|Style & Handling|
|+ Loads of power||- Average battery|
|+ Gorgeous build||- Mediocre camera|
|+ Great BoomSound speakers||- Similar to last year's M8|
Verdict: The HTC One M9 is perhaps HTC’s best smartphone yet, it’s just not much better than its last flagship.
Along with the Samsung Galaxy S6, the HTC One M9 was one of the most highly anticipated smartphones of early 2015. HTC struck gold twice, with the original One and the One M8, combining some of the best looking hardware we’ve ever seen with great specs and innovative, useful features. So hopes were high that the same would be true of the HTC One M9.
They say good things come in threes, but has that been the case for HTC? Read on to find out.
HTC describes the One M9 as “jewellery grade” and you can see why as it really is stunning to look at and hold, with an almost entirely metal case which curves gently at the back. It looks and feels high end and expertly made.
Of course the same thing could be said about the HTC One M8 and this is a very similar looking handset overall, with only two significant differences. For one thing you can get it in a two-tone colour scheme- silver and gold for example, where the back and BoomSound Speaker grills are one colour while the sides are another.
HTC has given a lot of its recent plastic handsets two-tone designs to great effect and it looks even better here, coupled with premium materials. It’s entirely optional though, with single colour versions of the handset also available.
The other change is that HTC has moved the power button. On the M8 it’s found at the top of the phone, which made it a bit awkward to press without adjusting your grip, so now it’s on the side. That makes sense as it’s now far easier to hit, but it’s also next to the volume keys…as well as being a similar size and shape, so you’re bound to regularly get them confused.
The HTC One M9 has a 5.0-inch 1080 x 1920 Super LCD3 screen with a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch. If those figures sound familiar it might mean that you spend too long looking at specs sheets, but it’s also because they’re exactly the same as the HTC One M8.
It’s hard not to be disappointed by that, as at the very minimum you expect a shiny new phone to have a better screen and more power than last year’s model, that’s just flagship design 101, but actually it might not be such a bad thing.
The HTC One M8 has a great screen, with rich, natural colours and good contrast and it might ‘only’ be 1080p but it’s still almost impeccably sharp. So why change that? And as for the size sure HTC could have added another 0.1 or 0.2 inches, but would that really make much difference? Certainly any more than that would be edging into over-large territory.
By keeping the screen as it is HTC can focus on maximising battery life and performance instead, both of which would probably take a hit with more pixels to power. As it is the battery life isn’t great anyway, but we’ll get to that.
The HTC One M9 has 3GB of RAM and a 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor with four cores clocked at 2.0GHz and four at 1.5GHz. It almost goes without saying then that it’s a very powerful phone. In fact with the possible exception of the Samsung Galaxy S6 it’s probably the most powerful smartphone on the planet.
That’s impressive, because while we expected a lot of power from HTC’s new flagship the company usually comes in a little below the competition in specs.
As well as all that power the HTC One M9 also supports Cat. 6 LTE, theoretically allowing for download speeds of up to 300Mbps, which is more than enough to get the most out of any current UK 4G network.
There’s a 20.7 megapixel camera on the back of the HTC One M9, which is quite a change for the company, given that it’s spent the last two years extolling the virtues of its 4 UltraPixel snappers.
Depending on how you felt about HTC’s older camera innovations this could be seen as a backwards step. The pixels are smaller so they let less light in and therefore aren’t as good in low light. On the other hand there are more of them, so the camera can take sharper, more detailed photos. The M9’s camera is pretty decent overall, but on a cloudy day or in a poorly lit room you’ll be wishing they’d stuck with UltraPixels.
Thankfully if you are a fan of UltraPixels you haven’t been entirely abandoned, as HTC has put a 4 UltraPixel camera on the front of the phone instead. This means its low light capabilities are leveraged for selfies instead and it works well, ensuring shots are never either too dark or too washed out by flash.
It’s hard to get too excited about the HTC One M9’s camera and gimmicky new effects like being able to meld two photos together into a mess of an image don’t really help. It’s not a bad a camera, but as high end handsets go the main snapper isn’t among the best.
Sense and BlinkFeed are present and correct, as attractive and intuitive as ever and with new features too. HTC’s Sense interface now has a ‘Sense Home’ widget which shows different apps based on where you are, learning which ones you use most in different places.
There’s also a new theme creator app, which allows you to take or choose a photo and then have it analyse the image and create a theme based on it, with colour schemes and even icon shapes that match the style of the photo. They’re both good features and entirely optional, so they’re not intrusive if you don’t want to use them.
BlinkFeed, HTC’s screen-filling feed of news and updates relevant to you, hasn’t changed much, but it does have a new option to display well-reviewed nearby eateries at meal times if you often find yourself looking for new places to eat out.
HTC has also improved BoomSound. The company’s dual front-facing speakers were already arguably the best smartphone speakers around and now they’re even better with virtual surround sound support. Coupled with BoomSound Connect, which lets you easily stream content to external speakers, the HTC One M9 is an audio-fans dream.
We had fairly high hopes for the HTC One M9’s battery. It has a 2840 mAh unit, which is bigger than the 2600 mAh one in the HTC One M8, a phone which already had pretty decent battery life.
Admittedly the One M9 is more powerful which could cause the battery to take a bigger hit, but it’s also got a more power efficient processor. Sadly though if anything its battery life seems slightly worse. If you tend to spend a lot of time online, playing games or watching videos on your phone during the day then it will likely need a charge by the time you head to bed.
Unless you’re a very heavy user you probably won’t find it runs dry mid-way through the day at least, but we really hoped the days of charging a phone battery daily were behind us and on the HTC One M9 at least they’re not.
It fares better for memory, with a reasonable 32GB built in and support for microSD cards of up to 128GB, while connectivity options are fairly generous too, as there’s support for Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and infrared.
At first glance the HTC One M9 will surely impress and it’s a great phone to show off to your friends for that reason. But when you’re charging it every day, struggling to take pictures that you’re entirely happy with and getting the niggling feeling that this is a tweaked version of a 2014 phone the shine wears off a little.
Only a little though. This is still a beautiful, powerful phone, with one of the best Android interfaces around, great speakers and a good screen. There’s a lot to love here, just not quite as much as we’d have liked.
HTC One M9 Specification
Dimensions : 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6mm Weight: 157g Screen size: 5.0” (1080 x 1920) Screen Resolution: 1080 x 1920 display resolution Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 441 Processor: 2GHz octa-core application processor RAM: 3GB On-board Memory: 32GB (microSD card support) Camera: 20.7MP (rear) 2160p@30fps, (4 UltraPixel front-facing) Operating system: Android 5.0 3G / 4G LTE: Yes/ Yes Bluetooth / NFC : Yes/ Yes Battery capacity: 2840mAh Colours: Gunmetal Grey, Amber Gold, Silver/Rose Gold, Gold/Pink Price: £579.99