Living with the HTC One M9: fast and furious (week 2)


The HTC One M9 might not look like an all-new device: it retains the visual style of the previous two HTC One flagships with a stylish unibody aluminum that nestles in the hand nicely with that subtle curve on the back of the phone. However, that lack of significant novelty in visual style is deceptive: the phone is new and exciting in subtle ways that I'm eager to explore. In this 4-week series, I'd be exploring the hidden avenues of the HTC One M9, as I use the phone as my daily driver.

After focusing my attention on the HTC One M9 display quality in the first week, this second week of living with the phone as a daily driver, I focus on the interface with all its little quirks. The other question that bothered  me is whether that always talked-about Android lag is present on the One M9, or whether that's just another myth that just keeps on spinning on the interwebs.

HTC Sense 7: the little things


It's often the little things that make a big difference when they start piling up. One such little convenience that HTC offers is a look at the current weather conditions right from the lockscreen, along with the time and date. This is such a no-brainer that it's hard to explain why most other Android phone makers don't offer such a feature on the lockscreen. Yes, you can use lockscreen widgets to get such a functionality, but not everybody knows how to do it, and it is just a waste of time setting up something that is useful to practically everyone. I also love the attention to detail, as you can see that HTC has used well-looking fonts and overall such small touches are tastefully well done in HTC Sense 7.0. The other convenience that we love having on the One M9 is the upwards swipe gesture to unlock phone, which works very well and feels very natural. Ah, if we could also have double tap to lock the phone, as we have on LG phones!

Once you unlock the phone, there are a few things that catch the attention: the first one is the new contextual widget that shows your most used apps depending on your location: it shows different apps at work, at home, and when you are out and about. It is an interesting touch and you can resize it to fit more apps, but for me, it was more confusing rather than helpful as just as I was used to finding an app in one place, when I returned back from work, I would instinctively tap on that space (muscle memory!), only to start another app. 

It's such a shame that Android still does not have an actually useful Quick Search function! Even though I am not using the iPhone on a regular basis, I miss sorely the instantaneous Spotlight Search that allows me to just type the name of the app and launch it right away. Android's Quick Search on HTC Sense, on the other hand, would return web searches first, and the apps only after them, but you have to scroll down and it just feels like a huge waste of time. Stock Android has this very nice interface for Quick Searches, as it shows you app results separated from search and instantly accessible, but for some weird reason HTC has decided not to adopt this neat layout.

As we've started with the rant, there are other things that feel wrong in Sense 7.0: searching contacts for instance. Most of the time, I call my favorite contacts, a list of a few people that I contact most often, but occasionally, I need to call someone I talk to less often. Naturally, the phone dialer is usually set on the Favorites tab, so I just use the search button on top to search for that contact... only to get no results. The reason is that HTC has decided that the search option in the Favorites tab only searches through your favorite contacts. This, however, makes no sense: most people would have only a few Favorite contacts, and it's only logical for the search to work across the whole list of contacts, but it doesn't - you need to switch to the contacts tab in order to perform such a search. Yes, it's nit-picking, and yes, those are tiny details, but they do matter.

On a more positive note, we love that HTC has added a Play Store icon in the app drawer. The Play Store is the one I keep on wondering where to place on my home screen - sometimes I use it a lot and I feel it deserves to be right in my home panel, but once I've downloaded all I need, I tend to not visit the Play Store at all. And since there is no actually useful Universal Search, it is those small decisions that bother me. Having it neatly in the app drawer is something I got used to quickly and that freed me from having to decide where to place it. Also, unlike the search for contacts, the app search in the app drawer is fast and very useful. Now, if only we could have the same option available from the home screen and not only the app drawer!

While using the phone daily, I have grown even more appreciative of the brilliant sound blasting from the front-facing speakers (since I'm that guy that falls in bi-weekly productivity holes when you just NEED to watch an hour or so of epic fail videos on YouTube on his phone, and sound does matter). However, the same issue that has bothered me in the original HTC One, persists here: volume is disturbingly, scaringly, distressingly loud at even the lowest settings. Sometimes the phone would ring, and it would just scare people around with the suddenly blasting out loud melody. I wish it had a volume setting that would reduce the volume to a more reasonable level at the lowest levels.

Then, the HTC One M9 has this weird issue with voice commands: the voice recognition service would start randomly just as the phone is quietly relaxing alongside on a table. It would just pick up some random table talk and decide that it's a wake-up call for it to intervene in a dinner conversation. It happened more than once, and more than twice, and that's not something that has ever happened to me on any other phone.

Speed


With all these little annoyances, though, the HTC One M9 is blazing fast. 

