Windows Phone is a very polarising operating system to say the least. Many consumers refuse to give it a chance, and the ones that do, either hate it or love it.
Despite the shortcomings of Microsoft's phone-focused OS, I find it to be a very rewarding experience. Of course, the biggest complaint is a lack of apps, and while there has been much improvement in that area, it is still a valid argument when compared against the iPhone or Android.
Apps aside, Windows Phone provides an intuitive experience that enhances one's life rather than takes it over. Android and iPhone users are often in a zombie-like state while using the device, as if it is the sole focus of their existence. Windows Phone is designed more to be glance-and-go.
Unfortunately, while Nokia Lumia handsets have been wonderful, brand diversity and selection has been severely lacking. Luckily, Microsoft majorly scored by getting HTC to produce a version of its One M8 that runs Windows Phone. Can the sexy HTC handset outdo the sexiness of the popular Lumia line?
Note that the M8 running Windows Phone is a US-only device currently, but hopefully HTC will see fit to bring it across to the UK in the future.
Okay, first things first, let's list the basic specs:
- Screen: 5in Full HD Super LCD3 Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- Dimensions: 70 x 9 x 146mm (WxDxH)
- Weight: 160g
- Operating System: Windows Phone 8.1 Update
- Storage: 32GB on board, supports up to 128GB microSD card
- RAM: 2GB
- Processor: 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 GHz quad-core
- Battery: 2,600 mAh
So as far as the hardware is concerned, nothing has changed from the Android version of the phone. Yes, you are reading that right; it is the same hardware with a different operating system.
This is not a bad thing however, as HTC's design has been largely considered to be the best of any Android device. You see, rather than using a plastic chassis like most smartphones, the One M8 has aluminium.
Unfortunately, the metal body carries a downside; you cannot wirelessly charge it. This is a disappointment as previous Lumia phones, like the Lumia 930, and Lumia Icon over in the US, have supported this feature. It seems that the charging standard will not work through a metal body. Ultimately, you must decide if the trade-off is worth it.
Speaking of the Nokia Lumia Icon, it is only fair to compare it with the HTC One M8 for Windows, given that this is its major rival over in the US where the new M8 is on sale. Unfortunately, other than wireless charging, the Icon bests it in other areas too.
The camera experience on the Icon is top-notch, producing amazing pictures and video. While the HTC handset takes good photos, they just do not compare. Yes, HTC offers some cool post-photo editing options and the second lens provides the ability for some sweet bokeh, but I would much rather have the Lumia's clarity. Not to mention, the Icon has a dedicated camera button, that makes it easier to take a steadier shot.
On the subject of buttons, the HTC is unique in that it uses on-screen buttons. This implementation works well for navigation, but it does waste screen real-estate. Luckily, you can swipe them down when not in use. Unfortunately, since it is unique to this phone, apps are not designed with the on-screen buttons in mind. You see, on more than one occasion I found content or buttons hidden underneath the on-screen variants. In other words, until I swiped them away, usable parts of the app were hidden.
The HTC One M8 for Windows is more than a pretty face, however. Other than the metal body, the speakers are the other stand-out. Across the board, every Windows Phone has had poor or average speakers. Case in point, the Lumia Icon has a tiny speaker hole that is easy to cover with your finger. It is a constant annoyance that ruins music by essentially muting it. The HTC One M8 for Windows is the exact opposite; speakers are front facing and well-spaced leading to a wonderful experience for both music and movies alike.
Battery life is surprisingly wonderful, exceeding the performance of the Android version of the One M8. This seems to indicate that Windows Phone is a more efficient operating system than Google's. I can easily get through an entire day without needing to charge. While I have seen better performance from Nokia's Icon, the HTC is perfectly acceptable.
The HTC One M8 for Windows is a wonderful smartphone that should appeal greatly to the Windows Phone crowd. However, currently in the US, the Nokia Lumia Icon is the better all-round phone, and camera lovers should look at it instead. And when (or rather if) the new M8 comes over to the UK, it will have to butt heads against the similarly excellent Lumia 930 which scooped one of our Best Buy awards.
Still, if you put a premium on listening to music and overall craftsmanship, the HTC is the way to go; it is sexier. Quite frankly, you can't go wrong with the M8, Icon or 930. Actually, unlike Android, there really are no duds in the Windows Phone 8.x family - it is a great time to be a user of Microsoft's smartphone operating system.