After reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S5, I decided to try its direct competition - the HTC One M8.
Using these devices back-to-back allowed me to understand and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of both devices.
Here we go!
The HTC One M8 (referred to as the M8), is an extremely well built device that feels great in the hand. Despite being a bit taller than the S5, the curved edges make it feel nice in the hand. What I appreciate is that the M8 is narrower than the S5, so typing on the keyboard with one hand is easier. The screen is also gorgeous. It’s not using Samsung’s Super AMOLED display technology, so colors are not overly saturated and vibrant, they’re more natural and clear in my eyes. The screen is arguably more visible under direct sunlight than the S5, but it doesn’t dim as much as the S5 for use in dark rooms. It dims to about the same as the iPhone 5s. It’s worth noting that like the iPhone, the M8’s auto brightness settings are well calibrated and do a better job of adapting compared to the S5.
Other aspects of the phone are good too. The Boom Sound speakers give my 15” Retina MacBook Pro a run for its money in terms of frequency response and is certainly leaps and bounds louder than any smartphone I’ve ever used. It even makes me wish I had ring tones for every little notification because it sounds so good.
Despite having a smaller battery than the S5, the phone lasted longer throughout my days of testing and the phone also recharged quicker on less powerful chargers. Something I mentioned during my S5 review was how the S5 would cause some chargers that I had to overheat and would generally charge very slowly unless you used a tablet charger or the charger and charging cable that Samsung provides. Even with extremely heavy use, I could get a full 12 hours out of the M8. This is better than the S5 and iPhone 5s for my typical usage patterns.
So what about the Duo Camera? I really wanted to like it but it sucks. I’m not sure if hardware or software is to blame, but it’s no good. It brings me back to the days of the Samsung Nexus S…you just cannot rely on it to get you a quick shot that’s clear and well balanced. You really can get some decent results using manual modes or some of the other effects within the camera. The one mode that really disappointed me was HDR. HTC’s implementation of HDR creates photos that are just blown out/overexposed. This is the only thing negative I have to say about this phone. The depth camera works when it says it will work and the effects are usually ok. I expect some bugs/glitches from a new type of technology, but the main camera sensor is really sub-par. The front-facing camera, although 5 megapixels, also disappoints. I truly think it’s a case of shoving too many pixels into a super compact sensor which results in poor quality images that are just large in resolution and file size.
What about the software? HTC Sense 6 is the cleanest version of Sense that I’ve used to date - granted there are a ton more features than the versions from a few years ago, but it still looks great and is very fluid and smooth; better than Samsung’s latest version of TouchWiz on the S5. I still believe that skins are no longer necessary, but HTC does include value-add features, especially to those transitioning from an iPhone and who still use a Mac. HTC has a dedicated app and software for data migration (Samsung has this too), but they have software to help you keep your phone backed up to either HTC’s cloud and/or your local computer, and synced with your iTunes library. Just like with the S5 and the 5s, the M8 does have glitches, but overall it’s better than the S5 and on-par with the 5s during my testing. My biggest gripe is that Apps on Android are still 2nd class when compared with their iOS counterparts.
At the end of two weeks of phone testing, I am sticking with the iPhone 5s. I already miss the larger screens but the physical size, weight, and camera capabilities of the 5s make it the best all-around device that suits my needs the most. iOS is also more conducive to my line of work, which frequently requires quick and clear access to calendars and multiple exchange inbox management. In many ways the M8 and S5 are crippled by their respective skins from HTC and Samsung.
This question has been asked of me by many, “If you HAD to pick between the two, which one would you keep?” My response is the HTC One M8…but I’d go with the Google Play Edition because a skin is not necessary anymore. If Samsung offered the S5 with plain Android, then I might say that’s the better device because I did appreciate the fact that it is water and dust resistant as well as had a fairly good camera module.
What do you think?