HTC One M9 Review 01

The HTC One M9 is the latest flagship phone from HTC and it doesn’t divert from what has made the HTC One line stand out among other releases from Android OEMs. If the all metal Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge didn’t exist, then the HTC One would stand head and shoulders above the rest of the Android competition from a design standpoint. But even with Samsung’s recent change in design taste, the HTC One M9 is one of the, if not the best looking Android smartphone that money can buy.

As a full time iPhone user, I feel like I have a unique perspective to lend to those of you who may be interested in the M9, or those of you who just want to know how other flagship phones are doing outside of the Apple ecosystem. In this post, I’ll discuss 5 features that I love about the HTC One M9, and 5 features that aren’t so hot. Be sure to tune in to our full video review as well.

Video review

Basic Specs

CPU:

  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 810, octa core
  • 64-bit, 4 x 2.0GHz + 4 x 1.5GHz

Memory:

  • ROM: 32GB / RAM: 3GB
  • Extended memory: microSD™ up to 2TB

Display:

  • 5.0 inch, Full HD 1080p

Five things I love about the HTC One M9

Front-facing speakers

The speakers on the HTC One M9 are just amazing. The fact that they face the user is practical, and I wish more phone manufactures would do this. The iPhone 6 sounds quiet next to the HTC One’s loud stereo speakers. Because of the speaker placement, sound feels so much more immersive than any other phone I’ve used before.

Build quality

There’s no plastic here, and that’s a very good thing. The HTC One line continues to push the envelope for Android OEMs when it comes to build quality. This investment probably doesn’t do any favors to HTC’s bottom line, but you have to appreciate its dedication to excellence in this area.

The M9 feels rock solid in hand, and although it’s all metal, it doesn’t feel too heavy or difficult to hold. You don’t get the fully rounded edges like you do on the iPhone 6, but the edges on the M9 are tapered enough so that they don’t cut into your hands while gripping it tightly.

The bottom line is that the HTC One M9 has a very premium and expensive look and feel to it. Even though the design hasn’t swayed much from the previous version of the phone, it still looks fairly modern in 2015.

Highlights

This is a software feature for HTC’s Sense UI. Highlights is like Flipboard that runs on your home screen. If you Swipe right while on the first home screen page, you’ll find the Highlights section. Highlights contain news and content from a variety of popular online sources.

Notifications indicator

How would you know if you had pending Notifications on an iPhone without picking up the device? Obviously, that’s where the Apple Watch comes in, but what if you don’t own an Apple Watch? Simply put, there is no easy way to check for pending notifications on an iPhone. Sure, you can go into the accessibility settings and make the LED flash pulsate once upon the initial receipt of a notification, but that’s aimed at the hearing-impaired and it’s not exactly the same thing. The M9’s notification indicator in infinitely more subtle and less battery draining.

Expandable storage

Apple continues to gouge customers on flash storage prices, and that will probably never change. But it’s still way more likely that Apple implements fair flash storage pricing before we ever see expandable storage in one of its products. It’s hard enough to get an SD Card reader in an Apple laptop, let alone one of its tablets or phones.

HTC One M9 Review 03

I like how HTC implemented its expandable flash storage slot. It works almost as if it’s were a SIM card, which means that there’s no need to take the back cover off of the device to add a flash card. That’s a good thing, because it’s a unibody design, meaning that the rear can’t be removed anyway.

Five things I dislike about the HTC One M9

Camera

There’s not much that I have to say here that hasn’t been stated a million times already. The HTC One M9’s camera is subpar. The low light performance on this phone is extremely disappointing. Sure, it has a 20 megapixel sensor, but megapixels are only a fraction of the whole story when it comes to putting together a good shooter.

Considering that the M8 was no champ when it came to camera quality either, I feel like HTC needs to go back to the drawing board in this area. The camera is easily this phone’s most disappointing feature, and the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus blow it out of the water.

Buttons

I feel like whoever designed the buttons on the HTC One M9 probably had extremely small fingers. The buttons, which are located on the right side of the device, are so tiny and thin that they’re hard to discern without looking at the device. Granted, this design gives the phone a very svelte side profile, but the buttons are super thin, and so close together that it’s easy to mix them all up. Even the SD Card card slot looks like a button, which adds even more confusion to the experience. At least the power button has a slightly tactile feel due to its texture, but it’s not enough to easily differentiate in a hurry.

HTC One M9 Review 04

Battery Life

Shooting 4K video and watching video on the HTC One M9 is a fast battery drainer. Although it’s probably not exactly fair to compare my larger iPhone 6 Plus, which doesn’t shoot 4K video, I found the battery life on the iPhone to be better than the M9.

