The HTC One M9 has been launched with little fanfare into the South African Market. It will be available from the networks from the end of May. The new HTC One M9 is a beautiful device both physically and in actual use. Should this be your Android device for 2015? And how does it compare to all the other top end phones on the market. Steven Ambrose spends some time with the HTC One M9 and reveals all.

HTC have long been masters of design and construction. I have owned and used almost all of their top end devices for the past few years and uniformly have been delighted by the construction quality, fit finish, and ease of use in normal day to day life.

The HTC One M9 does not disappoint in this regard and takes the HTC legacy to the next level. The HTC One M9 is a lovely, easy to use flagship device. The main challenge is that on the face of it not much has changed visually from the M8, which was launched late last year.

The new M9 is distinct from its predecessors when viewed side by side but the overall design changes are incremental and fairly small. A new finish is used which makes the M9 less slippery and the front panel looks more like the M7 than the M8. What HTC have done is tighten up the overall finish and it shows. The HTC One M9 is the cleanest, best finished, and most polished HTC to date.


The Hardware
HTC have brought the One M9 right up to date with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. This is the latest from Qualcomm and features 8 cores and a new Video processor. Couple that horse power with 3 Gigs of the latest DDR4 Ram, and you have a device that is right at the forefront of performance.

In real terms it means that there is no lag, no stutter, and no matter what games you run, or how many apps you have open the M9 just flies. Speed is something you get used to fairly quickly but the M9 always felt fast and fluid.

The screen is still a 5” 1080p HD screen like its predecessor. The latest Gorilla Glass 4 is used which gives a sooth silky feel and it is super responsive. Some of the HTC One M9 competitors are upping the resolution ante with far higher native resolutions, however the HTC screen quality is first rate with accurate colours, great brightness, and a clean sharpness that is hard to beat. Viewing the screen in all light including full sunlight was a pleasure.

HTC finally gave in and moved its much critsised Ultapixel camera to the front of the M9 and replaced it with a more conventional high resolution 20 Megapixel camera for the rear. The Ultapixel camera used in the M8 was not bad, but compared to the competition was not good enough, the new camera setup is now competitive with the competition.

I found the camera fast and easy to use offering high resolution and good low light performance. The Apple iPhone 6 camera was more consistent and the new Samsung Galaxy S6 camera could take better more balanced pictures on occasion. On balance the camera set up is a good compromise, and should please any owner with its versatility and quality.

The solid aluminium body is also very well crafted with little jewellery style cues such as the gold polished sides, on this review unit, that look premium and feel expensive. The HTC One M9 is heavier and more solid feeling than the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S6. In this fast moving mobile world I personally prefer the slim slick feel of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the organic completeness of the Apple iPhone 6. The HTC has too many edges and contrasting surfaces.


The Software
The HTC One runs the latest version of Android called Lollipop v5. This is by far the best, smoothest, and most integrated version of Android yet. Added to this is HTC’s deep history of skinning first Windows CE and now Android and you have the easiest most complete skin on android yet. HTC Sense moves to version 7 which feels light and complete and takes very little time to learn to use. The power and glory of user customisation that defines Android over iOS is all there, just balanced with immediate usability that is pleasing and complete.

HTC Sense 7 is my favourite Android implementation. From the start the HTC One M9 is simple to set up easy to use and never fails to please. Power users can customise to their hearts content, the rest who just want to use the various options on the device will have no trouble doing so. This makes the HTC One far simpler and more satisfying to use than the Samsung Galaxy S6. Samsung have taken huge strides in simplifying Touch Wizz and for the most part they have succeeded, however Sense 7 is far more integrated and mature, and it shows in the user experience.

HTC One M9

HTC have refined their vision of the ultimate mobile device with the HTC One M9. The mobile industry is super competitive and people continue to love new shiny things. Being mature and refined in an industry as fluid as this does not always work. In every respect the HTC One M9 is a cutting edge device, the build, technical components, and the user interface, that HTC have blended into a seamless experience, is something that is rare for Android. The more you use the HTC the more it pleases, unlike many other Android based devices, no matter how well they are made.

HTC have polished as many burrs off the One M9 as they can, within the context of Android. Is this the best Android phone available right now? That is hard to say. Android devices in 2015 from Sony to Samsung to HTC, LG, and Huawei, have hit a level of design, software maturity, and function that is essentially excellent. The choice of device is almost down to your personal taste, and your pocket.

Do I like the HTC One M9, the answer is a resounding yes, is it the best Android device, that is more complicated. In some ways it sets the standard, in others it falls slightly short, especially in camera ability with the LG G4 and Samsung S6 leading the Android pack. Overall it’s a great device and deserves to be on your shortlist. Try it and see if it talks to you, then if you go the HTC way you are not going to go wrong.

Steven Ambrose