HTC unveils One M8 flagship smartphone - and Verizon gets to sell it in stores first

HTC announced its latest flagship smartphone, the HTC One M8, which is an improvement over the original HTC One M7's software, camera and industrial design. HTC also has secured strong carrier distribution, especially in North America, in hopes it can gain inroads on Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S5, its main competitor for the moment in the high-end smartphone market.

HTC unveiled the One M8. Click here for more details.

HTC said the One M8 will be available on 230 carriers in more than 100 countries, which is the single largest product rollout in HTC's history, according to Jason Mackenzie, HTC's president of the Americas.  By the end of April, HTC said customers will be able to buy the new phone in Australia, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China and the U.S.

In the U.S., the One M8 is available online for sale today through carriers and retailers including Amazon, Appalachian Wireless, AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Best Buy, Bluegrass Cellular, Car Toys, Cellcom, Chat Mobility, Cincinnati Bell Wireless, Costco, Military Exchange, Net10 Wireless, Pioneer Cellular, RadioShack, Sprint (NYSE:S), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Walmart. It will also be available online and in retail through T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), and broadly available in stores across the majority of HTC's partners starting April 10.

As Engadget notes, in a bit of a coup, Verizon is selling the device in stores today, while AT&T and Sprint will not sell the device in stores until April.

The 16 GB model will cost $199  with a two-year contract and the 32 GB model will cost $249 with a two-year contract. HTC also said unlocked and developer editions of the HTC One M8 will also be available to customers through for $650.

By contrast, the Samsung Galaxy S5 costs $200 with a two-year contract or $650 off contract; the S5 is on pre-order now from most carriers and will go on sale in stores April 11.

For HTC, the One M8 is a chance to make good on what didn't work in the market with the One M7. The One M7, which debuted in 2013, was widely praised but failed to reignite sales at HTC. The company posted its first ever operating loss in the third quarter of last year. HTC has vowed that this time it will be different, not only in terms of marketing but because the One M8 itself is improved in numerous areas over its predecessor.

"It takes the best smartphone in the world and makes it better in every way," HTC Peter Chou said at a media event in New York City, according to The Verge.

The One M8 runs Android 4.4, Kit Kat, the latest Android software, and sports a quad-core 2.3 GHz Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 801 processor. The phone has a 5-inch, full HD 1080p display, larger than the 4.7-inch display of the One M7, and tapers to thinner edges with softer curves, which HTC said will provide a more natural grip than the hard-angled original One.

The biggest hardware upgrade is in the One M8's camera, which sports what HTC called a "Duo Camera" that features UltraPixel module, with a dual flash and full 1080p HD video recording. UltraPixels, introduced on the One M7, allow more light into the camera's sensors, which produce bigger pixels and more detail. HTC said the new Duo Camera incorporates a special depth sensor, which can capture detailed depth information from a scene to produce better-looking portraits. The camera also has a feature called UFocus, which lets users alter the focus of an image after the photo has been taken. The phone also has a5-megapixel wide-angle front-facing camera.

In terms of battery performance, HTC said the One M8's battery last 40 percent longer than the One M7. Additionally, in  "Extreme Power Saving" mode HTC said it will deliver 14 days' worth of battery power, while allowing calls, texts and emails. The feature can be activated either manually or automatically, and HTC said it delivers 60 hours of extra standby time at 20 percent power, 30 hours at 10 percent power and 15 hours at 5 percent power.

HTC also upgrades its Sense software and said that with Sense 6, the phone can use what it calls "Motion Launch" to immediately detect its position and movement, thanks to built-in motion sensors that allow interaction with the phone without turning on the screen. HTC said a swipe will activate the device, "Auto Answer" allows calls to be answered without touching the screen simply by putting the phone to the user's ear, and a double tap turns the lock screen on and off.

Like the One M7, the One M8 features BlinkFeed, which turns the device's home screen into a single live stream of personally relevant information that includes social updates, entertainment and lifestyle updates, news and photos. HTC said it now has more than 1,000 content partners for BlinkFeed and will also make the feature available to other Android devices, launching on the Google Play store soon.

HTC also said that its BoomSound audio technology is now 25 percent louder than original One. Like its predecessor, the One M8 has dual front-facing stereo speakers but with a new amplifier, redesigned speaker chambers and a tailored audio profile for higher-quality sound.

For more:
- see this release
- see this The Verge live blog
- see this Engadget article

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Correction, March 25, 2014: This article misidentified Jason Mackenzie's title. He is HTC's president of the Americas.