HTC One M8 for Windows Preview

HTC One M8 for Windows Preview

Finally, a credible Windows Phone that's not from Nokia

Today in New York, HTC unveiled its new Windows Phone handset, the HTC One M8 for Windows. I would have attended this event if I wasn't traveling, but now that it's over we can discuss what happened. Folks, we now have a new Windows Phone flagship to consider. This handset is the real deal.

Put simply, this is what I've been asking for: For a major Android handset maker to take an existing Android-based phone and just put Windows Phone on it. In the past, companies like HTC and Samsung instead took the internals of Android-based phones and then released them for Windows Phone with different form factors and designs. And they often did this months—many months—after the release of the Android original.

Thanks to changes in Windows Phone licensing, HTC was able to take its amazing HTC One M8—which admittedly did ship months ago, in March, for Android—and offer a new version running Windows Phone 8.1. My hope is that in the future, HTC and other companies will release Android and Windows Phone versions of devices side-by-side.

From a hardware perspective, the HTC One M8 for Windows is the same device that HTC released with Android earlier this year. The specs break down like so:

Processor. A quad-core 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 801 processor

RAM. 2 GB of RAM

Internal storage. 32 GB

Storage expansion. microSD, up to 128 GB

Display. 5-inch 1080p screen

OS/software. Windows Phone 8.1 with Update 1

Carrier. Verizon exclusive in the US

Networking. LTE (CDMA) with a nano SIM card, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.0, Miracast compatible, NFC

Sensors. Accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, gyro sensor, barometer sensor, GPS with GLONASS, digital compass

A/V. Stereo front-facing speakers with HTC BoomSound, dual cameras (5 mp front and HTC UltraPixel camera in the rear with HTC ImageChip 2)

Physical. Metal unibody design at 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm with a weight of 160 grams.

Availability: Today

Pricing: $99.99 with a two-year contract or $29.99 per month with Verizon Edge.

There are some questions, of course.

Many are curious about the name—HTC One M8 for Windows (which is sometimes annoyingly written with M8 in parenthesis)—since it doesn't use the term "Windows Phone." Does this represent some new branding, and a hint about the future merging of Windows and Phone? Maybe. But the device has a very obvious Windows Phone logo on the back. So I wouldn't read too much into the name.

Then there's that camera. You'll notice that HTC doesn't provide a megapixel rating for the primary camera, and its web site simply notes that the camera is something called a "Duo Camera" that provides "portrait quality photos" and can focus to different objects after a photo is taken. You can blur backgrounds, and animations, and 3D effects, none of which appear to speak to the actual quality of the camera.

But looking at reviews of the original Android-based HTC One M8, I see that the device actually offers two rear cameras—hence the name Duo Camera—though it may make more sense to think of them as two camera lenses. The camera is a piddly 4 megapixel unit, but those dual lenses are what powers the magic, and it looks like some impressive effects are possible. I'll try to be open-minded about this.

Finally, you may recall that Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 enables hardware makers to support smart covers. Well, the HTC One M8 is the first Windows Phone handset to ship with Update 1 preinstalled and, surprise, it supports the same fun HTC Dot View cover as the Android version. (Though it's not yet clear if all the Android functionality has carried over to Windows Phone.

This fun $50 accessory provides a dot matrix-like display while the cover is closed and protecting the device and its screen. I assume it will work something like the Glance screen on certain Nokia devices and offer the time and some notifications.

What there's no question about is that the phone is gorgeous. The design is simply stunning. I can't wait to review it.

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