Bland design

Although no one can argue that the M9 lacks good build quality, the design is almost the same as the older HTC One M8. As an iPhone user, complaining about that might seem silly, seeing as we had the iPhone 4 and 4S, and the iPhone 5 and 5s, with both pairs looking virtually indistinguishable from one another.

The HTC One M9’s design is very similar to its predecessor, and that design was understated to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a good looking phone, it just doesn’t make my eyes shine with excitement.

Video quality

Subpar photo quality doesn’t necessarily mean that the video taking experience will be bad as well. Sadly, that’s not the case with the M9. First and foremost, the UHD 4K video was full of artifacts and lacked necessary detail to make the video pop.

HTC One M9 Review 06

I believe that my old Samsung Galaxy S5 shot better looking 4K video than the M9 does now. Also, the lack of OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) really hurts for a handheld video camera. Videos came out really shaky, even though I was trying my best to be as still as possible with handheld pans.

Conclusion

If you’re heavily into media—shooting video, taking photos—then the HTC One M9 just won’t cut it. It suffers heavily in this area, and I have no doubt that HTC will make this a point of emphasis on the next iteration of the One. The iPhone is still a better shooter and video taker, even though it doesn’t support 4K video. If you’re looking for an Android phone that takes amazing video, then try out the LG G4. I’ve yet to try the G4, hopefully I will sooner than later, but I’ve heard some great things about it.

If media isn’t your priority, however, then the HTC One M9 is a great phone. It’s got great build quality, and solid, if not a little understated, design. If you consume a lot of media—you watch a lot of video, movies and TV on the go, and you stream a lot of music, then the HTC One M9 is one of the best options. It has a full HD screen, and speakers that are simply second to none on a smartphone.

HTC One M9 Review 05

The HTC One M9 is worthy of being called a flagship phone. If HTC can only improve the camera quality, then it would fair much better against the flagship Android OEM phones and the iPhone

What do you think about the HTC One M9 ($560 factory unlocked)? Would you consider buying one? How do you think it stacks up to the iPhone? Sound off down below in the comments section with your thoughts and opinions.

  • Manor

    Great review! Would you recommend the Galaxy s6? I’m getting a little bit bored with the iPhone and I want to switch, please don’t hate me 🙂
    P.S by highlights, do you mean BlinkFeed?

    • iPodDroid

      Definitely recommend the S6 of the lack of SD storage or removable battery doesn’t bother you. Let me ask… What exactly are you looking for in a phone? Perhaps I can help narrow your choices.

      • Manor

        First if all, thanks for replying! If a phone has decent battery life then I have no problem with the lack of a removable battery, and I would buy a phone with 64 GB of storage which is enough for me. What I’m looking for in a phone is great design, excellent camera, good speakers, best performance, and not overly complex software.
        The last one is why I’m not sure if I should get the s6 or not. I prefer stock android over any other skin, but there aren’t any good phones running Stock Android.

      • Elias Chao

        TouchWiz on Lollilpop is way lighter that previous releases. I don’t think you’d have problems using the phone.

      • I hope so, because it was crazy overbearing on the S5.

      • Get Xperia Z3 it has :

        1- Great front speakers
        2- Waterproofing
        3- Great front and back camera
        4- Fast and responsive UI
        5- Excellent battery life

        Get Z3+ For :

        1- Slightly better display
        2- Better front camera
        3- faster proccesor
        4- Slightly better speakers

      • n0ahcruz3

        this^

      • Will be reviewing the Z3 soon. Stay tuned.

      • Yay. I got the device 2 months ago and iam In love with it and I hope you will too oh btw will u do Z3+ too or just Z3 ?

      • Hot12345

        Please do the LG G4

      •   

        i believe the z4 is out, z3 is older version now

      • babiloe

        Bad front cam comparing to cheap one oneplus

      • @sexyhamthing

        4- Fast and responsive UI:

        This is a given nowadays

      • Touchwiz on Note 4 and older is horrible that’s why I listed that

      • iPodDroid

        If you prefer stock, I would suggest the Nexus Lineup. Either the new Nexus 6 or 5 would be your best bet. Nexus 6 would probably have the design, speakers, performance down. I am not so sure about the camera yet.

      • George

        I would get the lg g4. It has the same great camera as the s6 and also amazing battery life.

      • Kenrick Fernandes

        i simply love the way the s6 edge looks. but i have heard really horrible things about the battery 🙁 sad, as i’m really into the phone. have you had a chance to play around with the phone and look @ battery life.

      • iPodDroid

        Yes I have played around with it. The design not only looked gorgeous, but it felt somewhat slippery. The battery life….. I thought was decent.

    • I have yet to try the S6, but should be trying it soon. We’re going to have all of the flagships covered in this series.

