When you first look at HTC's new flagship phone, the HTC One M9, that is what you think. This has been designed and executed precisely. The aesthetic chosen by HTC, remaining true to the design language of the successful M7 and M8 models of previous years, was deliberately used to maintain an immediate visual connection with the style and success of those handsets.
The changes to the design are thoughtful and cautious, improving on previous years but some would say that they are perhaps too cautious. However that is a topic for longer discussion and perhaps we will return to that in the full review.
For now, we will look at the precision of the design, the striking brushed aluminium body instantly recognisable as a member of the HTC One family, looks sturdy and yet is surprisingly light in the hand. The handset sits comfortably in the hand, weighing only 157g, with that weigh distributed evenly throughout there is never the bulk of an older phone or the sense that the phone is too light or delicate.
Feeling good in the hand is a major improvement over last year's rounded M8 design, which at once looked stunning but meant that it was too prone to slipping from one's hand when taken from your pocket or when attempting to unlock the phone.
The dual-adonised back of the M9 has a scratch resistant coating that help to avoid any unnecessary scratches or dents that may occur through average wear and tear. The sides of the phone have been retooled and are a little sharper too. Both improvements serve to help make the phone less likely to slide from your grasp at the most inopportune moments.
The left of the phone features the SIM tray, which can be opened using the included tool. The bottom of the phone features a micro-USB port, used for charging, and the headphone slot. Right is the MicroSD card tray, volume buttons and, mercifully, the power and screen unlock button has been moved here to reduce the need to stretch to the top to unlock the screen. Top of the phone houses the Infrared beamer, which mean that the handset can be used as a universal remote control.
Immediately recognisable from the front of the phone are the BoomSound speakers. Forward facing, in order to improve the experience when you are listening to music or watching a movie without headphones. This year they are improved with Dolby Digital surround for better spatial audio.
Sandwiched between these two speakers is a fantastic 5-inch Full HD display, behind toughened Corning Gorilla Glass 4 to help your phone resist day-to-day wear. There are many who may complain that HTC missed a trick by only including a Full HD screen in the HTC One M9, but from using a screen this size you would be hard pushed to tell the difference with a particularly dense 441 pixels per inch pixel density (for reference the iPhone 6 has 326 ppi).
The Ultrapixel camera has moved, this year, from the rear of the phone to serve now as the front facing camera. Although it drops from 5MP used last year, the sensors used in the 4MP Ultrapixel camera works better as a front camera and especially well in low light conditions. The decision here must have been easy for HTC, as the front facing camera is most likely to be used for selfies in less than optimal lighting conditions.
With the 4MP Ultrapixel camera removed from the back, along with the Duo Camera set up of previous year, a standard 20MP camera is nestled on the back of the handset. Protrouding slightly from the rear, the sensor is protected by sapphire cristal.
The fact that HTC have managed to buck the trend of increasing smartphone sizes and actually reduced the size of the HTC One M9 from last year's model. The handset measures only 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.61 mm, and with the Sapphire cristal protecting the rear camera, the scratch coating on the rear cover and Gorilla Glass 4 protecting the screen the HTC One M9 fits comfortably in your jeans pocket without creating any bulk or feeling weight or worry that it might accidentally get scratched.
That's what comes to mind when you see, hold and touch the HTC One M9. The
design is deliberate and confident. The look is one of a phone made by a company that knows what it wanted when it set out to design the M9.
Does that precision continue through to the user experience with the phone? Come back for our full review to find out more.