HTC One M8 for Windows Phone review: A winning flagship breathes new life into Windows Phone

Verizon threw in some of its own flavoring, too. An exclusive deal with NFL Mobile adds a year of NFL game-streaming for those who add this phone onto their More Everything plan. There's VZ voice navigation that works with Bing Maps, and it's the first Windows phone to support Verizon Messages.

Unlike the original M8, this device lacks some gesture controls that help users carry out certain tasks. While you can still double tap the screen to wake up the handset, you can't launch the camera by holding the phone in landscape mode and pressing down the volume keys.


Undoubtedly the wildest feature about the phone's camera and imaging system is the two camera lenses on its back, as well as a dual-LED flash array. While the larger of the M8's eyes supports its main camera and handles traditional photo duties, the smaller lens (which is on top of it) tackles depth perception.

Every time you snap a picture, the handset records optical data from its second vantage point seen through its depth-sensing lens. As a result, you can refocus images after you take them. So, for instance, you can choose subjects in the foreground to focus on while simultaneously blurring objects in the background.

HTC calls this feature UFocus, and it replicates the shallow depth of field that skilled owners of dSLR cameras often use to great aesthetic effect. It's a technique the Nokia Lumia 1020 , the Lytro Light Field Camera first strived to create through clever software processing. The Galaxy S5 and LG G3 have similar tricks, too.

The device has dual rear-facing cameras, one of which is for depth perception. Josh Miller/CNET

Also placed here is a feature named Foregrounder which applies up to four special filters to the background, like simulated pencil sketch marks and motion blurring. Another tool called 3D Dimension Plus warps pictures to give them a cartoony, madhouse depth that you can alter by swiping or tilting the phone at various angles.

According to HTC, 90 to 95 percent of the Android variant's camera app functions have ported over to Windows Phone. As such, some Foregrounder effects were eliminated, like animated snowflakes and flower petals. HTC's Zoe engine has also been stripped away. Zoe is a gallery feature that groups images and videos by events and dates, and mashes them in highlight reels with canned themes and music. Here, pictures are instead organized chronologically, in static tabs denoting all, albums, or favorites. There is an app called Video Highlights, though, that can do this with some effect.

In addition to the M8's unconventional camera abilities, you'll also get several shooting modes, such as panoramic, HDR, night, antishake, landscape, backlight, and macro, among others. There's also Lenses, a tool that integrates third-party camera apps directly into the camera, previously seen in previous WP devices. Bing Vision is preloaded to get you started (it can scan QR codes and translate text through the camera lens), but you can always download more lenses through the Windows Phone app store.

Here, the background is blurred with UFocus for extra dramatic effect. Lynn La/CNET

In addition to offering options for crop sizes, gridlines, self-timers, and continuous shooting, there are manual camera settings for just about everything. Some include ISO levels, white balance, exposure, contrast, and saturation. Oddly, you can't adjust image resolution. This limit over photo size is perhaps due to the handset's 4-Ultrapixel sensor (really 4MP), and it reads as very low-res compared with those in competing handsets like the GS45 Note 3, and G3 (all of which pack sharper 13-megapixel systems).

Like with the images taken on previous One M8 variants, the pictures on the M8 for Windows Phone left us unimpressed. While colors were accurate and white balance was accurate with both indoor and outdoor settings, details appeared soft, with blurred edges. What's more, a deeper dive revealed that the phone had difficulty with varied lighting conditions. Light sources and backlighting were often overexposed, and bright skies in HDR mode were blown out.

Compared with several Nokia Lumias, this device just isn't up to par. Not counting the 41-megapixel 1020 , which is on another plane of its own, handsets like the Lumia Icon, the 1520, and the 928 excel at taking defined, ultrasharp pictures in both well- and dimly lit settings. They're also jam-packed with camera tricks from Nokia and optic technology from Carl Zeiss.

On the other hand, we can say with confidence that the One M8 camera does snap pictures like a speed demon, with shot-to-shot times being virtually instantaneous. For more information about these pictures, be sure to click on them below to view them at their full resolution.

