I have a little soft spot for the HTC One range. Last year I took the One M8 on holiday and fell in love with the Android powered smartphone. That is saying a lot coming from a die-hard iPhone user. The HTC One M8 combined everything I loved from the iPhone (design and usability) with all of the strengths that Android has to offer (customization and an open platform).
Now HTC has launched the One M9 and I was first in line at the South African launch (see my write up of the event here) to get my hands on a review unit. Needless to say I was bursting out of my shell to get stuck into this review. Has the HTC One M9 lived up to my probably over the top expectations? Read on to find out…
HTC delivered an almost perfect product last year with the HTC One M8. Its only negative was the camera which wasn’t up to its competitors’ standards. Everyone was expecting an upgrade in this department, but did HTC focus on any other areas as well? Let’s have a look at the specs comparison below:

Specifications HTC One M8 HTC One M9
Dimensions 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4 mm 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6 mm
Weight 160g 157g
Operating system Android OS, v4.4.2 (KitKat), planned upgrade to v5.0 (Lollipop) Android OS, v4.4.4 (KitKat), planned upgrade to v5.0 (Lollipop)
Display 5 inch Super LCD3 capacitive touchscreen – 1080 x 1920 pixels (~441 ppi pixel density) 5 inch Super LCD3 capacitive touchscreen – 1080 x 1920 pixels (~441 ppi pixel density)
Rear camera Dual 4 MP, 2688Ñ…1520 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash.Video: 1080p@60fps, 720p@120fps, HDR, stereo sound rec. 20.7 MP, 5376 x 3752 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash.Video: 2160p@30fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@120fps, HDR, stereo sound rec.
Front camera 5 MP, 1080p@30fps, HDR 4 MP, 1080p@30fps, HDR
Storage, internal 16/32 GB 32 GB
Storage, expandable MicroSD up to 128GB MicroSD up to 128GB
Processor Qualcomm MSM8974AB Snapdragon 801 ““ Quad-Core2.3 GHz Qualcomm MSM8994 Snapdragon 810 ““ Quad-Core 2 GHz
GPU Adreno 330 Adreno 430
Battery Non-removable Li-Ion 3200 mAh battery Non-removable Li-Ion 3100 mAh battery
Cellular data HSPA 42.2/21.1(AT&T)/5.76 Mbps, LTE Cat4 150/50 Mbps HSPA 42.2/21.1 Mbps, LTE Cat6 300/50 Mbps
NFC / Infrared Yes / Yes Yes / Yes

