HTC One M9 review: Much hyped, but a disappointing update

The HTC One M9 lacks originality and although performance is excellent, its camera is well below average

4
Price when reviewed 
580

Like the HTC One M8 before it - in fact, pretty much identically to at a glance - the HTC One M9 remains a stylish phone to look at in 2016, but is it worth buying at this point in its life? Well, it has now had the upgrade to Android Marshmallow, which is a big plus, but in other areas it's beginning to lag behind a little. The camera, which was weak at the time, is now blown away by stronger contenders in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Sony Xperia Z5.

Most contracts have it around the £30 mark for 24 months, meaning it'll be January 2018 before you pay it off - at which point the M9 will look somewhat long in the tooth. It's still a good phone for now, but others have held up better in the specs, even if the M9 is still quite the looker. Here are our favourite phones right now, or read on to read what we thought of the M9 a year ago: 

HTC has struggled in recent years to top the efforts of Samsung in the Android smartphone space. But the HTC One M7 and last year’s HTC One M8 were positively received in most parts of the media, and it’s clearly aiming to capitalise on that good press with the HTC One M9.

At the same time, it doesn't want to move away from this successful formula, so despite all the hype, it perhaps shouldn't be a surprise to find that there isn’t a huge amount different about HTC’s new flagship model.

Design and appearance

Just like the M8 before it, the HTC One M9 is hewn from metal, and it’s the same size, too, with a 5in screen upfront, and a similar configuration of sensor, camera and speaker paraphernalia above and below the screen. From a distance, you might struggle to tell the two apart.

HTC hasn’t completely left the design alone, however. Although it has the same, gently curved rear panel as its predecessor, it no longer wraps smoothly around the sides of the phone. Instead, the M9 has defined edges, flattened sides and a step between those edges and the front of the phone.

HTC One M9 review side

Empirically, this represents a tiny improvement; practically, though, it does feel different in your hand. These edges give you more grip on the phone than the smoother, more slippery M8. And in another small yet significant improvement, HTC has added a scratch-resistant coating to the rear of the phone.I haven't yet had the phone for long enough to say how effective this is in the long term, but I haven't noticed any scratches or scuffs so far.

The most visible difference between last year’s M8 and the HTC One M9, however, is the range of colours in which it will be available. My test unit was the silver and gold version, with the back finished in brushed silver and the sidewalls in rose gold, but the phone will also be available with a dark gunmetal-grey rear with mirrored edges, with a gold rear and gold mirrored edges, and a rather more lurid pink.

If this all sounds a little garish, rest assured that in the flesh the HTC One M9 actually looks rather tasty. The one thing I don’t like about the way it looks – and didn’t like about the M8, in fact – is the black plastic insert on the top edge, which hides the phone’s infrared transmitter.

HTC One M9 - top edge, from an angle

Around the rest of the edges, you’ll find SIM and microSD drawers on either side at the top, the power and volume buttons on the right, and the headphone and micro-USB sockets on the bottom, right next to one another. The headphone socket placement is a little odd, and the buttons sit rather too flush to the edge of the chassis for my liking, but otherwise the HTC One M9 is a well-designed handset.

HTC One M9 specifications

Samsung Galaxy S6 specifications

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge specifications

ProcessorOctacore (quad 2GHz and quad 1.5GHz), Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoCOctacore (quad 2.1GHz and quad 1.5GHz), Samsung Exynos SoCOctacore (quad 2.1GHz and quad 1.5GHz), Samsung Exynos SoC
RAM3GB3GB LPDDR43GB LPDDR4
Screen size5in5.1in5.1in
Screen resolution1,080 x 1,920, 441ppi (Gorilla Glass 4)1,440 x 2560, 576ppi (Gorilla Glass 4)1,440 x 2560, 576ppi (Gorilla Glass 4)
Screen typeSuper LCD3 (IPS)Super AMOLEDSuper AMOLED
Front camera4MP5MP5MP
Rear camera20.7MP (f/2.2)16MP (f/1.9, phase detect autofocus, OIS)16MP (f/1.9, phase detect autofocus, OIS)
FlashDual LEDDual LEDDual LED
GPSYesYesYes
CompassYesYesYes
Storage32GB64/128GB (UFS 2 flash)32/64/128GB (UFS 2 flash)
Memory card slot (supplied)MicroSDNoNo
Wi-Fi802.11ac802.11ac (2x2 MIMO)802.11ac (2x2 MIMO)
BluetoothBluetooth 4.1, A2DP, apt-XBluetooth 4.1 LE, A2DP, apt-X, ANT+Bluetooth 4.1 LE, A2DP, apt-X, ANT+
NFCYesYesYes
Wireless data4G4G, Cat6 (300Mbits/sec download, 50Mbits/sec upload)4G, Cat6 (300Mbits/sec download, 50Mbits/sec upload)
Size (WDH)70 x 9.6 x 145mm71 x 6.8 x 143mm70 x 7 x 142mm
Weight157g138g132g
Operating systemAndroid 5 Lollipop with Sense 7Android 5 Lollipop
Battery size2,840mAh2,550mAh2,600mAh

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