Dot View Case

Normally I don’t discuss accessories in my smartphone reviews, but HTC provided me with a Dot View case along with the HTC One M8, and it’s certainly a very cool addition to the package.

The Dot View case is a hardcover plastic shroud for the HTC One M8, complete with a flip-over rubberized cover for protecting the display. The grey unit I received is a fairly standard color, but it also comes in blue, green, red and orange so you can spice up the package if you so choose. It feels tough and well made, and is sure to protect the back from scratches and the front from glass fractures.

Personally I’m not a huge fan of smartphone cases as I rarely drop my smartphone, and most handsets – especially so with the metal HTC One – are tough and built to withstand a few knocks here and there. Cases also prevent me from enjoying the fantastic build quality and premium materials used in devices such as the One M8: with the Dot View case on, I can’t feel that ergonomic aluminium unibody anymore.

That’s not to say the Dot View case feels bad; it’s actually one of the nicer cases I’ve come across, even if it does look significantly less attractive than the exterior of the One. It also doesn’t hamper the performance of the device in any way, meaning you’ll get full use of the cameras, and the same wireless reception you’re used to with the case off.

But the coolest part of the Dot View case isn’t the build at all. In fact, it’s the small holes arranged as dot-matrix grid on the protective display flap, which give this cover additional functionality. You can double tap on the dotted cover to turn on the display, exactly like you can without the case protecting the device, and the handset springs to life to show you important information through the dots.

For example, if you have no notifications present, the display shines through the Dot View cover to provide you the time and weather in a retro-style dot-matrix fashion. If you suddenly get a call, caller ID is visible through the dots, as is a massive arrow allowing you to swipe to answer/hang up the call. It’s possible to answer calls without flipping open the Dot View case, and that’s just part of its brilliance.

It’s also possible to make calls with the Dot View case shut. Simply swipe down from the top of the cover, and the HTC One M8 will initialize the voice dialler in Dot View mode, allowing you to speak the name of the contact you wish to call. The phone works its voice recognition magic (and it’s surprisingly accurate, even with my Australian accent), dials the number and you can chat to colleagues without opening the case.

Not every notification can be displayed on the Dot View case, but important ones such as messages, calendar reminders, timers, tasks and emails will show up, provided you use the included HTC apps. It’s disappointing that it won’t notify you when you receive Gmail messages, but this could change through updates to the platform.

Ideally I’d like to see games like snake or brick breaker become available for the Dot View case. It’d be very cool to see a retro-style dot-matrix version of snake slithering over the closed and protected display cover, but alas, HTC hasn’t incorporated it just yet.

One of the interesting things about the Dot View case from a technical standpoint is that the One M8 can sense when the cover is on and when it isn’t, despite the case lacking any battery-powered components. It doesn’t rely on the proximity sensor to do this, as it’s uncovered next to the front-facing camera, nor does it use NFC (it works with the feature disabled). It’s also possible to display the Dot View mode while the phone is sitting on top of the cover, as pictured, adding to my curiosity.

While I was puzzled as to how the cover works for a few days, and HTC refused to tell me, it didn’t take long to uncover its secret. There’s a small, but powerful magnet hidden inside the HTC logo that you can see amongst the dots, and Dot View mode is enabled whenever the phone is activated and senses the presence of a strong magnetic field. You can fool it into thinking the case is attached with a common fridge magnet.