1
- Connectivity: LTE, HSPA+, GSM, WCDMA; NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 LE; Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Quite clearly very passionate about the technology, chief Huawei device designer Joonsuh Kim told me that the main aim for him was to make people fall in love with Huawei devices. Kim hopes to provide consumers with something other than just technology.
He said: “Literally we are touching the consumer’s heart. That means you can feel that you are emotionally engaged with a Huawei device.”
To Kim, the device is all about user preference, and he believes that once consumers start adapting to their devices, they will want to use them for everything.
He states that even though the Huawei brand may not be big yet, it’s starting to get through to consumers. Its aim it to deliver users with a “pleasant surprise” through usability, comfort, and a perfect combination of hardware and software.
When building the concept for a phone, Kim considers several user scenarios to make sure there is always a device that caters to what consumers want – including the ability to have multiple SIMs, a more professional device which is lighter for increased portability, low-cost devices, or a personal-only device.
The design team make sure that the hardware appeals to the user they are targeting, providing particular features to appeal to different types of audience such as business professionals, young users and entry-level users.
Kim also believes that using Huawei’s knowledge and connectivity in networking, it can be a leader in 5G when the time comes.
During a presentation on device innovation, Kim used Angelina Jolie as an example of a perfect human being (following up by commenting that although she might have been considered the most attractive woman in the world, that was several years ago… ouch) and that aesthetics are very important when targeting the appropriate market.
It just goes to show that even the smallest tweaks in design can make the biggest difference to consumer behaviour.
This week the first smartphone designed by online retail giant Amazon was revealed, and its Dynamic Perspective feature allows the screen to present images in 3D to the user based upon the position of their heads. The question is whether or not this is what people actually want or need.
The Dynamic Perspective feature, which uses four front-facing cameras and infra-red LEDs all built into the screen of the phone, allows the device to perform functions such as automatic scrolling to prevent users from having to touch the screen, and screen tilt depending on the user’s head position.
Although these things may improve user experience, my main concern would be the feeling that you’re being watched, as the phone monitors you to ensure that you are fully immersed in any activities you are taking part in, such as watching videos or playing games.
Perhaps more worrying, then, is the never-before-seen Firefly feature, which uses data that Amazon has collected on physical items, text, audio and text and audio recognition in order to allow users to scan products barcodes or QR codes in order to search on Amazon to allow purchases from its online store.
This also works for TV programs or songs; Firefly will recognise things in the environment around you and allow you to buy it right then and there through the Amazon store. All through the touch of the built in Firefly button.
Specs at a glance:
• Processor: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2 GHz
• Memory: 2GB RAM
• Display: 4.7-inch HD
• Camera: 13MP rear-facing camera, 2.1MP front-facing camera.
Whether consumers will see this as a genius invention or a ploy to make them spend more hard earned cash where it counts has yet to be seen, but its other feature – the Mayday button – is similar to that on the Kindle Fire and allows the user to video chat with a helpline whenever they need assistance with the device, which contributes to a good consumer experience.
The device will be available in the US by the end of July, exclusively on AT&T, at a starting price of $199.
At this week’s WWDC 2014 – the conference that tells developers everything they need to know about what Apple has planned for the future – Apple introduced its next mobile operating system iOS 8.
The new OS brings with it over 4000 new APIs in order to allow developers more opportunity to make applications for Apple’s flagship iPad and iPhone devices.
There was a focus on the new HealthKit API, which will allow developers to build apps directed towards fitness and health services. With speculation of an Apple wearable on the horizon, enabling applications such as this could be a step in the smartwatch direction.
Apple also took a leap towards the internet-of-things trend with its new HomeKit API, designed to allow developers to make apps that will allow communication with other devices around the home.
Finally, Apple lightened the restrictions on its touch ID technology, meaning that users will now not only be allowed to access their iPhone lockscreens with the touchpad, but also log into apps. This is of course only on the 5S at the moment, but may also be used with future iPhones.
Although this announcement isn’t quite as exciting as the eagerly speculated iWatch, it still encourages the use of smartbands/watches with Apple devices in the future, and brings us one step closer to using our phones to control all things household.
Developers have access to iOS 8 now, but the rest of us will just have to wait.
All this week we’ve been hearing reports on how the health crisis in the UK is growing ever more serious and although there have been positive initiatives launched to help the sector, such as the health tech competition, progress in the industry still seems slow.
Not to worry, because Samsung has come to the rescue with its “Digital Health Initiative”, a project that uses open hardware and software platforms that will increase innovation and speed up development of technology in the personal healthcare technology industry.
The initiative will look into developing advanced sensors, algorithms and data analysis in order to allow consumers to better keep track of and understand their own health.
The firm has developed an open hardware design called Samsung Simband – the Samsung concept of how a smartband should be. The suggestion is that smartbands such as this could be used with the Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions (SAMI) concept, which will be a cloud-based open software platform capable of collecting data from various sources for analysis which can then be delivered to any other device.
Earlier this week Samsung’s team from its Strategy and Innovation Centre demonstrated that the Samsung open platform can be used with wearable wristband hardware in order to track heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate. Data collected from these various sources can then be displayed in a format that will help users to better understand their health and how these measurements are affecting them.
There have already been a number of advancements in the wearable technology space including smart watches and smartbands that help to measure physical activity, and the Samsung Galaxy S5 is able to measure the user’s heart rate, but no one device yet measures all of these at the same time, which is exactly what Samsung hopes the combination of SAMI and designs such as the Simband will be able to do, all so that you can know what your body is trying to tell you about your health.
