Interface and Functionality

The HTC One M9 is one of the first to ship with Android 5.0 Lollipop, and it’s also got the new Sense 7 UI that changes smartly depending on your location. The iPhone 6 Plus runs on the simple and app-rich iOS 8.

The latest Android 5.0 Lollipop has finally made its way onto non-Nexus phones, and the HTC One M9 is one of the first to run on it, while the iPhone 6 Plus runs on Apple’s latest iOS 8, known for its smoothness and ease of use.

HTC uses its latest Sense 7 custom interface on top of Android, and it remains one of the fastest Android skins out there: with zippy, to-the-point animations, HTC’s improved BlinkFeed, and a few more HTC touches.

The biggest innovation in HTC Sense 7, however, is in the plentiful customization options built right in with Themes, an easy way to easily change the appearance of Android. Each theme carries its own wallpaper, fonts, sounds, icon style and it even allows you to tweak the look of the Android navigation keys. The HTC One M9 lockscreen now integrates with services like Yelp and Foursquare to automatically offer you places for dinner, a touch that will please the gourmands.

Then, there is the new home screen: it is now a smart home panel that changes with your location, displaying one set of icons when you are at work and a different one when you are home.

It’s a bit strange that HTC has chosen not to participate in two booming areas: health and fitness, and fingerprint security. HTC Sense does not offer any built-in alternative to the iPhone’s Health app, nor does it offer a fingerprint sensor.

iOS 8, on its part, is a well-known platform that needs little introduction. It differs vastly from Android, if just for the fact that it does not have a dedicated app drawer, nor the rich customization options that Google’s platform offers. On the flipside of things, the iOS ecosystem of apps seems to be richer, and the platform is more fit for gamers, as the latest releases arrive sooner and often exclusively to iOS.

Basic functionality, things like telephony and texting, are well covered on both phones with a rich contacts and phone app, and a fairly straightforward messaging app. iOS 8 has also added support for third-party keyboards, so you can have popular keyboards like SwiftKey and Swype. The stock keyboards, however, both do an excellent job with well spaced out keys and quick response to your thumbs.

Processor and Memory

The HTC One M9 runs on the Snapdragon 810, and while it still lags behind the Apple A8’s Cyclone CPU in the important single-core performance, the HTC phone runs fast and smooth. It also beats the iPhone in GPU and gaming performance.

With Samsung’s sudden decision to use its own Exynos SoC instead of Qualcomm, the HTC One M9 remains one of the first devices around with the latest Snapdragon 810 system chip.

The Snapdragon 810 is an interesting chip: an octa-core design with four high-performance Cortex A57 cores and four battery-efficient Cortex A53s in a big.LITTLE setup, it faces the Apple A8 in the iPhone 6 Plus. The A8 is a more conservative design that does not yield to the pressure of market demands for ‘octa cores’, and remains a dual-core part.

There is more to core count at play here, though: the Cyclone CPU cores in the A8 are larger and perform admirably in the crucial single-core performance tests, while the Snapdragon 810 is still way behind in single-core performance, but boasts excellent multi-core performance. It’s hard to say what percentage of apps make full use of those eight cores in the Snapdragon 810 (likely, a limited number of intensive applications like the mobile versions of Lightroom or Photoshop), but chances are that single-core performance still has a much bigger daily significance.

In daily usage, though, what matters most is that both do a good job running Android 5 and iOS 8, respectively, smoothly and fairly lag-free.

Looking at the benchmarks, it’s easy to notice that the One M9 is currently one of the best (if not the best) phone for gaming: HTC’s conservative choice for screen resolution allows the phone to run the latest games at ridiculously high frame rates, so you not only have a phone that runs even heavier titles easily, but a device that is future proof. The new Adreno 430 GPU is blazingly fast and benchmarks show it to outpace the PowerVR GX6450 in the iPhone 6 Plus slightly, which is a great achievement.

The HTC One M9 has an advantage when it comes to the amount of internal storage in the most popular basic model: 32GB versus 16GB on the iPhone 6 Plus. The next tier moves to 64GB for both the One M9 and iPhone 6 Plus (the iPhone also has an even more expensive, 128GB model that is not available on the M9).

HTC’s flagship, however, also supports expandable storage via microSD cards of up to 128 gigs, which is an easy way to upgrade your storage capacity. The iPhone 6 Plus lacks such an option, and once you run out of storage, you’d need to transfer files to an external drive.

Sunspider Lower is better
HTC One M9 721.3
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 365.2
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen Higher is better
HTC One M9 49
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 40.9
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
HTC One M9 24
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 18.4
Basemark OS II Higher is better
HTC One M9 1413
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 1382
Geekbench 3 single-core Higher is better
HTC One M9 1209
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 1625
Geekbench 3 multi-core Higher is better
HTC One M9 3738
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 2918

Internet and Connectivity

Surfing the web is fast and stutter-free, and both phones support a wealth of 4G LTE bands.

Gone is the choice of two browsers we’ve had for years - the HTC One M9 comes with Google Chrome only and does away with the HTC-made browser. The new Google Chrome defaults to opening every tab as a separate process, so that you can switch between tabs using the multitasking key, but - luckily - there is also the option for it to work in the same way as before.

The iPhone 6 Plus, on its part, comes with mobile Safari pre-loaded, which is a very nimble browser that supports very convenient touch gestures for navigation - something that Android phones and the One M9’s default Chrome browser do not have.

Surfing the web is a fast and smooth experience on both devices: it’s hard to notice any slowdowns when scrolling around a page, or zooming in and out.

HTC has upped the ante with 4G LTE connectivity as its new One M9 features more LTE bands than earlier HTC devices: 10 of them, to be precise. The iPhone 6 Plus, however, is the true record-holder as it sports between 16 and 20 different LTE bands (models vary slightly). Unless you are among those 1% that travel the world on a daily basis what matters is that 4G LTE connectivity for your market is supported, and naturally, all U.S. carrier bands are supported by both devices.

Other standard connectivity options on both include: dual-channel Wi-Fi, aGPS with Glonass, Bluetooth 4.1, and NFC. The One M9 has the advantage of having an infra red (IR) beamer and a dedicated app that allows consumers to use the phone as a TV/AC remote, which is nice. The iPhone 6 Plus lacks such a feature.

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