HTC_One_M9-013Design and Build
Never change something that isn’t broken. That saying couldn’t be more applicable to the HTC One M9. The M8 was a triumph in smartphone design and it would have been a tragedy if HTC significantly altered the award winning design. Thankfully they stuck with the gorgeous brushed steel, uni-body design. The One M9, in my opinion, is the best looking smartphone on the market today.
The two-tone finish is superb (brushed steel back and gold edge trim), the weight and balance is even better than before and the finishing touches are awesome. HTC claims the M9 is of “jewelry-grade,” with each one hand-finished by craftsmen.HTC_One_M9-009
That doesn’t mean everything is perfect. Whilst the design is stunning there are a few quirks about the button layout. HTC has moved the power button to the right hand side, which is a more common place for it, but they designed it identical to the volume buttons found a centimeter above. This led to me hitting the volume rocker instead of the power button on a constant basis. You will find the microSD slot just above the volume buttons and the nano SIM slot at the top left-hand side. The back sports the dual-tone flash and the new 20.7MP monster camera.HTC_One_M9-006
Display & Sound
As seen in the specs comparison the M9 is actually a little smaller than its predecessor, despite having the same 5-inch screen. In fact, it’s an almost identical screen to last year’s model with a 1080p SuperLCD display covered in Gorilla Glass. The screen’s 441PPI is perfectly sharp and doesn’t really offer a lot less than the QHD screens that are starting to flood the market.
These days specs don’t count for everything. Yes, if you spend 4 hours a day watching videos on your smartphone, maybe go for a 5.5 inch QHD display. But an average user will be over the moon with the HTC’s screen. Even though you might think it is the exact same screen as the M8, the M9 is slightly improved, particularly when it comes its richer colors and viewing outdoors. The only issue I have with the screen is that HTC dedicated a strip at the bottom to the smart keys (home, back etc.) and although the device hides it within most apps, it still takes away precious screen real estate.HTC_One_M9-008
BoomSound! One of my favorite hardware components on the HTC One range. The manufacturer has improved the audio by adding Dolby support to its BoomSound speakers (both with and without headphones connected) to create a virtual surround sound. The new sound setting functionality allows the user to select different sounds setups (just like you home entertainment system) like “Theater” or “Music” mode. HTC has also created its own range of ear-buds to allow you to get the best out of this optimized sound too, taking advantage of the extra power for your ears.
Performance, Call Quality and Battery
The HTC One M9 is powered by Qualcomm’s new king processor the Snapdragon 810 chipset. Paired with it the M9 has 3GB of RAM and this combo results in a very responsive and user friendly UI experience. It is not without any problems though, but I suspect it is the marriage between HTC’s Sense interface and Android Lollipop that creates the occasional (very occasional) lag problems.
The Snapdragon 810 has come under fire recently for well, being on fire. The chipset produces a large amount of heat and the metallic body of the M9 can get a little toasty when running at full tilt. I didn’t really mind it at all and seeing that winter is upon us you might even help out Eskom with your own portable heater! The call quality on the M9 is very good. Clear and accurate when using indoors, but I did find it a bit lacking in volume when using in a very noisy environment (shopping mall for example) even though the volume was turned up.
The HTC One M9 has a 2840 mAh battery that‘ll get you a day‘s use with a solid chunk left to last you into the next morning/early afternoon. That is saying something especially if you are used to the charge my phone every night habit. The M9 also has some built in power saving features with the “Power Saver” mode (keeps screen, CPU and data connections in check) and the “Extreme Power Saver” mode which radically changes the M9’s interface to squeeze the last life out of the battery.HTC_One_M9-004
Software and UI
The M9 ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop but the newest features come from the updated Sense overlay. You get your usual selection of home screens plus the BlinkFeed rolling news page, and a vertically-scrolling apps menu (almost all other Androids use horizontal scrolling). Customization is once again the name of the game and the M9  comes with a bunch of themes pre-installed. Their latest feature allows you can easily create your own theme – just choose a picture to act as the homescreen wallpaper and the HTC One M9 will automatically work out which color scheme suits the image best.
Sense Home is also a lot smarter. If it‘s lunch time, you can see Zomato reviews from nearby restaurants, and if you cycle to work, it‘ll notify you an hour before sunset to make sure you are safe on the road. That sort of thoughtfulness makes ownership a real pleasure. Sense Home will also work out where Home, Work and the more generic ‘Out’ zones are, and populate your apps accordingly, or you can set these locations yourself.HTC_M9
The M9 keeps and improves on the M8’s gestures like the double-tap to wake/sleep feature. The new Sense UI is also a master at integrating your contacts with your social profiles (Facebook & Twitter). It even looks for the best quality picture of your contacts online to display when making or receiving a call, no more pixelated displays when your mom calls.
So this is where everyone hopes to see an improvement over the M8. First off the 4MP front facing camera is a very good little snapper. The ultra-pixel technology is just tech lingo for having a larger sensor. This allows more light to enter the camera resulting in brighter images. For the average user a brighter picture is much more valuable than being able to blow it up to a 50 inch size on your flat screen TV (in other words detail).
The primary camera takes a more traditional approach than its predecessor. It has a 20.7-megapixel camera sensor with an f/2.0 lens, getting you loads of resolution but average-size sensor pixels. The camera performs really well especially when it comes to exposure metering, which is very fast if a little overexposed at times. That can be countered with the M9’s superb HDR functionality.111 IMAG0001
Low-light performance is adequate, could have been great if the device had OIS (optical stabilization) on board. Overall the camera doesn’t wow, but is a great improvement on the M8 and can really take some beautiful snaps.
To be very honest the HTC One M9 doesn’t excite me as much as the M8 did. Maybe its because I was hoping for some ground breaking innovation instead of a polishing and little improvements. To be fair to HTC though, Apple does this on a regular basis, the difference however is that users expect that from Apple and not really from HTC.
Judging the phone on its own (without looking at the M8) it is clearly an awesome device. From the design to performance and user interface, the M9 just oozes quality. HTC’s Sense overlay is probably the best UI on the market today and puts the M9 in pole position among the Android smartphones. We will have to see what Samsung has to say about that with the Galaxy S6 (review in the pipeline) and of course LG won’t be far behind. The HTC One M9 will be available in SA in the first week of June.

HTC One M9

Body / Build




Performance / Features








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