The HTC One (M8) may just be our favorite Android device ever, but there's still one glaring issue with the new smartphone: its subpar camera. HTC introduced some clever new features with the new Duo Camera, but four megapixels (or Ultrapixels as HTC calls them) just can't compete with Samsung's 16-megapixel smartphone, not to mention 20-megapixel flagship phones from Sony and Nokia. That may finally change next year, however, if HTC makes good on a promise to double the Ultrapixel count and add optical zoom to its next smartphone.
In a recent interview with Vodafone, HTC imaging specialist Symon Whitehorn discussed his plans for a future smartphone camera that could potentially blow the competition away and maybe even replace DSLR. Whitehorn notes that the company could make the jump to an 8-Ultrapixel camera next year if it wants to offer the ability to shoot 4K video. "That kind of ballpark is where we'll be very happy to be in the future, as long as we can maintain the large pixel model," he says.
Whitehorn also notes with confidence that an HTC smartphone will offer optical zoom in the near future, though it could take between 12 and 18 months to perfect the technology. He predicts that after knocking down the final barrier between high-quality cameras and smartphone shooters we could see the two product categories begin to merge, something we're already seeing with devices like Samsung's Galaxy Camera series. "Two years ago I would have said that phones will never replace DSLRs," he notes. "Now I'm not so sure."
One camera category where the HTC One (M8) does excel is its 5-megapixel front-facing camera, a clear play at the growing popularity of smartphone self portraits. "HTC wants to own the selfie market," Whitehorn says. "You'll see a lot more investment in that area. In some markets 90% of pictures taken are selfies."
If HTC makes good on Whitehorn's promise for a better camera we may be looking at the perfect smartphone when the M8's successor is announced next year. Of course by then Samsung, Sony and the rest of the industry will likely be offering even better smartphone cameras a year from now as well, but if HTC can crack the code for optical zoom it could give the company a huge advantage over the competition.