And yes, it does have that typical Android lag you keep on hearing about. And maybe lag is not the right word, it's rather a stutter that is there everytime when you start an app. It's a split second moment in time that is not a deal-breaker, but once you start noticing it, you cannot UN-notice it. Time freezes in that split-second moment, and I start counting the milli-seconds using some sort of a subsconscious calculator I seem to have built in. In comparison, the iPhone simply does not have such a stutter. Yes, it can lag, but its lag is different - a dropped frame here and there, but it does not have this extremely short, split-second stutter that Android on the One M9 has.

The thing is that even with this split-second stutter, HTC Sense is wicked fast. Snap, snap, snap - everything is made to start up as fast as possible. While other skins would add animations to smooth out transitions, HTC just goes for speed, and that's a great thing.

Stay tuned for our next instalment in this series, where we will talk more about the camera of the HTC One M9.

Related phones

One M9
  • Display 5.0" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 20 MP / 4 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, Octa-core, 2000 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2840 mAh(21.7h 3G talk time)

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39 Comments

1. kzat82

Posts: 27; Member since: Dec 26, 2013

Umm, there is a "Quick Search" function for launching apps built into Google Now. Shows up right below the three suggested searches. No need to scroll down. Or at least there is on my M8.

4. Victor.H

Posts: 1062; Member since: May 27, 2011

Now, there is a 'Quick Search' function on all recent Android phones, but what I argue here is that it is not actually useful nor quick for searching apps: if you have two or more than two results for apps you have to scroll down to see if your search even returned anything at all. The One M8 is not exception: I'd like to be able to go to the 'Play Newsstand' app that is installed on my M8. Here is what happens: I start by typing 'P'. Okay, one-letter searches don't work for apps at all. I type 'Pl' to QUICKLY get to the Play Newsstand. However, I get two search results: Play Music and Play Store, but not Play Newsstand. What? Makes no sense, but the app does not appear at all in the results. Only after I type 'Pla' I get to see it even appear in the results. Or wait: I don't actually see it, because it is the THIRD result, meaning that it is actually after the search results and after the first two app hits, and it is in fact hidden behind my keyboard. I have to press the back key scroll down and start it. Not quick, and rather confusing. Compare with the iPhone where just typing P would give you a full list of all the apps that start with 'P' and no irrelevant search results.

7. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

When You wrote this I just recalled how Spotlight is one of best feature in iOS. There should be something like that in Android, Google Now can only search in web, Quick Search doesn't offer even half funcionality as Spotlight does.

27. srirachacha

Posts: 23; Member since: Mar 06, 2015

I understand the instant functionality of Spotlight. But to say Google Now can only search the web is false. There's a conveniently located button that says "Search Phone" right when you start typing something.

2. DeusExCellula

Posts: 1390; Member since: Oct 05, 2014

Phonearena is based out of Philly?

5. Victor.H

Posts: 1062; Member since: May 27, 2011

We have writers in various places across the globe!

34. andynaija

Posts: 1259; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

Isn't the main office in Varna, Bulgaria?

3. Talhamid

Posts: 61; Member since: Jun 13, 2009

1) HTC One M9 (and M8 too) DOES have double tap to wake. Just enable the function in display settings - chances are its already enabled. Please amend your post to reflect that 2) I have been using M8 and now M9 for past year. I see no split second waits. In fact, these delays are present in EVERY phone, iPhone just hides it behind fancy, long 60 FPS animations which to Apple's credit, never stutter or drop a frame, giving an illusion of immediacy. Seriously, just try to open Phone or SMS apps side by side, and you will see what I mean 3) If you use the T9 search on the dialer, it returns results from ALL contacts instantaneously. The trick is to keep that tab always in the app. Not elegant, but it addresses your concern 4) Google Now search returns app results. The only difference is its not available from the lock screen, but other than that its virtually present everywhere. Overall I have found M9 to be a supremely fast device; take it out, swipe up to wake (instantly), do your thing, and then pocket it back - all takes seconds. Every system app opens instantaneously too. But again, as they say, mileage may vary! Thanks for the great piece, looking forward to further.

6. Victor.H

Posts: 1062; Member since: May 27, 2011

Yes, it does have double tap to wake, but what I'm saying is that it does not have double tap to lock the phone. Just tried it again, doesn't work, even though the setting is enabled in Motion Gestures. As to those split-second stutters, I am planning to record it all on video to illustrate this not just for the M9, but for various phones, so we don't just argue over something with no facts. Thanks for sharing your experience, though, always glad to see some intelligent and insightful comments! And yes, it's wicked fast, faster than most other phones I've used.

9. Scott93274

Posts: 6033; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Very nice. I am looking forward to your video comparison.

