The competition among smartphone makers just got a little hotter.
Tech giant HTC unveiled the “HTC One M8” smartphone today at an event in New York, and got a jump on rival Samsung by announcing immediate retail availability of their new flagship Android phone. While Samsung’s Galaxy S5 doesn’t go on sale in the U.S. until April 11, the One M8 is already available starting at $199 with contract online from AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, in Verizon stores, and online via additional carrier partners in Canada.
The follow up to last year’s acclaimed HTC One sports a slightly larger, rounder and shinier aluminum body that doesn’t stray far from the original’s design. The digerati will be quick to point out the One’s upgraded Snapdragon 801 processor, Sense 6.0 UI and Extreme Power Saving Mode.
But it’s the larger 5-inch display, updated aluminum finish and peculiar dual camera array that consumers will notice first. The Duo Camera features HTC’s “Ultrapixel” camera sensor paired with a second sensor that allows for all sorts of imaging tricks including refocusing of images after you’ve captured them, background editing and angle shifting. The One M8 features is a dual tone flash on the Duo Camera and also a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter with wide-angle lens for selfies.
In addition to the Galaxy S5, the One M8 faces stiff competition from the current crop of Android flagships, as well as refreshes anticipated for later this year. Stretching the display from 4.7 inches to 5 inches brings the new One more in line with the displays on the new Galaxy S5 (5.1 inches) and Sony Xperia Z2 (5.2 inches) -- all three displays offer 1080p resolution.
The new One is slightly thicker and heavier than its competitors, but in exchange for a little added bulk the phone offers premium fit and finish the others can’t match. HTC claims this new One’s body is 90 percent metal, while the others are plastic. Then again, the Samsung and Sony are water and dust-resistant, and the HTC is not.
The processors, connectivity and base Android 4.4.2 software are similar on the three devices. Camera performance and software is where pronounced differences surface, with HTC’s Duo Camera taking a markedly different approach than Samsung and Sony’s more traditional high-megapixel count cameras. Frankly we’ll just have to wait and see how the new One performs in real-life photography before passing judgment on its camera.
Beyond S5 and Z2, the One M8 will face competition later this year from LG and Google’s new releases, not to mention another Samsung, the expected successor to the Galaxy Note 3 phablet. LG is expected to unveil the G3 in the late Spring or early Summer, picking up where the G2 left off. G2 features a 5.2-inch display some critics called “the best phone screen ever made,” and boasted incredible raw performance. The device also served as the hardware basis for Google’s Nexus 5, which offered significant value for the price. Rumor is the next Nexus device will be based on the G3.
And then there’s iPhone. The new HTC One is quite a different beast from the current range-topping iPhone 5S. The One runs Android to iPhone’s iOS and the One is quite a bit larger than 5S, whose display measures only 4.0 inches.
If history shows us anything, Apple’s next iPhone may be in for a major redesign, this being a “non-S” model year. Rumors point to iPhone 6 getting a larger screen to bring it more in line with its Android competition, but iPhone rumors are anything but reliable this far ahead of a likely Summer launch.