HTC One (M8) revisited: 4 months later, does the phone still impress?

Here in the world of tech media, there's a tendency to declare something as being "the best ever" -- and then promptly forget about it the minute something else comes along.

As I grumbled the other day, real consumers don't work that way. In the real world, phones remain relevant for months and even years after their release. Just because something new has arrived doesn't mean every other option is suddenly second class.

In an effort to combat that perpetual short-mindedness, I like to occasionally take the time to revisit noteworthy devices a while after their arrivals. Impressions can evolve, and it's interesting to see how well a product has aged -- both relative to itself and relative to the shifting technology around it.

This summer, I've decided to focus on the devices that stand out the most to me -- the products I actually recommend to my own friends and family. Up first is the HTC One (M8).

HTC One M8 Revisited

HTC One (M8): From then to now

When I originally reviewed the One (M8) back in April, I called it "a luxurious yet approachable object" that was close to being "the ultimate high-end device."

So how has it held up? Some scattered thoughts:

• Coming back to the M8 after months spent with a variety of other smartphones, I'm struck by how beautifully designed it is -- and how much of a joy it is to use. The One (M8) is simply unmatched in terms of premium design, and nothing's happened to change that.

I've been carrying the "Gunmetal Gray" model of the M8 this go-round, and the phone is just downright gorgeous -- sleek and classy as can be. What's more, with its all-metal encasing, it feels every bit as premium as it looks. That goes a long way in setting it apart from the competition.

• I said it when I reviewed the phone and I'll say it again now: The One (M8) is a big device. Lots of phones are big these days, of course, but the M8 is meant to be a standard-sized smartphone -- not a plus-sized device like the Galaxy Note -- and it's unusually tall for that class.

When I first got the M8 back in my hands, it felt huge. That was coming from my personal Moto X. Then I spent some time with the LG G3, and suddenly the M8 didn't feel so unmanageable anymore.

At this point, I've pretty much gotten used to it. When I switch back to my Moto X, that phone feels almost shockingly comfortable in comparison -- but after I've been toting the M8 around for a few hours, I quickly forget about its size and just enjoy using it. That being said, I do still think its size will be off-putting to some people.

HTC One M8, Moto X

• In comparing the G3 to the M8, some folks note that the G3 gives you more screen space in a similarly sized frame. That's true -- but what the M8 gives you instead is that killer set of front-facing stereo speakers. Using the M8, I never think for a second that its screen isn't spacious enough. But I do enjoy the hell out of those speakers, which are about the only ones I've used on a phone that sound really, really good -- good enough that I'd actually use them for an extended period of time.

Both approaches have their benefits.

HTC One M8, LG G3

• The M8's screen is still my favorite on any phone today. Sure, it's not Quad HD -- but the difference between Quad HD and 1080p just isn't terribly significant. The M8's screen is crisp, sharp, bright, and easy to view in any lighting condition. And its contrast and color saturation are second to none.

• After cycling through an army of different devices, I'm reminded just how exceptional the M8's performance truly is. Other Android phones -- including those with equal or greater specs -- just don't feel as fast. Chalk it up to software or whatever you want, but this thing just flies with everything it does. When you use enough phones to have a point of comparison, the difference is quite noticeable.

• The One (M8)'s camera isn't flawless -- but we've talked plenty about its pros and cons in the past. Nothing's really changed on that front.

Coming back to the M8 now, I'll say this: For me, as someone who uses his smartphone mainly for casual snapshots, HTC's camera is fast, dead-simple to use, and capable of capturing some great-looking photos (especially in low light). I'm not looking for huge-megapixel files I can manipulate; if you are, the M8's camera probably isn't right for you. It'd be nice if it were a little more versatile in that regard. But for my needs, it's one of the better all-around options I've used -- and given the choice between it and other phones in my pocket, it's almost always the one I reach for when a photo op arises.

HTC One M8 Camera

• Software's extremely important to me, and that's one area where the One (M8) is particularly refreshing to return to. HTC's user interface still has a few quirks, but by and large, it's really pleasant to use right out of the box. I'm usually the first guy to cover up a manufacturer's mess with a custom Android launcher and other third-party tools, but I actually enjoy using HTC's Sense 6 UI. It's a legitimately compelling alternative to Google's stock setup.

HTC's promise to keep the M8 up-to-date with the latest Android software -- providing upgrades within 90 days of a release, for a minimum of two years from the device's launch -- makes me feel good about recommending this phone as well. Following in the footsteps of Google and Motorola, the company's also breaking out more and more of its custom apps and services into Play Store packages, which are then updated far more frequently than the OS itself -- and that's awesome for users.

Ongoing software support is a big deal in this day and age, and HTC is one of a few companies that actually handles it in a customer-focused way I can commend. That's no small quality to consider.

So four months later, the One (M8) is no less impressive to me than it was when I first reviewed it. It's by no means perfect -- no phone is -- and it's not going to be the right device for everyone.

But it provides one of the best overall user experiences you can get today -- and in my book, that means a lot.

[Original review: HTC One (M8): Smartphone sophistication, refined]

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon