HTC One M9 Review
Interface and Functionality
HTC Sense 7.0 is evolutionary, one that adds a whole new dimension to customization.
Fact, HTC’s Sense UI has always been at the cusp of meticulous design – similar to same level of dedication seen in the actual design of its phones. With the HTC One M9, we’re given the latest installment in the long standing customized Android experience; HTC Sense 7.0. This isn’t necessarily a revolutionary departure, but more evolutionary than anything else. Considering that HTC Sense has always been one of the more favorable customized Android experiences, we’re glad to see that they’ve continued on forward with the same mentality and approach for Sense 7.0.
Superficially, there are subtle changes that differentiate Sense 7.0 visually from Sense 6.0 – albeit, they’re sometimes hard to realize until we look at them closer. Generally speaking, Sense 7.0’s approach is more streamlined than ever before, made evident for example by how the traditional clock/weather widget is now italicized. What’s most remarkable, however, is the unprecedented level of personalization that HTC Sense 7.0 brings to the table. In fact, nearly every aspect of the UI is customizable – from the theme colors, down to the look of the icons in the apps panel, and even the Android on-screen buttons.
There’s actually a centralized Themes Store where various themes can be downloaded to the phone, which naturally changes up the visuals of the interface. From simplistic to artistic, and plain out whacky ones, there’s a healthy selection to choose from the onset – plus, these downloadable themes will also modify notification tones as well. Now, if you’re not satisfied with the available selection, you can even go to the gallery, select a photo, and create a customized theme based on it. The M9 will actually analyze the image and generate a personalized theme, one that complements the color pattern of your desired image. It’s cool and different, but more importantly, it’s an expressive motion that we don’t tend to see too often.
Beyond that, this is the HTC Sense experience we all know and love – one that includes BlinkFeed in the left most homescreen pane. For the most part, it’s there to populate our social networking accounts, but it’s there more for the convenience factor, rather than having to open apps separately. And there’s also all the various Motion Launch gestures from before, which allow us do things such as turning on the screen by double tapping on it, unlock the phone by doing a swipe up when it’s off, and even launching the camera by picking up the phone, placing it into landscape, and pressing down on the volume key.
Of course, having Android 5.0.2 Lollipop right from the start is a treat, seeing that most of the new features are present here – like the ability to pin apps and okay Google initialization. Taking particular attention to the notifications panel, the connectivity options are accessible by a quick swipe, which presents us access to useful things like the flashlight. Sadly, though, Lollipop’s multi-user support has been omitted.
Another new entrant to the Sense experience is the HTC Sense Home widget, which by default, is placed on the homescreen after the initial setup process. It’s a valuable tool if you’re the kind of person that relishes on organization, since the widget intelligently arranges apps according to your usage and location. Broken down to three specific options, home, work, and out, we really like how it reacts to our usage. When at work, apps such as the calendar and mail are presented to us – while Google Maps is logically given when we’re “out.” There’s a “Suggestions” folder in there, but unlike the other icons in the widget, it’s not something we can unpin.
At the core of it all, HTC Sense 7.0 has the style, personalization, and straightforward operation we want in any smartphone experience. Redundant features are nowhere in sight, so it’s comforting to know that it’s an experience without complication. Throw in the higher level of customization thanks to the availability of themes, as well as a smart HTC Sense Home widget, Sense 7.0 is on the right path of being a worthy, evolutionary experience.
Very little has changed here, as Sense 7.0 doesn’t really do much to the phonebook’s operation and layout. Regardless of that, we have complete control in what contacts, and from what accounts, we want to be displayed in the phonebook. Naturally, it intelligently links contacts from multiple accounts, so there’s little disorganization that comes from multiple contacts for the same person.
Likewise, Sense 7.0’s various organizer apps don’t a whole lot functionally and visually. In fact, the calculator, calendar, and clocks apps of Sense 7.0 are almost exact facsimiles to what we’ve seen in Sense 6.0 already – though, the color accents of each app will change accordingly to the theme we select for the UI. One particular change we notice is found with the calculator app, which now has an overlaid advanced functions section that can be accessed by merely swiping the pane to the left.
With the HTC Sense Home widget, it intelligently dishes up pertinent apps like Mail and Scribble, which are undoubtedly useful when we’re in work mode. On the productivity side, Polaris Office 5 is preloaded out of the box, giving us alternatives for word processing, spreadsheet, and slideshows.
Lollipop’s arrival seemingly eliminated the need for a separate “email” app, especially now that Gmail can now be used for other email accounts. Nevertheless, HTC decided to give folks choice in what to use, as a separate “Mail” app is available with the M9. It’s functional, of course, but Gmail seems to present us with a more uniform experience – so it’s arguably best to stick with it.
Typing things up with the Sense keyboard is not bad of an experience, more so when the ample sized screen is enough for our fingers to happily type away. Actually, not much has changed with the keyboard’s operation and layout, but in supplementing Sense 7.0’s new approach of being customizable, we can opt to employ a trace-like operation – as well as the option to change the color. Overall, it’s an effective keyboard that gets the job done.
Processor and Memory
Slowdown? There’s no such thing with this phone!
A rarity for sure, Qualcomm’s latest silicon makes its appearance in HTC’s flagship phone. It’s logical, not surprisingly, which makes the M9 live up to its status of being a flagship thing. Ticking under the hood, the M9 is rocketed by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, accompanied with a roomy 3GB of RAM and the Adreno 430 GPU.
As you may know, this is a 64-bit octa-core monster with four Cortex-A57 cores operating at speeds of up to 2.1GHz, and four Cortex-53 tuned to 1.5GHz. Benchmark scores are off the charts, gaining high marks in several areas, which are quite expected for this piece of silicon. In our time using the M9, it performs effortlessly with an assortment of operations – both simple and complex. Apps open instantly, transition effects happen fluidly, and today’s most demanding 3D games run flawlessly. With the latter, however, we do notice at times that the phone tends to run hot during prolonged usage.
Initially, the M9 was announced to offer 32GB of internal storage, but since then, a 64GB variant has been announced – albeit, there’s still no confirmation if the 64GB model will be available globally. Nonetheless, the M9’s available microSD card slot is a sight for sore eyes, ensuring that we can complement its capacity.
Internet and Connectivity
Say adios to the “Internet” app featured in many HTC smartphones past, replaced solely by Google’s own Chrome browser. With Android 5.0 Lollipop, of course, we’re now able to have tabs opened in separate windows – so switching between tabs can be done by using the Recent Apps menu key. If that’s not your thing, it can be reverted to the usual mode by being all placed all within the Chrome app.
Surfing the web is enjoyable, thanks in part to the phone’s screen size, resolution, and speedy navigational performance. Pages load up in no time at all, while kinetic scrolling and pinch zooming are accompanied with good response. Seriously, we can’t complain about the experience here.
HTC’s latest effort has a wider band support for LTE than its predecessor; a total of 10 to be exact. All of the usual connectivity suspects are in tow with this one, so that includes things like aGPS with Glonass, Bluetooth 4.1, dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, NFC, and MHL.