HTC One M9+ ramps up screen resolution and scans your fingers
The HTC One M9 is still warm from the production line but already HTC has a new variant to tempt you with. Called the One M9+, this phone maintains the beautiful all-metal design of the standard M9, but makes a few key tweaks.
It’s got a larger 5.2-inch display with a much higher 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution, has a fingerprint scanner built into the front and uses a MediaTek rather than Qualcomm processor. The depth-sensing lens seen on the One M8, but not the M9, has also made a return.
HTC is evidently hoping that the boost in screen resolution and the fingerprint sensor will help keep the M9+ in line with Samsung’s Galaxy S6. If it really hopes to steal Samsung’s crown however, HTC needs to focus more on battery life and camera quality — both of which were less than impressive on the M9 and on paper don’t seem to have been addressed on the M9+ either.
HTC has so far only confirmed the phone will launch in Europe, so expect to see it in UK stores in the coming couple of months. There’s been no word so far on when (or indeed if) the M9+ will see a launch in the US and Australia, but we’ll update this article as and when we hear more. Prices haven’t been mentioned yet, but the M9 currently sells for £500 ($782, AU$1,059) SIM-free on Amazon in the UK and there’s no reason to expect the M9+ to be any cheaper.
Design and display
To accommodate that larger display, the body of the M9+ has had to expand slightly. It’s 6mm wider and 2mm taller, although it’s no fatter, so it shouldn’t be any more difficult to get into your jeans. The weight has gone from 157g to 168g, although I doubt that’s an increase you’re ever likely to notice.
The phone is still encased entirely in metal, with a one-piece construction. Like the standard M9, it’ll come in a silver brushed metal back with polished rose gold edges, and you’ll be able to pick it up in regular silver or gunmetal grey colours too. I really liked the silver and gold colour scheme on the standard M9, and adored the luxurious feel of the metal body. The M9 is certainly one of the most premium feeling Android phones around and I’m hoping that the M9+ hasn’t done anything to detract from that.
The front of the phone is home to HTC’s iconic Boomsound speakers, which sit above and below the display. Not only are these speakers physically larger than you’ll find in most phones, but their forward facing position means the sound is fired right at you, resulting in better-sounding audio all round. The M9’s speakers are easily loud enough to let me enjoy podcasts while banging around the kitchen trying to create a meal from whatever I’ve got left in the fridge. The fingerprint scanner sits in the middle of the bottom speaker, so presumably that speaker has had to be made smaller. Whether the speakers on the M9+ manage to pump out similarly big sound remains to be seen — or heard, I should say.
The display isn’t just bigger but comes with a 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution, which is a significant boost over the 1,920×1,080-pixel screen on the regular M9. While the M9 has a decent pixel density of 440 pixels per inch, the M9+ smashes that with a whopping 564 ppi. I’m expecting it therefore to look extremely crisp, although it’ll have to be bright and have good colours too for me to deem it a success.
Unlike the standard M9, the M9+ packs a fingerprint reader, which you’ll find on the front, below the screen. It actually looks rather like the home button seen on the Galaxy S6, although it’s not a button — HTC’s navigation controls are still built into the software seen on-screen. That hopefully will make it slightly easier to use than the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor we saw on HTC’s 5.9-inch One Max. I’ll be testing how accurate, responsive and comfortable HTC’s new fingerprint sensor is to use when I get the phone in for a full review.
The M9+ has had some changes on the inside, too. It’s packing an octa-core MediaTek Helio X10 processor, rather than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor found on the M9. It’s interesting that HTC has decided to switch processor suppliers completely between the two phones, although the reasons behind the move are so far unclear.
It’s still running on the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop software and you’ll find HTC’s Sense 7 interface slapped over the top. I really enjoyed Sense 7 on the M9 — it’s clean, easy to use and very responsive. Sense 7 brings a new theme generator which lets you heavily customise the look of the interface, as well as a home screen widget that dynamically displays apps based on your location. At home, for example, it might show you the TV remote app and BBC iPlayer. At work, the apps on display might include Google Drive or the calendar.
With the M9, HTC removed the duo lens camera from the M8, but it’s made a return with the M9+. The second lens is actually a depth sensor, allowing the camera to perform functions like refocussing after a shot is taken, or separating foreground objects from the background in order to apply a range of effects. I found the duo lens to be quite fun on the One M8, but it was hardly a killer feature and I didn’t miss it on the One M9.
What I would prefer to have seen on the M9 is a better quality camera. Its 20-megapixel sensor can take some acceptable shots, but it can struggle with exposure and white balance, meaning the phone didn’t match up to the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6 in camera terms. The M9+ has the same 20-megapixel camera on the back, although whether there’s been any dramatic improvement in overall quality won’t become clear until we put it through its paces. The 4-UltraPixel camera on the front is also the same as that found in the M9.
Although the battery remains the same size at 2,840mAh, HTC’s expected 3G talk time of 13 hours is a massive drop from the 21.5 hours expected on the standard M9. That’s such a worryingly big drop that I thought it may have been a mistake on the information I was given. I asked HTC to confirm and was told it was not an error on the fact sheet, but the figure will be double-checked with head office to be sure. I will update this article when I find out more.
As it stands though, that’s not a good sign. The battery life on the M9 wasn’t anything to write home about as it is, so such a big drop in talk time is not welcome. On the upside, 3G standby time has apparently jumped from 402 hours to 626 hours, so if you’re not a heavy user, you can probably still get a fair battery life. This of course will be thoroughly tested in the full review.
With a super-high definition screen and a new fingerprint sensor, the HTC One M9+ has two features that bring it more in line with its main rival, the Samsung Galaxy S6. The all-metal design looks every bit as stunning as it did on the standard One M9 too. The significantly lower battery life estimate is worrying however, and the return of the duo-camera won’t count for much if image quality hasn’t been addressed.
We’ll see exactly how this new variant stacks up against its rivals — not to mention the standard One M9 — in the full review soon.