Microsoft announced the new Windows Surface Pro 3 tablet at an event in New York today.
The device, which is 12 inches, is designed to fit perfectly into user’s lives, with Surface product manager Panos Panay claiming that this could be “the tablet that replaces the laptop.”
The Surface Twitter feed was inundated with updates, labelling the tablet an “entertainment powerhouse” due to its 2160 x 1440 resolution and Dolby sound capabilities.
The new kickstand is multi-position, so you can angle the tablet any way you want to if placed on a table, although an emphasis was made about the “lapability” of the device, which apparently means it can be used to comfortably complete work from your lap.
As the tablet runs Windows 8.1 Pro OS, you can use all of the features and applications that you are used to, with the added ability to use the new stylus to generate hand-written documents in OneNote.
Specs at a glace:
Surface Pro 3
- Size: 12 inches
- Resolution: 2160 x 1440
- Weight: 800g
- Thickness: 9.1mm
- OS: Windows 8.1 Pro
- Memory: Up to 8GB of RAM
- Battery: Up to 9 hours
- Storage: Varies from 64 GB up to 512 GB
The device includes features such as a redesigned keyboard that is larger than the previous model and includes an improved trackpad. The device also comes with an accompanying stylus dubbed the Surface Pen to make writing easier. Looks like this device might not only replace the laptop, but may also wipe out pen and paper altogether.
The new Surface is 800g, only 9.1mm thick, and is built to apply to Satya Nadella’s vision of “empowering people to do more and be more.”
With the pending changes to the IT curriculum steadily approaching, teachers are learning how best to teach children how to code.
In September of this year, schools in the UK will be required to teach children from the ages of five to 16 how to ‘computing’ rather than ICT, making the required subject content of lessons less about business processes and more about software engineering.
However, there are a lot of misconceptions around the kind of person who codes, and what it takes to teach this complex subject.
British Entrepreneur Ben Pirt believes that the use of robots will not only aid teachers in the learning process, but also help children to better engage with and understand the process of coding.
Pirt’s Kickstarter campaign for a build-it-yourself wifi robot kit, called Mirobot, was fully funded one week after launching, and with a couple of weeks still left is now 300% funded. Both the software and the hardware is opened source.
Pirt hopes that Mirobot will help and encourage children to learn about coding and engineering as it brings the on-screen and physical aspects of software and hardware engineering together in front of the child’s eyes as they use code to manipulate the robot’s movements
Pirt says: “My aim is to get Mirobot into the hands of as many children as possible. I want to help children understand how the technology surrounding them actually works. Kickstarter is Mirobot’s first outing and has shown that there is a great deal of interest in using simple robotics kits like this to engage the next generation.”
Pirt hopes that Mirobots will start shipping in September, and will include educational support material to help teacher’s to fully utilise them in the classroom.
When Facebook announced earlier this year its plans to buy Oculus VR, developers of gaming headset the Oculus Rift, many gaming companies announced that they would not develop games for use with the Oculus in the future.
However, as a virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift has shown the ability for use in other industries too, and that’s where G2G3 come in.
Immersive simulation designer G2G3 has developed a 3D emergency services simulation, initially for use by the Fire Service College, which can be used with the Oculus to train fire fighters to face virtual reality emergencies before they enter the field.
Representatives from G2G3 commented that since the number of emergencies has dropped over the years there has been less opportunity to train individuals in real-life situations.
Although the lack of emergencies is a huge positive, it is important for junior fire fighters to be aware of how they would react in an emergency situation.
The Oculus allows these trainees to be immersed in several different emergency scenarios to enable them to learn how to cope during a response operation and determine whether or not they would be capable of making the correct decisions under pressure.
The system allows the trainee to watch, move around in and assess the situation through the Oculus headset and tell their instructor what they think the next action should be. The instructor can then manipulate the environment remotely and also monitor the trainee’s performance.
I was able to test the environment at the recent IT Support Show in Earl’s Court, and it does feel very real. The display shows smoke and the people around you, and the environment includes realistic backdrops including broken windows and damaged vehicles.
I’ve even been told that the simulation displays different coloured and textured smoke depending on the type of fire simulation that has been selected to display.
You can look around you with 360 degree vision in the headset, but use an external controller in order to turn and move your ‘body’.
It really immerses you into the surroundings, and you sometimes forget that there are other people around you outside of the headset – exactly the reaction that is needed in order to place your mind-set in the seriousness of an emergency situation.
Unfortunately during testing I did experience slight motion sickness, which is apparently not uncommon when first using the headset as your vision does not always face the same direction as your body.
The simulation currently assesses Fire Services Incident Commanders to level 1 accreditation, and includes 14 different types of scenario representative of real-life situations that emergency personnel could find themselves in.
G2G3 has plans to develop the platform in the future in order to encompass assessment for higher levels of accreditation in order to further help to develop the education of the emergency services.
With technologies such as the Oculus steadily growing, G2G3 has even speculated that there may be the opportunity to add other features in the future to increase realism and really prepare for these life-or-death situations, including the ability to physically walk around a simulation, record heart rate and stress level or even the injection of smell into the simulation. As the technology for virtual reality continues to progress, it is becoming clear that these technologies can be used for all manner of things, from gaming to training and beyond.