DISPATCHES: Hands on with the HTC One M9

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Despite the fact that it was announced two weeks ago in Barcelona during Mobile World Congress, for many Australian tech bloggers and journalists (us included) it was the first time we got some hands on time with the HTC One M9 – the company’s new flagship device.

To be completely honest, I was there for only one thing – the camera. HTC has been pushing UltraPixels for a couple of years, and I have been really disappointed with the quality of the images every single time. In the HTC One M9, the UltraPixel technology has been relegated to the front “selfie” camera and replaced with a 20-megapixel sensor.

I can definitely say that the HTC One M9’s camera is an improvement compared to its predecessor. However, I wasn’t that impressed with the camera. Low-light imaging remains a problem – that’s largely due to the lack of optical image stabilisation – and some of the photos I quickly took during the event have a bit of noise. I’ll get a better sense of the camera once I get a proper hands on with the review unit.

That said, I was really impressed by the front-facing “selfie” camera. The colours much more vibrant – as you can see below with this selfie taken by Stewart, Jens Garcia from Tech4Geeks, and Daniel Elias from Live Tech Australia. The added redness could be due to the lighting in that particular area, but like I said, I’ll have to get my hands on the device to get a proper comparison.

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HTC is known for their emphasis on design, and this time is no different. It looks beautiful. But that’s because it does not deviate from the metal unibody look introduced by its predecessor. I am alright with the fact that they haven’t decided to radically change the design – it’s a good look, why not keep it?

That’s not to say that they haven’t made any changes – they have moved the power button from the top to the side for “added convenience”.

Most of the changes happen under the hood. The phone now features an Snapdragon 810 “octa-core” processor, or two quad-core processors – a 2GHz quad-core processor to handle all the processing intensive tasks and a 1.5GHz processor to do everything else (and this making it more efficient in terms of battery usage). HTC’s BoomSound also gets an upgrade, with Dolby Audio Surround support.

One of HTC’s talking points is that the phone has massive amounts of storage. While it has only 32GB of onboard storage, you also can add up to 2TB of storage via a microSD card and 115GB of storage space on Google Drive.

Wait, what? 2TB on a microSD card slot – that cannot be right. And you would be correct in spotting that HTC have been playing with the truth. You can only add up to 128GB of space via a microSD card, but you will have the ability to support up to microSD cards up to 2TB in the future.

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The phone also runs Android 5.0 Lollipop, with its on HTC Sense skin. While I do like the HTC skin on Android, it would have been nice for them to try and incorporate some of Google’s beautifully crafted Material Design.

HTC is making a big deal about making it a phone about you. The new Home experience will automatically arrange applications on the home screen based if you’re at home, work or outside. They do this by tracking your application usage and where you use them. You can also customise the phone’s look with Themes – and pretty much everything can be changed, including icons and the colour palate.

The Dot View makes a return with more functionality – including birthday notifications, games and other personal customisations. They have also added more cases, including ones where there is a transparent back, so you can admire the shiny back more.

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The HTC One M9 looks like a great device. However, it falls in the same problems it predecessors also had: a beautiful smartphone but it has a big Achilles’ heel in the camera. However, these thoughts are based on having the device for a couple of minutes and during the night. I do hope when I get it longer that it would change, because I want to really like the device.

Photography by Stewart Wilson

 

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