For more than a year now the Windows Phone landscape has been has been littered with Nokia devices. Lumia has ruled all, and rightfully so, as the the likes of HTC and Samsung largely relegated Windows Phone to second-tier status in favor of Android.

That changes today, as HTC has unveiled a Windows Phone 8.1 version of its 2014 flagship smartphone, the HTC One M8.

This is one of those weird times in mobile in which we have a hardware platform with which we are intimately familiar. We at Android Central been using the M8 since March 2014. We know ever inch of its full-metal body. We know its strengths. We know its weaknesses. We know the ins and outs of the DuoCamera system. We know (and love) the front-facing BoomSound speakers. And we know about the excellent Dot View case.

And we at WPCentral are the best in the business when it comes to Windows Phone software. We've been there from the beginning (in the bad old days when it was to be called "Windows Phone 7 Series"), and through the latest Windows Phone 8.1 updates. We know how it'll look on the HTC One M8, and we know how it'll act.

What we bring you now is a preview of the HTC One M8 with Windows Phone 8.1, and the long-awaited return of HTC to the Windows Phone space.

The linked list

Here's the short list of HTC One M8 links you need to know:

The HTC One M8 hardware

HTC One M8 Windows

If you've seen an HTC phone in the past couple years — and that includes the likes of the HTC 8X and 8XT — then you know it's all about sleek lines and thinness. It's also now all about aluminum. And big sound. BoomSound, actually. And it's about cameras. Two of them. With UltraPixels.

The basic HTC One M8 specs comprise:

  • A 5-inch LCD display at 1080p, covered with Gorilla Glass 3.
  • A Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor.
  • Nano-SIM format.
  • 2GB of DDR2 RAM
  • The HTC UltraPixel camera is in the back, with a 4MP effective resolution. BSI sensor, 2-micron pixel size, f/2.0 aperture. Full 1080p video recording.
  • The front-facing camera is a traditional 5MP shooter, f/2.0 with BSI sensor.
  • 2,600 mAh battery, nonremovable
  • Front-facing stereo speakers

HTC One M8

To hold the HTC One M8 in your hand is to hold a large, thin, metal phone. It's a good bit taller than, say, the Nokia Lumia 1020, but smaller (and a tad thicker) than the 6-inch Lumia 1520. The brushed finish tends to be a little slippery in the hand, and the phone's height can make it a little difficult to hold onto for some. The power button is up top, with the volume rocker on the right, just below the microSD card slot. (Like the SIM card tray, you'll need a tool to remove it.)

The stereo "BoomSound" speakers on either end of the display are the sort of thing that'll keep you coming back to a phone. Simply put, nothing sounds quite like them.

The back side is where things get interesting, with a pair of cameras. One large, one small. They make up the HTC One M8 "DuoCamera" system, with the topmost lens collecting depth information that lets you do some cool post-processing effects, including refocusing and a sort of three-dimensional shift. HTC's brought most of these over from its Android version, and the camera app itself is a dead ringer for what's in Sense 6. There's a trade-off to all this, of course. While the UltraPixel system uses larger pixels to let it more light, it does so at a smaller total resolution than most other top-shelf phones. It takes a little getting used to, and you won't be zooming in on too many shots (and certainly not like you do on the high-end Lumias), and it can be a bit finicky in sunlight. In darker conditions, though, it does quite nice. We'll have to see how this Windows Phone model stands up to the likes of the Lumia, however.

The HTC One M8 Dot View Case

HTC One M8 Dot View Case

The HTC One M8 Dot View Case is one we've spent quite a lot of time with on the Android side, and it's impressed most folks who have used it. Whereas a lot of Android phone cases have used cutouts in the front cover to let you interact with the display while it's closed, the Dot View cases uses the entire front cover and a grid of semi-transparent holes. Combined with sort of 8-bit graphics on the screen, you end up with a pretty cool way of using the HTC One M8 while the cover is closed. Time, temperature, caller information, patterns — HTC's crammed a lot of good — and good-looking — information into the Dot View case.

Here's how it's looked for Android users:

The software: Windows Phone 8.1 on the HTC One M8

So we know the HTC One M8 hardware. Now let's take a look at the software.

The HTC One M8 will come with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 out of the box. Instead of Google Now you get Cortana, instead of widgets you get Live tiles. If you're familiar with Windows Phone 8.1, you won't find too many surprises with the software. You have a 5-inch 1080p display on the HTC One M8, so you will be getting a third column on your Start screen for additional Live tiles. You'll want to read our review of Windows Phone 8.1 to learn more about the ins-and-outs of the operating system.

There are still a few surprises on the software side from HTC, but they come in the form of apps. You can use the stock Windows Phone camera app if you want, or you can use the camera app from HTC. The UI and controls of this camera app are carried over from the one found on the Android version of the HTC One M8. With it you get control over ISO levels, white balance, exposure value and more. You can switch between various modes like HDR, panorama, anti-shake, landscape, portrait and more. You can also use UFocus to change the focus point of your photos after you've taken them.

HTC One M8 Camera

You'll also find BlinkFeed on the HTC One M8 for Windows. This is another app that carries over from the Android version. BlinkFeed brings news and information to your home screen with a large Live tile. Feeds can be installed, but you can customize and add your sources for a unique experience.

NFL Mobile does come pre-loaded on the HTC One M8 for Windows. This brings live streaming games to customers for free. It's also the first Windows Phone to offer Verizon Messages, a feature which allows for messages to be delivered via Wi-Fi and to multiple devices.

The HTC One M8 for Windows is shipping with the latest version of Windows Phone — Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. Which allowed HTC to work with new accessory APIs to get Cortana to work with the Dot View Case. You can swipe down to activate Cortana when the case is on the device.

The bottom line

The HTC One M8 for Windows brings choice to those who like Windows Phone, but have wanted a high-end offering outside the Lumia line. The sleek hardware meeting the smooth Windows Phone operating system is set to be a remarkable smartphone experience. We can't wait to spend more time with the HTC One M8 for Windows.