      • Sweet. This is gonna be an awesome series Jeff

      • Kenrick Fernandes

        thank you jeff for covering stuff other than iphones. this makes your site looks unbiased and stuff like this is good to get a fair overall perspective on the other devices outside the iphone world.

    • Hot12345

      I recommand you the LG G4 over the S6

      • Kenrick Fernandes

        but what about the battery

    • Ishaan Malhotra

      Nice phone, but im going with the g4 this time for the sd card. THe s6 is slight better in performance though.

    • ck125

      Also look into the g4 if you are considering switching. Seems like a solid alternative (great camera, battery life, and overall size)

    • singhay559

      I got the s6 and i love it. There’s a root thats currently out for it so hurry and get one b4 you have to wait longer. Having and open system lets you have numerous capabilities. The phone charges from 5% to full in less than an hour via fast charge if u let it sit and dont play with it. I get ave about 7 hours on a full charge cuzz im a heavy user streaming YouTube with wifi and Bluetooth on while im texting and surfing the net and reading blogs like these. Love the multitasking features.

  • James

    Why is Jeff wearing nail polish? (Just kidding) xD

  • Zac Bishop

    Please do a “from a iPhone users prospective review” for the OnePlus One

  • Chang in Charge

    Love all the new videos Jeff. Keep it up.

  • n0ahcruz3

    one of the best Android devices when it comes to build quality but.. i prefer Moto, i have a first gen Moto G and this thing is so durable has great battery life oh and it recently got a Lollipop update… not too shabby for a 199$ phone unlocked

    • I need to try the Moto G. It’s on my list.

      • Chinch07

        It’s a great phone for its price. Low internal storage and memory leaks are what hurts it. If android allowed placing all apps on an SD card it would be tremendously better.

      • mp

        Jeff, is there room on your list for a ‘windows’ phone ie: Lumia series? Interestingly, HTC made a few M8 models with windows os.

      • Maybe… I’d never rule out any device.

  • AnoNymouz

    Great review. I was going to pick this up instead of the Nexus 6. Nexus 6 is too dam big. Even though I’m not a big video and photo taker… I still want a phone that can handle these areas well.

  • Eikast

    Jeff, I was wondering if you ever got a chance to try out the Nexus 6. I think that the Nexus 6 is the best phone to own due to always receiving the latest from Google and large ROM support.

    But I’m surprised that I didn’t toy around with Android this year. Probably due to the iPhone 6 Plus being all that I needed (just waiting for another jailbreak) and that Apple Watch has me stuck to Apple for a very long time. lol

    • George

      I owned the nexus 6 and it isn’t great in battery life and camera isn’t that good. I recommend the g6 or lg g4.

  • Sketch

    Do you actually buy these phones and keep them or buy and return after reviewed?

  • Shams

    I wish Google get back into offering this phone a Google version. No bloat ware.

  • Jannomag

    The grossest thing is the headphone jack…it looks like that a worker was drunk and failed the drill hole. This is a thing, I can’t look at since the One M7…everytime I see it, it feels I’ll get nightmares in the next few nights.

  • @sexyhamthing

    Jeff does know that a notification LED has been standard for a long time on non-apple phones

    • Yep, it’s one of the reasons I liked my BlackBerry pearl.

      • knuckles1978

        If you use an app like lightflow, you can customise the colours, such as have it flash green for a WhatsApp message, blue for an email, yellow for SMS etc etc.

        Plus, the notification lights are RGB, so you can have it flash pretty much any colour you can think of.

  • Ahmed

    its (Blinkfeed) , Not ”
    Highlights”

  • babiloe

    I had one m7 dual gsm, great but not long last battery. HtC is the best android that have audio quality and power output as par iPhone. Just tried oneplus, bad audio power and bad cm12 battery drain. Just tried mi3w, awesome os miui

  • Great review. I’ve long said that if I wasn’t an iPhone user I’d probably have a HTC phone. I hope to see more similar reviews / comparisons to the iPhone in the future.

  • Amandeep Singh Nimana

    Worst hardware company

    I had bought htc desire x and wifi/host-spot problem occurred within a year. I gave it to the service centre and they changed motherboard because in case of any hardware issue they have only one option which is replacement of motherboard. And when they changed motherboard of my phone then 3 and half months later camera stopped working first and then phone get dead within one month. So this is htc (Htc Third Class). And again they asked me to replacement of motherboard (what the f**k they people) and motherboard cost is near about Rs.7500/-. Even htc dosn’t trust on their hardware more that 3 months cause whenever they change motherboard they only gives an extended warrenty of only 3 months. Shame on you guys(htc team).

    There are lot of smartphone companies are there having more features as compare with htc in less price.

  • Ryan Lui

    HTC continues to improve its iconic One design line and the One M9 is its best. HTC listened to customer feedback on the One M7 and One M8 with the M9 better in every aspect, from hardware to software.