Needless to say the HTC One M9 has some pretty big boots to fill; did it succeed? We put it to the test.
One of the reveals we were most looking forward to at last month's Mobile World Congress (MWC) was the HTC One M9. Last year's HTC One (M8), in my opinion was quite simply one of the best phones I had ever used: beautifully designed, crystal clear screen and impeccable build quality. So, needless to say the HTC One M9 had some pretty big boots to fill.
Imagine my excitement then when HTC arrive into the office with what may be one of the only HTC One M9′s in Ireland. We simply had to acquire it for the weekend to play with, and those nice people in HTC were happy to oblige. So having poked, prodded and pawed HTC’s flagship for the weekend, what was our impression?
Let’s start with what’s under the skin. There’s no point in looking good if you haven't gotten the smarts to back it up. The HTC One M9 can easily spar with any of today’s smartphone heavyweights; a Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB of RAM is more than enough to cope with today’s demanding apps and mobile games, not to mention YouTube fail compilations.
The screen spec is the same as that of the M8: 5 Inch and 1080p which might leave some a little underwhelmed.
Having said that, it could be argued that the M8 screen was crisp, bright and clear, more than enough to impress and adding a whole lot more pixels that you can’t see would just be a waste of precious battery power.
As fans of Android, we like things our own way and the HTC One M9 brings with it HTC’s Sense 7 interface. This is HTC’s Android skin which basically looks to offer more of what people want from the Android OS – customisation.
This time around, HTC’s Themes app doesn’t just muck about with the colour scheme – it changes fonts, sounds, icons and even the clock. If you’re undecided, simply pick a picture for your home screen and the app will choose fonts and colours that suit the image.
Sense also adapts to your life and offers you features based on how you live. At meal times it will show you reviews from restaurants and cafés based on your location. If you like your cycling, it will drop you a reminder an hour before sunset to charge your lights – how considerate. The HTC One M9 is actually becoming more PA and buddy than phone.
Boomsound is still an integral part of the HTC One M9. It’s something that allows you to use your phone like an entertainment centre that doesn’t have to be personal. Pull out the headphones, crank it up to 11 and let everyone else hear. The HTC One M9 now comes with Dolby virtual surround sound to enhance the already great sound quality we’ve come to expect from HTC.
A slightly lesser known feature on the HTC One M9 is that it’s equipped with Harman Kardon’s Blackfire protocol – how cool does that sound? There’s your next Call of Duty title right there; Blackfire protocol. Basically what this means is that with a three finger swipe, you can send different songs to different wireless speakers from the same phone.
Looks are everything
Since the birth of the original HTC One, the M7, HTC has honed itself a reputation for outstanding build quality and design. This is no more obvious than when a rival like Apple takes a leave out of the HTC design catalogue and designs a phone that some might consider to be quite One-ish. The last HTC One, the M8, was a joy to behold. HTC at the time said that it was designed for feel. The HTC One M9 successfully retains this tactile design while also re-introducing some of the more edged design from the original HTC One.
As a result the HTC One M9 balances sharp angles at the front with a soft curve at the back with the sides polished and finished in a different colour. Something that when first experienced can be a little odd but with a little time does grow on you. HTC says that the creation of the back cover is no less than a 70-step process of bevelling, machining, coating, more bevelling and so on … It’s scratch resistant, the rear camera is protected by sapphire glass and the buttons have different textures machined onto them to help distinguish their function. How much more attention to detail could you possibly want?
It’s not a heavy phone but there’s enough presence to it to re-assure it’s user that everything is made of premium quality materials and assembled to be beautifully solid and have a fantastic in-hand feel.
Ultra cool selfies
No doubt the subject of many debates around the M8 was its Ultrapixel sensor. This uses four pixels to create each dot in the photograph. The result is smaller pictures over all but fantastic, flash-free photography even in low light conditions. Not to mention better background capture.
Oddly however, on the HTC One M9, they’ve decided to back down on the Ultrapixel bit and instead they’ve fitted it with a 20MP rear camera.
This will produce bigger photos and uses ‘exposure engine’ technology to enhance the quality of the capture in a similar way to Sony’s HDR technology. It will also shoot 4K video which means that your video captures are, for the time being, future-proof.
The Ultrapixel hasn’t been junked though. HTC have relocated this technology to the front facing camera instead. Remember the bit about it shooting great in low light conditions? Well, it turns out that this works rather well for selfies and not just because most selfies are taken in dark nightclubs or at 4am when you’ve exited the Nightlink.
Taking a selfie with a flash means you get big white shot of your face and not much else. The Ultrapixel technology means that you don’t have to use the flash and as a result your selfies won’t just look like an over illuminated collection of photographs of your face.
The HTC One M9 is a wonderful example of beautiful design. Some of its rivals may shout about more futuristic features and gimmicks but the HTC One M9 is elegant with a smart interface and fantastic build quality, or, to put it another way, quietly brilliant.
The HTC One M9 officially launched on March 31st.