Another year, another smartphone. At the upper echelons of the market, in the rarefied realm of flagship devices, market share means very little. HTC has but a few per cent of global sales in smart devices (compared with Samsung's 30-odd per cent), but most analysts agree: last year's best phone was the HTC One.
Now there's a new One in town, the M8 (a quasi-public suffix that helps to navigate the complex world of smartphone names). We spoke to Daniel Hundt, HTC's global creative director, about the M8 and what it means for growing the company's profile.
'It's great to be working for a company that's so focused on design,' he explains. 'We're committed to creating an almost perfect product. The big challenge between M7 and M8 is how to make good better.' The first One garnered a clutch of design awards and its successor strives to build on what made it so desirable. The main response is more metal - up from 70 to 90 per cent of the case. Hundt describes the painstaking process of incorporating the phone's ten antennae into a metal case. 'It feels really solid and simpler,' he says. 'We got rid of the plastic.'
A phone designer's job is to steer a tough course between technological limitations and the sheer tactile quality of a device that never seems to leave our hands. 'It's extremely satisfying,' he says, 'because you're a designer and a user at the same time. We create products that people really rely on - we want to create phones that are an extension of who people are.' HTC's own CEO even walked around with a mock-up of the M8 in his pocket for a few months, just to ensure the 'feel' of the device was perfect.
The M8 is certainly shaping up to be a workhorse, albeit a stylish one. It comes with a five-inch screen, clever new photography tricks, a host of sensors that respond to touch and proximity, plus the latest version of HTC's Sense software, an Android addition that has a few tricks of its own. Still, the best phone you can buy? The gap is certainly closer than ever before, but the M8 is a worthy equal to the world of Galaxies and iPhones.
The next paradigm is having an army of little devices to keep track of, all of which wirelessly connect with your smartphone to 'improve the user experience'. Speakers and headsets are an obvious pairing, as is the plethora of fitness-tracking devices, but HTC has gone further with its Mini+, a phone for a phone. With phones getting ever larger, the market for peripherals is also growing fast.