An Android Upgrade - the HTC One (M8)

This time last year I made the incomparable jump from my iPhone (that I had had for five years, with three models) to the Android OS and an LG Nexus 4. It wasn't the easiest decision to make, but one that I have 100% never regretted, even when considering what I am missing on iOS (pretty much the only thing is Facetime).

A year on from then, and I was sitting with my Nexus ahead of my first upgrade to a new Android phone, and for the first time in a long long time I had a massive choice of device. On iOS I had one choice each time - the new iPhone. I had the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5 shortly after release, but now I have a wealth of choices. Do I chose the obvious upgrade, the Nexus 5? Or do I follow my dad and grab the Samsung Galaxy S5? Or do I get the Sony Xperia Z2? Or the massive LG G3? Do I (whisper it) even go back to an iPhone? The answer to all of the above was a no.

Instead, I upgraded to the HTC One (M8). Despite not being the most snappy name of a phone (it is like a half way house between the idea of not needing a new name each year and needing an upgraded number to separate the two models) it managed to top the proposed other handsets that I had been courting, and now having used it for the past month (yeah, this was originally due to be a post about getting the phone, not a post about having got the phone, but life happened) I think it's time to have a "wee" appraisal of the phone's good sides and bad sides.

- Screen

The first thing I realised when looking to upgrade was that the screen sizes had increased a lot - the HTC One (M8) has a 5'' HD screen, which is pretty much par for the course on all the top-line phones. I wasn't sure about the massive screen at first, and went to a mobile phone shop to check that the size was manageable, and it kinda is. I have fat chubby fingers that are notoriously clumsy but my hands are large enough to make short work of the screen's real estate.

The actual definition of the screen is insane though. Never seen anything like it.

- Phone Design

The main reason I love the One (M8) is the impressive metal body, which feels more premium even than the iPhones that I have held. The design of the phone is easily the best design I've ever came across - it feels heavy and solid in the hand, and despite being slippery nothing is more slippery than the nonsensical glass backed Nexus 4 I upgraded from, which slid off everything and anything I put it on.

One thing I do dislike; the volume keys are on the "wrong" side, being on the right hand side, rather than the left; where they were on all my iPhones and the Nexus 4. This is a change I am struggling to deal with, sadly.

 

Battery

I hated the battery life on the Nexus 4, and by extension, so did Connie. It died on the way home from work, at 5.25pm, almost every night. I now have a charger in work to make sure I don't run out of juice at inopportune moments, like... oh, I don't know, when my wife starts going in to labour.

The M8 is one of the best batteries on the market, according to the reviews, and it can't be worse than the Nexus. I've noticed that it does have a few quirks, and they're pretty neat - there's a low power mode that kicks in at 20% which does a good job at extended the battery, and a really mental mode I've yet to use that makes the phone essentially off, but still on, that can take 5% on for another 8 hours or something. It's pretty clever actually.

-Camera

Tonnes has been written about the HTC camera, which eschews larger megapixel numbers for larger sensor details, which has put a lot of people off. All I can say is that it's the first phone since the iPhone 4 that has a camera that has really impressed me, what with the cool shift focus feature, the neat (but gimmicky) 3D photo thing, and the video capture has been brilliant. A big boost is the fact that it has two rear cameras, which means that photos in the dark are very impressive, and I've yet to need the flash. All said and done, the phones camera is perfect as a point and shoot solution - as I've always thought, the best camera is the one you have with you, and the number of videos and photos of Joni I've taken are testament to it's power.

- Speakers and Audio

Like all other Android's I've seen, it appears you can't change the L-R balance on the headphones, which is a damn shame. I really miss this feature from the iPhones partly because I am deaf in one ear, but also it's a handicap that doesn't get much focus.  Otherwise, the sound is pretty crisp and clear. 

The one major thing I've found I adore is the speakers on the phone - they are on the front and are called "BoomSound", which means they are louder than my laptop speakers, which is saying something. Joni loves to snooze listening to some of my ambient white noise radio shows, and the speakers have been a gift to that. Seriously, the speakers blew me away when I first heard them. Something I did do pretty early on was deactivate the "BoomSound" feature when on headphones, which artificially boosted the bass and lowered the treble, ruining the songs. It might make the music sound better superficially on shite 'phones, but my RHA-350i earphones (my recommendation for cheap earphones, them being great, from Glasgow, and have a three-year warranty) sound brilliant with the feature switched off.

- The Operating System

My biggest worry heading into the HTC world was leaving the Nexus' Google supported operating system - a quick lesson: Nexus phones are updated by Google directly, every other phone is updated by Google, then the manufacturer, and then the network, which adds months to the updates. HTC have tinkered with Android to change almost everything, including the settings and the basic applications. Amazingly, the main basic apps they have changed (Phone, Messages, Gallery, Settings) have all been changed for the better, and the small things they've added are pretty neat too, like the Car Mode, or the FM Radio.

Anyway, I didn't use the stock launcher on the Nexus 4, and I haven't continued to do so on the One either - I use Nova Launcher, so the HTC acts exactly as the Nexus 4 did for me, which is exactly how I like it.

- Things I Don't Like

There are a few issues I have with the phone, but they are nit picky at best. The first is that the volume keys are far too easy to hit and change the sound setting. For the first three weeks the phone was randomly switching between loud, silent and vibrate, and there appears to be no way to stop it from doing this (even my sister's older HTC, which got the OS upgrade shortly after I bought mine, has this exact issue when before she didn't). This was solved by permanently enabling the Do Not Disturb feature, and adding in exceptions for Connie, the House, and a few family members.

Another thing I didn't know before getting the phone was that the Notification Light only has two colours, and I can't change it for different applications. Those of you who haven't had an Android phone might not know this, but Light Flow allowed me to change the colour of a wee light on the Nexus 4 depending on what my phone had received; green for Whatsapp, blue for Twitter, red for Gmail, purple for Missed Calls. I used this all the time, and it has been very hard to get used to not having that almost essential feature. I could get a version of it back by rooting the phone, but I can't be bothered doing that just yet.

The front camera is fucking called the "selfie" camera. Almost returned it there and then. There is also this "Zoe" mode thing that I can't quite figure out, which appears to take a video and then splits each frame as a photo... for no reason. Weird, eh?

The "sleep" button is all the way up at the top, like the iPhone, which is a nightmare on a phone that has a bigger screen than the entire size of the first two iPhones I owned. Luckily, there is a cool "Tap to Wake" feature on the screen that unlocks the phone, which is so obvious I have absent mindedly started doing it to Connie's iPhone. Oops.

And... well, that really it. There isn't much wrong with the phone, and a load of things that are great. 

So, it's good. Now, I wish they'd change the blinking name...