In this well-lit indoor photo, the light source is overblown on the right, and the dark room to the left looks grainy. Lynn La/CNET
Objects in this outdoor photo are in focus, but the sun to the left is overexposed. Josh Miller/CNET
This close-up picture of this flower looks a bit soft, with blurred edges around the petals. Lynn La/CNET
In our standard studio shot, objects are in focus, but there is a soft brown tint against the white background. Lynn La/CNET


We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) One M8 in our San Francisco office, and call quality was great. Signal never dropped, audio didn't cut in and out, and we didn't hear any extraneous buzzing or noise. Though our calling partner sounded a bit muffled and compressed, it was still easy to understand her, and volume levels were adequately loud. In addition, the external speaker was the best we've ever heard on any mobile device. Compared with calls made on others, our partner sounded very loud and rich. Likewise, we were told that we sounded solid as well -- our voice was clear, and there was no distracting static coming out of our line.

HTC One M8 for Windows Phone (Verizon Wireless) call quality sample

For a high-end handset on Verizon, I expected 4G LTE data speeds to be much faster. And while its speeds were at no means glacial, it was slower than I expected. On average, it took 6 and 10 seconds to load CNET's mobile and desktop sites, respectively. The New York Times' mobile page finished loading after 7 seconds and its desktop version loaded in 8. The mobile site for ESPN clocked in at 7 seconds and 16 seconds passed for the full Web page. Ookla's speed test app averaged out to a staggeringly low rate of 1.78Mbps down and 2.87Mbps up. Lastly, the 47MB game Temple Run 2 finished downloading and installing in about 1 minute and 26 seconds.

HTC One M8 for Windows Phone (Verizon Wireless) performance times

Average 4G LTE download speed 1.78Mbps
Average 4G LTE upload speed 2.87Mbps
Temple Run 2 app download (47MB) 1 minute, 26 seconds
CNET mobile site load 6 seconds
CNET desktop site load 10 seconds
Restart time 1 minute, 20 seconds
Camera boot time 2.96 seconds

We were prepared for the handset to pack a processing punch, and it did. but I admit I wasn't expecting it to hit as hard as it did. Its best AnTuTu benchmark score clocked in at 27,408, beating out both the Lumia Icon and the Lumia 1520, which scored 25,998 and 22,475, respectively. Everyday use mirrored our benchmark tests; the phone hummed through its various functions effortlessly. Though the dynamic animations that come with the Windows Phone OS make it "feel" that the M8 moves a tad slower than its Android counterpart, it still launches, closes, and flips between apps and menus seamlessly and smoothly. In a phrase, the device handles like greased lightning.

Equipped with a nonremovable 2,600mAh battery, the handset falls between the Lumia Icon's 2,420mAh capacity and the Lumia 1520's supersize 3,400mAh battery. It has a reported usage time of up to 21 hours, and the original M8 chugged along for 14 hours and 18 minutes during the official CNET Labs video battery drain benchmark. This device specifically lasted an impressive 21 hours and 9 minutes for continuous talk time. According to FCC radiation measurements, the phone has a SAR rating of 0.83W/kg.

A few of the handsets data speed rates (left) and its best AnTuTu benchmark score. Lynn La/CNET


If you're deciding which HTC One M8 variant to get, the original Android device has access to more apps, games, and media through the Google Play store. Sure, you're not going to need all the software in the world, but having a wider array of choices is reassuring. Plus, Verizon offers more color choices, and you'll get some extra HTC features like the Zoe Camera and gesture controls.

This is not to disregard this Windows Phone device altogether, however. When you consider that one of the biggest draws Android has is its sheer variety -- from manufacturers, to displays, to body builds, and so on -- having HTC carve a high-end space inside this particular platform means the WP world just got bit spicier. Sure, Nokia Lumias have been good to WP users so far, but the freedom of choice is what makes this One M8 significant.

The One M8 brings much-needed variety to the Windows Phone market. Josh Miller/CNET

So when it comes to WP handsets, Verizon offers a few options. Understandably, budget-conscious users may opt for the Nokia Icon . Though it has a less powerful battery and processor, it is currently free with a Verizon contract and has an excellent camera as mentioned before. The Samsung Ativ SE is also a promising choice. We haven't taken a look at it yet, but it's the same price as the $99.99 One M8, and sports top-tier specs.

But for the here and now, the One M8 is sure to please. Powerful, stylish, and with the new features in the 8.1.1 update, you'll be ahead of the software curve. And as a WP loyalist, isn't that the best place to be?

Comparable Phones

All phones

Best Products

All best products