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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

March 25, 2014 03:10 PM ET

Computerworld - 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% longer life than last year's HTC One M7.

 HTC One M8
The HTC One M8 smartphone.

The new Android 4.4 phone quickly went on sale at 1 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday exclusively in-store at Verizon Wireless through April 9 for $200 and a two-year contract, only about an hour after it was announced in New York in an event that was webcast. (Verizon will also offer two M8s for the price of one, with two separate contracts.)

Other major U.S. carriers also began taking online orders Tuesday and will have the phone in stores after April 9, just before HTC rival Samsung puts its new Galaxy S5 smartphone on sale April 11.

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 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.

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