Review: HTC One (E8) for Sprint
Editor's Note: Though the hardware is slightly different, the Android operating system and Sense 6.0 user interface function exactly the same on the E8 as they do on the M8. We've carried over portions of the following text from earlier reviews that cover the same information. Rest assured, we've re-tested each and every app to make sure they all perform as they should.
The E8 runs Android 4.4 KitKat with Sense 6.0 providing the user interface. HTC redesigned aspects of Sense earlier this year and it is the same on the E8 as it does on the M8.
The lock screen can be customized in many different ways. As always, users can choose to employ a screen lock or not. Possibilities include a pattern, PIN code, and traditional password. You can put up to four shortcuts at the bottom of the screen that can be opened directly from the lock screen. When a lock is used, only notifications and the camera can be opened from the lock screen. Everything else requires that the device be unlocked first. The lock screen can be given its own wallpaper, can be set to show notifications, can be set to include the time/weather, and can also be turned off entirely.
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The E8 includes gesture motions. These are gestures you can use to make the E8 perform certain actions even when locked. For example, pick the phone up and tap on the screen twice to turn on the clock. Tap twice again to turn it off. I like the idea behind the gesture motions, but in reality I found they hardly ever worked correctly. The problem is they make the phone hyper-sensitive to being handled. For example, at one point I took the phone out of my pocket and put it on a table. In so doing, I accidentally unlocked it and launched Blinkfeed simply due to the way my fingers brushed the screen. In the end, I had to disable this feature, as it started to drive me crazy.
There are three home screens active when you first boot the E8, one of them being BlinkFeed. You can add or subtract from the number of home screen panels whenever you so choose. I like that you can easily set the actual "Home" home screen panel (the one that appears when you press the home button.) The home screen panels can play host to apps, folders, widgets, and all the normal items that go along with any Android home screen. There's a common dock at the bottom that holds four shortcuts. Sprint did litter the home screens with a bunch of junk, so you'll need to spend a few moments cleaning up before you can customize them,
Apps can be arranged in the app drawer alphabetically, in a customized order, or by most recently used. The tool bar at the top of the page lets you search among your apps, as well as hide them, manage them, and change the size of the app grid. The default is a four by five app grid, but you can switch it to three by four if you want. Last, there's a link that will take you directly to the app section of the Google Play Store. You can't view the app menu as a list, but you can use folders and a hide/unhide tool to help manage clutter.
Using the settings menu is similar to that of other Android devices. All the wireless and network controls are bunched at the top, followed by the personalization tools, and hardware tools. Personalization tools run the norm. Users can of course select their own wallpapers, ringtones, and alerts. HTC has included several different themes, too. The themes offer different wallpapers and accent colors to go along with them. The differences are subtle, but enough that the personality of the phone feels sufficiently altered if you switch themes. If you've used any device running Android 4.0 and later, you'll feel at home using the settings tools.
The notification tray has actionable notifications, as well as a shortcut to the radio toggles. HTC doesn't put the toggles themselves directly into the notification tray, like Samsung and LG do. I don't mind the extra step to reach the toggles, as it leaves more room in the notification tray for, you know, notifications.
Last, the E8 includes Sprint iD. Sprint iD, which has been around for several years, lets users download theme packs. The packs often include wallpapers, ringtones, and apps centered on a specific theme or idea. The service functions fine on the E8, but I find the packs also include unwanted third-party apps that can clutter up the phone.
The E8 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 with four cores at 2.3GHz each and 2GB of RAM. The E8 opens apps instantly. It performed searches in a blink. Everything about the E8 feels fast. I didn't run into any performance problems of any kind while testing the E8.
BlinkFeed is a social news reader akin to Flipboard. It can be used to cull content from the owner's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, as well as sprinkle in content from just about any other site/feed you might wish. The app includes several nice colors and better scrolling.
BlinkFeed has a powerful search tool. You can search for just about anything and instantly create a feed that pulls stories, images, and video from across the internet. What's cool is you can parse the initial results to pick and choose which sources to subscribe to, or simply subscribe to them all.
Personally, I still prefer the UI and tools offered by Flipboard, but BlinkFeed is a solid substitute.
Calls and Contacts
The phone app is straightforward to use. The default view is whichever section of the app you used last. There are five tabs: call history, dial pad, favorites, contacts, groups. The tabs can be edited if you wish (you can rearrange them or substitute in several other options). In-call options run the norm, including adding a line, send to speaker/bluetooth, mute, and so on. You can also use voice commands.
The E8 supports Wi-Fi Calling, too. The app and service are a bit of a pain to setup. It forces you to enter an e-signature to accept the terms of service, which is going too far in my book. However, once enabled, Wi-Fi calling is added to the phone app itself. The app makes it clear when you're passing a phone call over the cellular network or over your local Wi-Fi network. Call quality over Wi-Fi was quite good. Calls were loud and clear.
The contact app does a great job of pulling in social networking details, and lets you sort between your various contact sources (phone, SIM card, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) with a drop-down tab. (It doesn't interact with LinkedIn data, though.) When scrolling through the full contact database, the app shows you the most recent social network status update from each contact, be it a Facebook post or Tweet. It does a great job of porting over profile images. It's a cinch to start a call or a message from the full contact list, but you can open each individual contact card to see all the person's information, as well as make edits.
Sprint has set HTC's messaging app as the default for SMS/MMS. Since Google now lets Android device owners pick which app they want to use for SMS, you can ditch the HTC app if you want and use the Google+ Hangouts or the stock app instead. Hangouts combines SMS and instant messaging conversations together in one app.
The E8 includes the Sprint Family Wall app. This app acts as a messaging board for subscribers to Sprint's Family plans. People who share an account can leave notes for all members of the group or for individuals. It can also hook into the calendar for sharing events.
Sprint also included Messaging+, a third-party messaging app that can handle SMS/MMS, as well as Facebook messages and Twitter DMs. It's a little clunky, but may consolidate most your messaging into a single app.
Neither Facebook nor Twitter is pre-installed, so you'll have to download them from the Play Store yourself.
I still don't like the HTC keyboard. I find its swipe-style auto-correct isn't nearly as accurate as Google's standard Android keyboard. I substituted the native Android keyboard for HTC's.
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