13. Talhamid

Posts: 61; Member since: Jun 13, 2009

That's curious,In my case double tap to sleep works only on the lockScreen but works perfectly. maybe you should check another sample to make sure. As for lag or stutter please also try M9 after disabling All system animations in developer options. You will see what some readers are referrING to about ios prioritizing Animations over user input

28. srirachacha

Posts: 23; Member since: Mar 06, 2015

Double tap to lock phone is only done on the lock screen. Kind of a flaw in my opinion, but useful if you're just checking the time/weather/notifications without plans of using the phone.

30. richybdad

Posts: 2; Member since: May 22, 2015

So it does work (from the lock screen), just not how you'd prefer it?

40. LetThereBeLight

Posts: 113; Member since: Nov 20, 2014

My problem is this Motion Gestures thing is a package and I cannot select which one I need... actually I would just need the volume button camera wake up function but I cannot use without the whole package... lame for me...

39. techloverNYC

Posts: 601; Member since: Nov 20, 2012

Im currently using the M8 and I notice the same lagg the author mentioned. Its not technically a lagg but its a split second wait when u launch apps on the phone. I think this is an Andriod problem. Somehow with all these superior specs, display, feature, etc the Iphone still runs smoother

41. Sale247

Posts: 72; Member since: May 08, 2014

I just want to write all that stuff,but you beat me! :) ;) You are tottaly allright about everything Talhamid.

8. arch_angel

Posts: 1651; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

Nice review and I agree about the spit second lag/stutter its not just an htc one problem its an android problem cause its present on my gs6 as well. and then there is my iPhone 5s that's just buttery smooth with no stutter or lag. (most of the time anyway)

17. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Thats not lag or stutter. That is just Android ignoring transition animations. The screen just draws in automatically instead of having an animation. Sometimes it draws in faster and sometimes slower but the time that the app is loaded is the same and much faster than the 5s or 6.

19. arch_angel

Posts: 1651; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

like i said its androids fault.

24. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Yeah its not really a problem. Its just a different approach. Even in web browsing. Two hard swipes and you can go from top of the page to the bottom in like half a second. With the iphone two swipes gets you closer to the middle of the page but not even near the bottom. They intentional slowed it to add more animations. The funny thing is that you can swipe from top to bottom fast on the ipad but not the iphone. Interesting.

26. arch_angel

Posts: 1651; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

yeah its all messed up. there isn't really a best os. but i am looking forward to wp 10.

18. Macready

Posts: 1821; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

It's not a problem, it's a different approach. Resources are less wasted on visial animations, more directed towards actual loading times. Which generally results shorter loading times for apps on the MTC One M9, than the iPhone 6, despite having to load more than twice the amount of pixels. The S6, Note 4 and Nexus 6 are about as fast or faster too, despite pushing almost 4 times as many pixels. And Android registers input during loading/animations, where iOS does not.

22. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

The S6 is slower when multitasking. Note is slower to open app and about as good at multitasking. Nexus 6 i did not try i will need to test it.

32. Macready

Posts: 1821; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

Not really, see here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV2X51kAVfc And that's the Note running on Kitkat, they tested it to be about a dozen seconds faster after the Lollipop update.

20. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

iPhone animations make me feel like I've taken a sleeping pill. That's why it feels smooth, b/c it moves slow, but always the same slowness.

31. UglyFrank

Posts: 2194; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

My iPad lags more than my S5. The lack of ram also means it force closes all the time. The difference between iOS and android is that android shows the delay whereas iPhone hide it. When an android app FCs they tell you but when an iOS app FCs, they don't tell you.

10. jesus_sheep

Posts: 279; Member since: Apr 18, 2015

Has your camera glass cracked due to overheating? There have been several complaints all over the internet.

21. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Sold about 20 of them myself since its came out and none came back with overheating issues. Had load of Samsung S6 and S6 edge comming back with various issues ( scratch on the screen , charging issues , no network ect )

11. RajRicardo

Posts: 495; Member since: Feb 28, 2014

Nice Jacket.

12. Macready

Posts: 1821; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

What people call lag or freeze, isn't usually either of the above, unless by freeze you only refer to the animations. That's the key difference, where Apple keeps you busy looking at the next animation, Android cares less about animations, but gives better load times for the same resolution output. Even when having to load twice the amount of pixels (see One M9 vs iPhone 6), Android generally still wins in actual load times and even some 1440P Android phones manage to beat the iPhone 6 in this regard, despite almost 4 times as many pixels.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV2X51kAVfc As an interesting side note: the preference given to visuals when loading menus or apps has a pecular side effect in iOS aswell, since finger input is ignored until the animations are over. This holds even true when animations are turned off, where you have to wait for an invisible (...) animation is finished for the same duration, before input is picked up. Android already registers input during animations. This difference in approach was much less apparant before iOS7, when animations in iOS were still rather short, but currently, it's pretty noticeable once you start working with both systems extensively.

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