HTC Butterfly 2 hands-on preview

It’s called the Butterfly but HTC’s latest Android smartphone stings like a bee with its impressive hardware

It isn’t the One. Nor is it the fabled smartwatch. Heck, with a name like HTC Butterfly 2, this Android smartphone from the Taiwanese maker might seem trivial to you. After all, it’s not exactly new, since it’s modelled after the HTC J Butterfly, a device that has been in the Japanese market for a few months now.

But considering that it’s not an extension of the One or Desire family, the Butterfly 2 is not shackled by the limitations of inexpensive hardware, nor the design mantra of its One series. On its own, it’s a flagship smartphone that should catch your attention just as much as any other eagerly anticipated device does.

Still, if you need some convincing to set your eyes on the latest HTC device, we’ll offer a few more reasons.

READ MORE: HTC One (M8) review

DESIGN: LOTS OF THOUGHT WENT INTO IT

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We were relatively surprised with the HTC Butterfly 2. Why? Because it’s curved on both sides of the smartphone so it sits smugly in the palm of your hand. HTC mentioned that the unit was crafted in “high-quality plastic to fit in with needs of Japan” and since some of the other countries in Asia, including ours, is very similar to Japan, HTC claims it’s going to appeal to our users too.

We managed to get our hands on the white matt anti-stain finish unit (there's also the glossy dark blue and red units), and its matt backing was very comfortable to handle. So good, you won’t have to worry about smudgy fingerprints or a slipping smartphone if you’ve got sweaty palms.

Since the white version we got has an anti-stain finish, we doodled the back of the unit with a pencil just for the heck of it (not really, it’s all in the name of verifying HTC’s claim). If you thought “that’s surely going to leave a mark”, so did we. But when we erased it off, we were surprised that there was no discolouring on the phone.

And it’s also very comfortable to grasp – the screen size is a perfect balance of having to view content on it, as well as for one-handed use. Its 151g weight doesn’t make it feel like a brick weighing down your fingers too (perfect size for those with small hands).

SCREEN: IT DOESN’T DISAPPOINT

Given our short time, we think the 5in1080p display will live up to your expectations. Icons, movies, and pictures look crisp and sharp, and the colours on it were vivid. Not to the point of over saturation under natural light, unlike some of those you see on AMOLED displays.

Hands-on with the feature-packed HTC Butterfly 2

It’s pixel packed, and our initial response is that we can’t really pick out a reason why the handset would falter in terms of viewing angles and sharpness for its 5in screen size. Viewing text on the 5in screen is a treat for the eyes. They were crisp and easy to read and we had no issues with the scrolling of it. Even when we zoomed into text, they remained as sharp without getting pixelated.

Some might balk at the lack of a 2K screen. But honestly, this isn’t an exact deal-breaker, since there’s no abundance (yet) of ultra high quality movies or pictures, save those that you take with your 4K-capable cameras.

CAMERA: THE BEST OF TWO WORLDS

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While this is an early, non-production unit, the world’s first 13MP snapper with a dual-sensor setup takes pretty decent pictures under normal lighted conditions. However, in darker settings, the images turn out slightly colour washed and dim.

But it’s got plenty of editing features to redeem itself, in addition to enhancing pictures with filters for Instagram loving shutterbugs. For one, there’s the Dimensions Plus filter that creates a unique 3D effect. The dual-lens camera captures images beyond its peripheral vision. Tilt the phone to the left or right, and you can actually see beyond the sides of what you thought you captured.

Its UFocus feature further augments it. When you have a picture with a foreground and a background, other smartphones might get confused on which to focus on. With uFocus, you can pick which you want a focus on, while the rest of the image will be blurred. In other words, you can pass off as a professional photographer when you create those awesome bokeh effects.

More after the break...

FEATURES: HARDIER THAN YOUR AVERAGE ANDROID

Remember how we told you that it’s dust- and water-proof? So we thought, why not submerge it into a tub of water. Stop all that gasping, no smartphone was damaged in the making of this story. It was remarkable to see that the unit stood strong even after taking a dip.

Although, you shouldn’t presume that you can use the smartphone under water. Its functions (deliberately) disable once it hits water (we left the backlight of the screen on to show you it’s still working) but you’ll be able to do your usual swiping as soon as you take it out.

Our favourite? Its ports aren’t squirrelled behind external protective flaps, which make our lives easier for charging purposes. Instead, its insides have short circuit protection to allow this feature.  

And it’s worth taking note that mud doesn’t constitute as being water-proof so if you’re intending on taking it with you through tough mudder or something along the likes of it, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

POWER: COOL CAT

Upon initial use, the transitions between the apps were smooth, and we didn’t experience any apps crashing. Videos played smoothly with no problems and the fact that FDD-LTE is included in it is a huge plus.

Power and browsing

According to HTC, the Butterfly 2 is also made to be one of the coolest devices in the market – so you’ll not experience nay overheating or scorching hot smartphone chassis. We’ll put that claim to the test and see if it’ll get us hot and bothered during our full review.

As for battery life, what’s better than a power saving mode you ask? An extreme power saving mode, and that’s what HTC has in store for the Butterfly 2. We have yet to do a thorough test on the battery life for this model, but going by what HTC says, the 2700mAh battery should have a stand-by time of up to 643 hours on 3G.

SOFTWARE: MAKES SENSE TO HAVE A KITKAT

If you’ve had a play or use of the One (M8) or the One (E8), you will have a rough gauge of what you can expect from the Butterfly 2 in terms of software and OS. Android 4.4.2 KitKat with HTC Sense 6 is what you’ll find on the HTC Butterfly 2. So there’s going to be the same software features you’ll find on the HTC One (M8) and the recently launched HTC One (E8).

What HTC claims will be a huge attracting factor is its Zoe app and Motion Launch gestures. The former is now available on Google Play Store, but if you’re a sucker for those knock-to-wake-your-phone gestures, then it’ll have to be this or the HTC One smartphones.

Of course, its signature news aggregator BlinkFeed is still there. Be it social networks or news feed, there’s no lack of things to read on this magazine-like widget.

READ MORE: Android 4.4 KitKat review

HTC BUTTERFLY 2 INITIAL VERDICT

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The 5in HTC Butterfly 2, while lacking the design DNA of its metallic One series, is still a phone you won’t want to let go of. Regardless of the fact that it’s not made from any fancy material, it's a pleasure to hold and you won’t even realise it’s there in your palm because it sits on it very well.

We don’t have any complaints about its camera, besides the fact that it could take better light under darker conditions. But otherwise, its camera features are one that HTC should implement on its future phones. And its full-HD screen makes entertainment all that more better, especially since coupled with HTC’s dual speakers on the top and bottom of the smartphone, it makes the Butterfly 2 a content viewing monster.   

Once we get our hands on the final production unit of the HTC Butterfly 2 in the coming days, we’ll spend an obscene amount of time with it. Oh, and a review too, so keep your eyes peeled for it.

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HTC Butterfly 2 hands-on

Hands-on with the feature-packed HTC Butterfly 2
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