Published March 25, 2014
Around 400 tech journalists from around the world spent around 30 minutes standing in 30 degree weather to see a new 5-inch phone named the HTC One.
But this is no ordinary phone, explained company CEO Peter Chou at the Tuesday morning event in New York City’s landmark Moynihan Station. It’s the future of the company.
“We took the best smartphone in the world -- the HTC One M7 -- and made it even better,” he said. “I love this phone.”
The new phone, called the HTC One (M8), is beautifully designed, wrapped in slightly curved gun-metal gray metal. Metal is challenging to work with, he said, leading to interference with the nearly dozen radio antennas inside the phone.
“We’ve come up with a breakthrough process that can integrate the sensitive antennas with this metal,” Chou said. The new phone boosts the metal in the case from 75 percent to 90 percent. And a new process from the company creates the brushed hairline metal texture, he added.
“This is something we are very proud of,” he added.
The phone has a 5-inch screen, a Snapdragon 801 processor, dual cameras and stereo speakers, 40 percent longer battery life and a MicroSD expansion slot. The dual cameras on the back of the phone capture depth information for photos, opening up creative possibilities and effects, Chou said.
The phone can anticipate what you want to do, with simple gestures. For example, it makes common tasks much simpler, answering the phone smartly when you hold it to your ear, rather than making you swipe to answer -- a challenge anyone who’s ever been caught between a ringing phone and fingers greasy from a pizza.
The company also touts audio that's 25 percent louder, and clearer with more depth, thanks to a special system of chambers within the phone's body.
It also runs Android 4.4, with a custom interface from HTC called Sense. It’s the sixth version of the new software, explained Jonah Becker, associate vice president of design with HTC.
“We sometimes call it ‘Sixth Sense’,” he said. The interface layers colors over the standard Google Android interface, and includes BlinkFeed, a new app that incorporates news feeds from a variety of content sources. With the new version of Sense, that app has been tweaked and reworked, Becker said.
“We see a lot of potential to make BlinkFeed really interesting,” he said.
One way is by integrating a variety of unusual feeds into the standard flow of news items and blog posts, including menu suggestions from nearby restaurants and fitness stats from the Fitbit.
“We’ve added a second camera that captures detailed depth information about a scene,” Becker said. “It means your phone knows which objects are closer, in the foreground, and further away, in the background.”
This allows for something called the “bokeh” effect, where an object in the background is blurred and out of focus, while the foreground object is crisp and sharp. Because the camera records this depth information in hardware, filters such as pencil sketch or black and white can be applied selectively to objects in the background.
“Great design has always made HTC’s phones stand apart from the crowd,” Chou said.
He’s not alone. Zach Epstein, a smartphone aficionado with tech news site BGR, called it “the best smartphone in the world.”