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HTC One (M8) And One (E8) Review: A Flagship And Its Sidekick

Android KitKat And HTC Sense 6 Software Tour

Whereas last year's HTC One (M7) utilized Android 4.3 Jellybean with Sense 5 (HTC's custom interface), the M8 and E8 are both equipped with Android 4.4 KitKat and Sense 6. The updates are iterative, including a handful of tweaks, and nothing game-changing.

Android has never been as intuitive as it is now. In my opinion, it continues trailing iOS 7 and even Windows Phone 8.1 in an assessment of cohesiveness. However, it keeps getting better. Consistent white text and less fragmentation of the home screen improve useability, while the status bar and navigation buttons now hide in certain apps, easily retrievable with a finger swipe.

In addition, KitKat drops the Android messaging app in favor of Google Hangouts, which makes sense. 

Most of the optimizations are under the hood, though. Android 4.4 is now able to run on devices with just 512 MB of RAM and has better memory management capabilities. The Caller ID feature is improved, prioritizing contacts based on usage. It can also link numbers to maps. Tighter integration with cloud storage services (like Google Drive) makes important information more easily accessible. To that end, the ability to open remote files without first saving a copy locally first was much needed. There's a new counter for pedometer apps, and KitKat also features support for Google's Cloud Print feature, which allows you to send documents directly to compatible wireless printers. 

Of course, HTC differentiates its own products with the company's Sense interface, now at version 6 on HTC's One (M8) and (E8). You might notice subtle tweaks, such as a vertically-scrolling apps menu. However, Sense isn't a radical departure from "pure" Android.

Blinkfeed, a news and social media aggregator, is HTC's showcase app for Sense. You choose the type of content you want to see, and the software automatically populates the scrollable widget. This is somewhat like a robust Windows Phone 8 live Tile screen.

Exclusive to the One (M8), and not included with HTC's E8, is an IR blaster, which allows the smartphone to serve as a remote controller for televisions and set-top boxes. The Sense TV app also displays available local TV channels and operates your PVR. The functionality is convenient. As far as value-adds go, this is one of the more useful inclusions I've seen.

There's plenty more bundled software, include Zoodles' excellent Kid Mode utility for defining restrictions based on profiles, HTC's Music app for playing back locally-stored tracks, and Fitbit activity-tracking fitness software that makes use of the One's built-in pedometer.

Of course, one of Android's strengths is a colossal library of available apps. So, regardless of what comes installed on the One, you should have little trouble satisfying your mobile software needs with Google's Play store.