This is the new HTC One, the third in a line of phones that got Android devices to adopt metal finishes and really just up their design game in general. And the HTC One M9 continues the well-designed tradition. But when you get something so right the first time around, it can be more of a curse than a blessing.
Let me be clear: The M9 seems great. If you liked the look and feel of the M8, you'll certainly dig the M9. But, it's just not amazingly better in any real way. You have the same 5-inch, 1080p LCD screen and the wonderful dual front-facing BoomSound speakers (now with Dolby Digital 5.1 virtual surround). You have a slightly faster processor, a slightly bigger battery, and an extra 1GB of RAM. Really only the camera gets a huge overhaul.
The One M9 comes with a 20 megapixel sensor with a sapphire glass lens to protect against micro scratching, which it needs because the lens does protrude from the back a bit. The 4 UltraPixel sensor, which is HTC's in house imaging hardware that was on the back of previous HTC Ones, is now on the front. The thinking is HTC's UltraPixels will be better because of its improved ability in lowlight. Also at an arm's length, you won't be needing too many pixels anyways.
But other than that, it's a pretty boring spec boost. Except! HTC changed two things about the One series' design. First, you can now get a two-tone colored HTC One with silver and gold along the rim, along with what HTC calls "gunmetal grey." Second, there's this weird lip thing.
It's hard to explain, but all around the new HTC One M9, there is a 90-degree-angled lip that juts out from the smartphone a millimeter or two. When I first saw the M9, I actually tried prying it off (like an idiot) because it kind of looked like there was a smaller smartphone in a metal case. I felt less like an idiot when the guy next to me did the exact same thing. It's different sure, and the smartphone still keeps its metal unibody, but I'm not exactly sure what this lip is supposed to be for. I mean, it still feels great to hold and is slightly lighter than the M8 (and gives the two-tone version a colored band around the screen), but I'm not so sure I'm sold on the design choice during my brief first impressions.
The new One M9 will, of course, ship with HTC's Lollipop-influenced Sense 7 UI. HTC says the big focus with its new skin was customization. HTC created an optional widget that will essentially learn your routine, using GPS to discern whether you're at work, home, or somewhere else, and immediately serve up apps you'd normally use. A lot like certain Android launchers.
You can also use themes to drastically alter the visual look of your smartphone, not just your wallpaper but also your app drawer and multitask window. Theoretically neat but in practice it just seems like more needless skinning. Blinkfeed, HTC's version of Flipboard, is now contextually aware and will push notifications and recommendations to the M9's lock screen based on your location. But overall, as smartphone makers start improving their skins, coming ever closer to the stock Android standard, HTC still seems a step behind. There's still just too much here.
The M9 is a great-looking phone with a powerful processor and a slightly more capable camera. But really the M9 is more iterative than transformative, if you couldn't bring yourself to spring for an M8, I don't think the M9 has enough to really change your mind.
Photos via Gerald Lynch/Gizmodo UK