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It’s not easy being a phone designer these days, especially if you don’t happen to work for Apple with its army of loyalists. With so many smartphones flooding the market, all with a pretty similar large screen, slim body and touchscreen, it must be difficult to make something that stands out among the growing crowd. But HTC did exactly that with the HTC One in 2013, a phone that was well received in all quarters. To top that was no mean feat but it would appear HTC has done just that with the One M8, a sleek, powerful device boasting HTC’S most useful fitness features yet.
HTC appears to have adopted a policy of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ with the M8, keeping a lot of the excellent structure from last year’s phone and improving on it in almost every area. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s squeezes in a slot for a microSD card, eliminating any worries about storage space (it supports up to 128GB, which is plenty for piles of photos, music, apps and movies).
The phone is now made from 90% metal as opposed to 70% in the last model and you can certainly feel it when you pick it up – the weightiness screams quality, while the brushed-aluminium design makes it easy on the eye.
The 127mm 1080p display is bright and spacious. It feels well balanced – not so big that it seems like a phones that half-wants to be a tablet, but big enough to watch videos and multitask effectively. And it’s certainly no slouch in the speed department, performing any tasks that you throw at it without draining the battery quickly. With fairly low call usage and fairly high web browsing/messaging usage, the One M8 lasted for a good 36 hours – impressive for such a quick-performing phone. It also has a super power-saving feature that can turn off all but the most essential of functions when you’re down to the last drops of battery. It will then work for around another 10 hours, which is perfect for if you’re out and need to know where to meet someone, for example.
The speakers have the strongest and clearest sound we’ve ever heard on a smartphone, while the depth-sensing camera is packed with useful and fun features, including the ability to take multiple shots of the same thing from slightly different positions. This allows you to choose where to focus, soften background and even view your pictures from new angles. It also has the cool slow-motion video capture mode similar to the iPhone 5s, which is great for filming action-packed sporting moments.
HTC hasn’t made a huge fuss about the One M8’s Fitbit integration, but as far as we’re concerned it’s a key selling point and we found it impressively intuitive. Fitbit is the first to have taken advantage of the M8’s Smart Sensor Hub technology, allowing it to add persistent activity tracking via its app on the M8. The unique thing about the Fitbit integration is that it doesn’t rely on the phone GPS tech to track you. Instead you simply turn the FitBit app on once and it tracks your movement using the M8’s built-in sensors.
The app provides you with the number of steps you’ve taken every day, the amount of calories burned, the distance you’ve travelled and, if you want to log them, your food and water intake too. You can set a goal for the number of steps you want to take every day when you first set up the application and, if you allow it to, it will even offer encouragement throughout the day as you work toward your goal. Charts of each of your chosen metrics are available for you to look at whenever you want, documenting how you’ve done in a day, week, month or year.
While it’s hardly an earth-shaking piece of fitness technology it’s a very useful feature that comes bundled with the phone, allowing you to assess how active you are on certain days and at certain times of the day. It’s more of an encouragement to be more active than a must-have for fitness fanatics, but it certainly has its uses and negates any need to buy a separate activity tracker.
The M8 is an elegantly put-together beast of a phone. It has few flaws and stands up well against the competition from the iPhone 5S and the Samsung Galaxy S5. It looks and feels great – a sophisticated yet fun hybrid that manages to encompass high specs, good looks, a decent activity tracker and impressive all-round functionality.
RRP: £549 SIM-free
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