Hands on: The first things you notice about the new HTC One (M8)

HTC One M8

HTC's original One was hands-down one of the best smartphones of 2013 -- so what can the company do to move the device forward?

It's time to find out. HTC launched a new model of the One, officially known (somewhat puzzlingly) as the "HTC One (M8)," at an event in New York this week. I'm in the midst of living with the phone now and getting to know it inside and out.

I'll share some detailed thoughts and impressions with you soon. For now, here are the first things you notice when you start to use the new HTC One (M8):

The design

No question about it: This is one nicely designed device. The new HTC One takes all the things we loved about the original HTC One's design and subtly refines them to make them even better. The phone is smoother and curvier than its predecessor, with noticeably less angular and sharp-feeling edges. It has less plastic than the first-gen One, too, thanks to the lack of gaps along the edges of its aluminum unibody frame.

HTC One M8 Design

Long story short, HTC has managed to outdo itself and make the new One feel even more premium than the previous model -- and that, my friends, is a pretty impressive feat.

The size

The general trend in Android devices these days is going bigger with each new generation, and the HTC One (M8) is no exception. Though it's relatively slim, the new One feels like a big phone -- largely because of its height, which is about a third of an inch longer than last year's device. It's also a smidge wider and a bit heavier than the first-gen model.

HTC One M8 Size

Part of the ample footprint is an effect of having a 5-in. display on a smartphone (up from 4.7 in. on last year's One). Part of it is also a tradeoff of having HTC's trademark dual front-facing speakers taking up vertical space on the device. Regardless of the causes, though, the end result is a phone that feels pretty bulky in your pocket, particularly compared to a more svelte offering like Motorola's Moto X.

HTC One M8 Curves

The phone's curviness definitely helps when it comes to comfort in your hand, but make no mistake about it: This ain't no petite phone.

The screen

Man, HTC makes great displays. The screen on the new One (M8) jumps out at you right away, with its bright, vivid colors and crisp detail. The display actually has fewer pixels per inch than last year's One model -- it's still a 1080p LCD panel but comes in at about 441ppi compared to last year's 468, thanks to its increased size -- but we're talking minute differences at an extremely high level of quality. The only thing you'll notice is how awesome it looks.

That said, I think I might have preferred to stick with the 4.7-in. size, personally; the larger display makes one-handed use of the phone more difficult, and I'm just not sure the added real estate is a worthwhile tradeoff for the larger physical size and the effect that has on user experience. But that's me.

The buttons

Yup, it's true: HTC has finally ditched its awkward capacitive button setup and gone with the standard Android on-screen buttons -- including the Recent Apps key, in the right place, even. Huzzah!

HTC One M8 Buttons

This makes a world of difference in making the phone more natural to use. It also makes the HTC One (M8) an ideal candidate for the Google Play Edition treatment, if you're a pure Google Android kind of person (and are willing to pony up 700 bucks for the privilege).

The new One still has a large black bar beneath its screen -- the bar where the capacitive buttons used to live -- which seems like a slightly weird use of space. But HTC has said it's necessary for components that live under the hood in that area.

The speakers

Holy hell, these speakers are fantastic. Seriously, the audio quality on the original One made every other smartphone sound like garbage in comparison, and this new model has that same quality with even more power -- about 25 percent more volume capacity, according to HTC. Mobile audio doesn't get much better than this, folks.

And all of that is only scratching the surface. From the phone's performance to the updated HTC Sense software and the unusual new dual-camera "UltraPixel" setup, we've got tons more to discuss with this device -- and rest assured, we'll get to all of it soon.

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I'll be continuing to live with the new HTC One (M8) around the clock for the next several days. Stay tuned for my in-depth real-world review, and come hang with me over on Google+ for plenty more One-related chit-chat in the meantime.

UPDATE: HTC One (M8) deep-dive review: Smartphone sophistication, refined

More One (M8) coverage:

Hands on: 6 interesting things about HTC's Sense 6 software

Galaxy S5 vs. HTC One (M8): Camera shootout!

Hands on: HTC One Dot View -- who knew a case could be so cool?

Galaxy S5 vs. HTC One (M8): Which should you get?

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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