HTC One M8 called a good looker and genuine rival to the Galaxy S5

A 'solid high-end phone,' but with more incremental upgrades than innovation

HTC announced its new 5-in. display One M8 smartphone on Tuesday, boasting its premium styling and asserting that it offers the world's best innovations. Those include a dual rear camera for adding depth to photos and a battery with 40 per cent longer life than last year's HTC One M7.

Using the theme of innovation as a battering ram against Samsung's global smartphone bulwark, HTC Americas President Jason Mackenzie declared: "The best smartphone in the world has just gotten better. That's so much better than launching a plastic phone and throwing a few dimples on the back and maybe a software gimmick or two and then masking it all with expensive advertising."

"That's not HTC's style," Mackenzie continued. "We're about delivering innovation -- the world's best innovation ... and the maximum value into customer's hands."

The M8 has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and a new Sense 6 user interface. The phone's case is more than 90% metal, which HTC CEO Peter Chou noted is hard to do because of the sensitive cellular and Wi-Fi antennas inside. Citing the phone's metal exterior also gave Chou the chance to take a swipe at other phone makers that rely on plastic cases to avoid radio interference.

The dual rear camera, called duo, allows a user to create images where part of the photo can be out of focus with another portion in focus.

That technology improvement, and others, left several analysts of the opinion feeling that the HTC One M8 wasn't all that innovative. They said the M8 continues a trend that began last year where new smartphones have had only incremental improvements. It's part of a slowdown in innovation in hardware and software, the analysts said.

"Look at the list of new M8 features and they're mostly variations on a theme we've seen already with the camera, sound, Blinkfeed, etc.," said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at research firm IDC. "Although I like the battery improvement of 40%, I'm still curious to see how it fares in real world situations." HTC said the phone will offer talk time of 20 hours on a charge, and 496 hours on standby on 3G networks.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy, said the duo camera deserves a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 10 as "highly innovative," but he said the overall phone would rate a six for innovation. After taking a photo, users will be able to decide what part of the image stays in focus, he noted.

Julian Jest, an analyst at Informa, said he was impressed with the M8's new 5 megapixel front-facing camera, which allows for a wider image capture, making it "ideal for video calls and the ultimate selfie photo." However, he called on HTC to do a better marketing job with the M8 than it did for its predecessor, noting that technology improvements alone won't make the difference.

Analyst Carolina Milanesi, of Kantar WorldPanel, offered faint praise, saying the M8 is "incrementally better" than the M7, adding that the camera improvements and a Dot View cover (for getting time and messages in a dot matrix display through a special phone cover) are standouts. Overall, she called the phone a "very solid high-end product" that can compete with the Galaxy S5.

Even so, the M8 is "more an evolution than a revolution," added Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. The original HTC One was "already a good looker...and this one is too, and adds some innovative though not unique photo capabilities." Gold said the duo camera offers capabilities that Nokia already has.

"The M8 is very nice, but it's not clear that what's there will be able to overcome the downward sales pressure on HTC," Gold concluded.

Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen said the M8 "definitely has features that are compelling and intriguing," but added: "it's hard to call any of the new features truly innovative ... I think of them as evolutionary rather than revolutionary."

This article, HTC One M8 called a good looker and genuine rival to the Galaxy S5 , was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Read more about smartphones in Computerworld's Smartphones Topic Center.

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