New York – HTC’s new flagship smartphone, the HTC One M8, became available this afternoon through the online stores of AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and multiple online retailers, such as BestBuy.com and Amazon, as well as and Verizon’s brick-and-mortar stores.
Prices with two-year contact are $199, except at Verizon, which is offering one M8 at $199 with two-year contract and a second M8 free with two-year contract.
T-Mobile will offer the Android 4.4 phone online and in stores on April 11. The device will be available in Sprint stores beginning in early April.
Most carriers will have the device in stores by April 11, said HTC Americas president Jason Mackenzie, who said the M8 represents the company’s single largest rollout. The phone will be in more than 230 carriers in more than 100countries worldwide, he said.
In the U.S., consumers can also order the M8 today in AT&T stores for next-day shipment.
Besides offering a $199 contract price, AT&T is also pricing the phone at an unsubsidized no-contract installment-plan price of $24.62/month for 26 months or $32/month for 20 months depending on the Next trade-up program selected. Likewise, Sprint is offering it for 24 monthly payments of $27.09 under its trade-up program, and Verizon is offering the phone for $25.22/month for 24 months as part of its trade-up program. Verizon’s unlocked price is $599.
For its part, T-Mobile will offer the M8 at a no-contract unsubsidized price of $26.50/month for 24 months.
Meantime, HTC is selling an unlocked model at $649, and a Google Play edition with pure Google experience is available for pre-ordering today from the Google Play store and will be available to ship in the coming weeks.
The new model sports a slightly larger 1080p screen at 5 inches with 440 ppi, up from 4.7 inches with 468 ppi, and a faster quad-core processor at 2.3GHz, up from 1.7GHz. The U.S. model offers 32GB embedded memory and, unlike its predecessor, features memory card slot, which supports 128GB MicroSD Cards.
The new model offers the same 2GB RAM as its predecessor, described by the company as its best-selling smartphone ever.
The phone sports additional hardware upgrades as well as software and cosmetic upgrades. More than 90 percent of the housing is aluminum, compared with the predecessor’s 70 percent, thanks to the elimination of plastic sides. By making metal sides, HTC was able to incorporate a 128GB MicroSD slot.
Another cosmetic change is a brushed hairline-texture finish.
Camera enhancements include the use of two back cameras to capture depth information and enable special effects, such as blurring a person in the background after a picture is taken. Users can also add special effects, such as colors and sketch lines, just to foreground elements.
The main camera delivers 50 percent faster focusing time at less than 300 milliseconds. Low-light picture taking was also improved.
Other new camera features include slow-motion HD video capture and the ability to copy and paste people into a photo.
An enhanced photo gallery lets users search for photos by day, month or year, and a new image-match function groups all photos with a specific person in them into one album.
Other upgrades include a Motion Launch feature that lets users double-tap the screen to wake up the phone, swipe one way to view the most recently used app, swipe another way to view the BlinkFeed screen, and quick-launch the camera via the side volume button when the phone is held horizontally. The feature also automatically answers a call when the phone is held to the ear.
A Dot View accessory cover, also new and priced at $50 by AT&T, attaches magnetically to the phone and covers the screen with a rubberized flap with multiple perforations. When the phone senses the cover is attached, the phone’s screen reverts to displaying time, weather, and caller ID information viewable through the cover perforations. Users can swipe up or down on the cover to take or reject a call.
A more customizable BlinkFeed feature lets users type out a topic to funnel information feeds on that topic from the web to the home screen. Other upgrades include improved stereo sound from the built-in front speakers, said to offer improved dynamic range, lower distortion and 25 percent greater volume with more soundfield depth
Other improvements include 40 percent longer battery life and an extreme power saver mode that, when available, limits access only to key functions such as calling, email and calculator to conserve energy and extend battery life to at least two weeks. It also reduces screen brightness and turns of data when the screen is off.
The extreme mode can be set to automatically turn on when the battery drains to specific levels. The mode will deliver 60 hours of extra standby time at 20 percent power, 30 hours at 10 percent power and 15 hours at 5 percent power.
Other upgrades include the sixth-generation Sense user interface with a visual makeover and colors that change to let users know where they are in the UI. The UI will be available for current users of any phone in the One series later in the spring.
The new model features 4.3-Ultrapixel back camera whose larger pixels take in more light in low-light situations than standard-size megapixels. The main camera captures 1080p video like before. The front wide-angle camera features 5 megapixels, up from 2.1.
The new model is 0.5mm thicker than its predecessor.
Also new is Cloud-based storage of Zoe videos for sharing with others. Users can also invite friends and family to add their own photos, videos and music to their original Zoe video.
The phone’s HTC Zoe feature, also available in the predecessor phone, lets users simultaneously capture a picture and three-second HD video. The feature turns a photo gallery into a gallery of photos and moving images.
The phone also automatically stitches together multiple Zoe photos and videos into a Highlights Video with background music, transitions and effects.
For its part, BestBuy.com is offering the amber gold version of the HTC One exclusively, and a spokesperon said it would arrive in Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores by April 10, although many stores will start to get the devices before then.
Other on-line stores selling the new phone are Car Toys, Costco, RadioShack, and Walmart.