HTC One M9 review, rating and latest UK deals & offers
If it ain't broke, don't fix it is HTC's mantra for 2015. The HTC One M9 is an evolution rather than a revolution, but it's hard to argue with the move to simply improve one of the best smartphones ever made
Amid a huge presentation by the Taiwanese manufacturers, the HTC One M9 was announced on the 1st of March 2015 in Barcelona.
Yet as soon as you see the third incarnation of HTC's ever popular flagship Android smartphone you might be excused for wondering what all the fuss is about. Why? Well your first impression will be that it's exactly the same as the outgoing M8.
You wouldn't actually be far wrong. This has been the world's most popular smartphone for the past two years so HTC have clearly stuck with the "If it ain't broke don't fix it" theorem.
There is in fact a slight change in the design of the signature one piece aluminium casing. The brushed steel look of the rear panel remains, but the sides are now brightly polished metal. Where the M8's rear panel curved into the sides, the M9 is slightly flatter.
The flatter, squarer appearance of the chassis is completed with the square camera lens housing, which, like the iPhone 6 is slightly raised to house the optical image stabilation without increasing the depth of the smartphone. A sapphire lens glass negates any worries about it getting scratched easily.
Perhaps a little more of a surprise is what hasn't changed. The width of a touch under 70mm is just under a millimeter slimmer than the old model, but the updated design of the front panel gives the screen a wider, edge to edge appearance compared with it's predecessor.
Same old same old?
You might be a little surprised to find that it is exactly the same 5 inch Full HD screen seen on the previous model. You might have expected a slightly larger screen and/or perhaps a new Quad HD variant. Not so. HTC have obviously decided that the One already has the perfect screen both in size and resolution.
To be fair there is little reason to want to improve the fantastic Full HD Super LCD screen which at 1080 x 1920 pixels, offers a resolution of 440 pixels per inch.
So what's new?
The main upgrade is all about the cameras. The UltraPixel camera from the rear of the HTC One 8 makes it's way around to the front of the M9. This camera has a dual 4 megapixel lens which lets in more light than most 13 megapixel cameras, which means superior shots in low light.
The dual lens also enables you to take sharp close-ups such as portrait photos while also enabling the distant background to be in focus. With what is probably the best camera seen to date on the front of a phone, the new rear camera now has a 20 megapixel sensor.
This kind of negates HTC's argument in favour of the Ultrapixel camera last year when they told us that more megapixels are not always better. Apparently they have now decided that they are. At least you now get the best of both worlds.
HTC join the 20 megapixel club
20 megapixels now puts the HTC One M9 ahead of most of it's competitors. The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge both have the same 16 megapixel lens which is ahead of the LG G3's 13MP, while on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus you have to make do with 8 megapixels.
But this new camera puts them on a par with Sony's Xperia Z3 and Nokia's outstanding Lumia 930 and while the M9 produces sharper, clearer images than any HTC phone that has gone before it, Sony and Nokia both still have the edge here, the outstanding Z3 camera just edging the quality of the Lumia 930.
Large range of imaging apps
You will enjoy the huge range of apps and enhancements which accompany the camera though and HTC are making lots of noise about the Image Match feature. This allows you to group your photos in new ways, such as letting the M9 searh for all the pictures with the same face in them. You can also search for your snaps placed within all the cloud apps you use, such as Facebook, Flickr and Dropbox.
HTC Sense 7 UI
HTC's Sense user interface now reaches it's seventh version. All your favourite features are there, such as the live BlinkFeed screen where you can add the latest newsreel, football results and Twitter feeds which are updated and displayed automatically. This screen can be customised in any way you like.
A new feature in Sense 7 automatically adjusts your home screen based on your location. For example, you might see certain apps you use often at home while relaxing, such as Facebook or Twitter, and different ones at work where you might use more productivity apps.
Your phone will update itself displaying the apps you prefer to see on your home screen depending on where you are. It's a clever use of your location sensors. Another one we like is a theme making app which will design a theme for you based on the photo you take and use that theme throughout the phone.
New Android, new processor
The all new version of Android, v5.0 codenamed Lollipop is also included straight out of the box, powered by the latest, most powerful Qualcomm processor available.
The Snapdragon 810 in fact features two independent quad-core processors, one of 1.5 GHz and a further 2GHz chip. This arrangement allows the second processor to fire up only when needed which helps to save power and therefore conserve your battery.
boomSound audio with Dolby® Surround Sound
HTC's BoomSound audio management system has now been improved further. The already excellent sound system maintains it's forward facing stereo speakers, well seperated at either end of the screen, but now includes Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound.
You can channel music straight to your Wi-Fi connected home audio equipment simply by sliding upwards on the screen with three fingers simultaneously. The same DLNA feature allows you to transfer your videos to your smart TV set.
Full connectivity feature set and Quick Charge
Every possible connectivity option is standard here, with Wi-Fi on all channels, stereo Bluetooth v4.1 with apt-x compatibility, assisted GPS with access to Russia's GLONASS system, NFC and 4G LTE.
Other extras include an FM stereo radio and Quick Charge 2 charging which will charge your battery up to 60% in 30 minutes, though we are a little disappointed that wireless charging doesn't make an appearance.
Storage is one thing that will not be an issue with 32GB on board, a memory card slot which accepts cards up to 128GB, and 100GB of Cloud storage courtesy of Google Drive.
HTC's latest flagship is an evolution of it's previous model more than anything. You can argue that it is difficult to improve considerably on what was an excellent smartphone in the first place and it's difficult to argue with that point of view.
Yet on that point we were left wondering what all the hype was all about. There is nothing to fault here but nothing much new either. The camera is excellent without leaving you awestruck. There isn't a great lot more to shout about and over and above what we had last year and we perhaps expected to see more enhancements such as wireless charging, although the all-metal body is possibly the block to that.
What the HTC One M9 leaves us with is still a superb, well built and classy Android smartphone that is one of best in class, but perhaps not enough originality here to take the title of "World's Best Smartphone" for a third year running.
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