HTC One M9, Hands-On At MWC 2015

After months of rumors, speculations and leaks, HTC finally showed off its latest flagship handset, the One M9, at Mobile World Congress 2015. The M9 doesn't stray very far from the design of last year's M8, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. While some may argue that it is an iterative and unimaginative update, the M8 was widely considered to be one of the best Android smartphones ever made, so why mess with a good thing? Thankfully, HTC did address one of the M8's major failings by upgrading the camera on the M9 to something substantially better (at least on paper, as we haven't had a chance to test it out yet).

We were able to go hands-on with the One M9 at MWC, and you can read our impressions and watch a video of it below.

Hardware Specifications:

Products HTC One M9 HTC One M8 Samsung Galaxy S 6
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 Samsung Exynos 7420 (assumed)
CPU Core 4x ARM Cortex-A57 @ 2.0 GHz + 4x ARM Cortex-A53 @ 1.5 GHz (big.LITTLE) 4x Krait 400 @ 2.36 GHz 4x ARM Cortex-A57 @ 2.1 GHz + 4x ARM Cortex-A53 @ 1.5 GHz (big.LITTLE)
GPU Core Adreno 430 Adreno 330 ARM Mali-T760 (assumed)
Memory 3 GB LPDDR4 2 GB LPDDR4 3 GB LPDDR4
Display 5.0-inch Super LCD3 @ 1920x1080 (441 PPI) 5.0-inch Super LCD3 @ 1920x1080 (441 PPI) 5.1-inch SAMOLED @ 2560x1440 (577 PPI)
Storage 32 GB with microSD slot
16 GB, 32 GB with microSD slot 32 GB, 64 GB, 128 GB
Battery 2,840 mAh (Non-Removable) 2,600 mAh (Non-Removable) 2,550 mAh (Non-Removable)
Cameras Front: HTC UltraPixel (4 MP) f/2.0, 26.8 mm lens

Rear: 20.7 MP f/2.2, 27.8 mm lens
Front: 5 MP f/2.0
  Rear: HTC UltraPixel (4 MP) f/2.0, 28 mm lens, Duo Camera
Front: 5 MP f/1.9, automatic HDR

Rear: 16 MP f/1.9, OIS, automatic HDR, object tracking autofocus, LED flash
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.1 LE, NFC, IrLED, 4G LTE (Cat 6), microUSB 2.0, HDMI MHL 3.0, HTC Connect Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.1 LE, NFC, IrLED, 4G LTE (Cat 4), microUSB 2.0, HDMI MHL, Miracast Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2x2 MIMO, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.1 LE, NFC, IrLED, 4G LTE (Cat 6), microUSB 2.0
Software Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with Sense 7 Android 5.0.1 Lollipop with Sense 6.5 Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with TouchWiz UI
Size 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6 mm,
157g
146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4 mm, 160 g 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm, 138 g

Looking at the hardware specifications above, you can see that other than the SoC and camera, there is not much difference between the M9 and the M8. We did decide also to include the specs of the Samsung Galaxy S 6 just to give an idea of how the two top Android phones of Q2 2015 compare. Unlike last year, where the materials used by Samsung clearly differentiated the Galaxy S5 from the One M8, this time around both phones are made from premium materials. This makes the decision as to which to go with even harder, because as you can see, there is not much to differentiate them when it comes to the hardware specifications. One thing we will say is that the M9 does have one big advantage over the GS 6 – HTC wisely decided to still include a microSD slot on its latest device.

HTC announced that the M9 will come in four different colors, two of which incorporate HTC's unique "Dual-tone" finish. This combines two different shades of metal into the same unibody chassis construction. The four colors are dual-tone silver and rose gold, single-tone gunmetal grey, single-tone gold, and dual-tone gold and pink. Unfortunately, HTC only had the silver and rose gold and the gunmetal grey models on display at the show, which you can see above.

In the hands-on video below we go over the hardware of the M9 and also compare it to the M8. We also go over in detail what new software features have been added to HTC's new Sense 7 UI that runs on top of Android 5.0.2 Lollipop.

MWC 2015 HTC One M9 Hands-on

HTC One M9 Hardware Tour

The above image shows the Dual-tone finish on the side of the silver and rose gold model. The slot for the nano-SIM can be found on the left of the phone.

The power button on the M9 has been moved from the top of the phone to the middle of the right side, a similar position to where Sony's Xperia devices have theirs. The volume rockers and microSD card slot are also on the right side of the phone.

The above shows the new 20.7 MP camera. Unlike the M8's flush camera module, the camera on the M9 is raised slightly from the back, something we have recently seen on a few phones. HTC used sapphire glass for the lens cover, which should prevent it from being scratched. The M9 also has a dual-LED dual-tone flash like the M8.

Around front is the 4 MP UltraPixel camera. Its wide f/2.0 aperture and large pixel size due to its resolution will help when taking selfies in low light, and its wide-angle lens will help with those group selfies.

HTC One M9 vs. One M8

When placed side by side, from the front there is little to distinguish the M9 from the M8. However, on closer inspection you can see that the M9 is slightly shorter and narrower than the M8, making it a little easier to hold.

The screen is the same size and resolution, and the bezels are sadly still a little on the chunky side. If there is one thing we wish HTC had incorporated into the M9, it's a slightly larger display while keeping the same chassis size.

From the side, the change in button layout is clear, and also that the volume controls are now two separate buttons on the M9.

From the back, the One M9 clearly differentiates itself from its older brother with a completely different camera module. The brushed metal effect on the finish is also more apparent on the newer model.

HTC also showed off a number of accessories, including a selection of cases with clear backs to show off the M9's metallic finish and updated version of its innovative Dot View case.

In the tech industry, the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" has long been applied to Apple, which updates the designs of its handsets every two years. By contrast, most other smartphone manufacturers, including HTC, have historically made substantial design changes to its phones each time a new model comes out.

So when we and the world first saw the M9, it did come as a bit of a shock that it looks so much like the M8. In fact, I would say I was even perhaps a little disappointed at first. But after spending some time with it (albeit briefly), I now understand where HTC is coming from, and why the phrase above is applicable.

The One M8, while not perfect, was already one of the best Android phones I've ever had the pleasure of using. By addressing some of the M8's shortcomings and keeping all its strengths the same, then equipping it with the latest and most powerful mobile silicon from Qualcomm, it looks like HTC has created another winner. Once we get a chance to look at it for a longer period of time, we'll be able to confirm (or deny) if that statement is true.

The HTC One M9 will be available globally very soon, starting in mid-March. In the U.S., the One M9 will be available from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and also unlocked directly from HTC. In Canada, the M9 will be available from Bell, Rogers, SaskTel, TELUS, and Videotron in "early spring." No pricing has been announced.

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  • GreaseMonkey_62
    The HTC One M8 was definitely a nice looking phone. It's nice to see a manufacturer only making incremental updates on a good phone instead of reinventing the wheel every flipping iteration.
  • ammaross
    The One M9 will do wonderfully well partly because Samsung did superbly poorly at picking features to add or remove from the S6.
  • koga73
    I'm in the market for a new phone. My last two phones have been HTCs. The Evo 4G and the One M7. They've been great but I think I'm going to go with the S6 this time around. Besides wanting to try Samsung the specs are comparable and the S6 comes in black!! I prefer my electronics to be black which hasn't been offered as on option for the HTC One since the M7.