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HTC One M9 review

While some of this was probably written up by blogs in the weeks preceding the release of the HTC One M9 I think I’ve gotten a fairly good feel for the phone at a month of solid use as my primary phone.

HTC One M9 cameraFirst off, some context for the review. I’ve written somewhat extensively about the HTC One M8, M7, EVO 4G LTE, EVO 3D, EVO 4G.

I’ve written mostly about the rooting aspects of these phones but I’ve gotten to know stock Sense well.

Although I’ve got a pretty heavy HTC background, I’ve got no particular love of them over anything else, I just have been writing and rooting HTC so it’s what I’m comfortable with.

You may say HTC is garbage, I’m fine with that. that’s entirely your opinion.

The following opinions are mine after a month of using this as my only phone, camera, GPS, etc after coming from the HTC One M8.

HTC One M9 design changes

HTC One M9 power button on the sideHTC decided to move the power button to the right side of the device. This was particularly annoying in the first days when I was using a flip case because the strap was right there. I abandoned the flip case because I kept having to move the strap out of the way and then found that every time I pick the phone up I manage to press the power button.

While the new location of the power button might be ideal if I didn’t have tap-to-wake and only wanted to use one hand, the positioning of it is annoying as all getout. They did do a good job of texturing it however so if you take a second or two to feel the the buttons you can tell the difference between vol up, down, and power.

The new positioning means to take a screenshot I have to hold the phone with my left hand and then jab two fingers to press it, or I have to line my thumb up perfectly. Not a terrible inconvenience, but it’s one that if you take a lot of screenshots you’ll notice.


Coming from a four-core 32-bit system with 2GB of RAM I’d hoped the eight-core 64-bit system with 3GB would blow it out of the water. Unfortunately it doesn’t really do terribly much on most of the applications I use and it feels like the bootup time is even longer than it used to be.

Things like the keyboard pop up instantly (which is great) but what I’m assuming are issues with HTC’s Sense OS/Launcher/hooks seem to be actively mismanaging memory as small apps keep being killed off in the background for no reason I can tell.

Most notably I can be Chromecasting a YouTube video, pop over to Hangouts or browse for a second or two, and I’ll come back to YouTube to find it’s not in the right state. Disconnected. Or I’ll be in a game, pop out of it and come back into it. Sometimes it’s there. Sometimes it’s not. I think the task killer is set for a system with a gig or two of memory and on 3GB it feels like it’s suffering.

We’re also still limited by the speed of the internal SD and getting data to the processors. You can feel that eight core processor screaming “feed me data you relatively slow I/O shovel!” – or at least I pretend I can.

Phone size

HTC One M9 fits perfectFor me, perfect. This is perhaps the only phone that’s ever just sat there and purred. Your hands will of course be different sizes, but I’ve continually noted how right this phone feels by itself.

Screen presentation

I think there’s something wrong with the ambient light sensor logic. Or perhaps it’s just having issues with my combination of LED and CFL bulbs. There’re places where it’s perfect, and there’re areas where I have to move the phone so it’s picking up a different light in order to adjust the backlight appropriately.

This can be fixed by just setting a brightness and going with it.

While you can shove more pixels into the screen size that the phone has, there’re very few people who are going to notice a difference if they’re just using this as a normal device. 1080p packed into five inches is fine, even for a pixel addict like me.

If you’re going to be using some sort of magnifying glass on the phone, you might want to consider something different.

I’ve seen some complaints about the color on the display. I’m colorblind. it looks the same to me. Your perception is probably a much better representation than mine is on this.


HTC One M9 main camera viewWiFi feels like it’s struggling to keep up on the 5ghz range. I think it’s gotten worse. 2.4ghz seems fine. Something wrong or not configured correctly with Sense holding onto WiFi connections that don’t work. This can be fixed by going to developer options and turning on aggressive WiFi handoff, but you’d expect it to be enabled by default.

The cell radio I can’t really tell. Sprint’s radios there’s something up with them. I can stick on an LTE tower I passed miles away and never switch to the stronger nearby. This isn’t reflective of the phone however, my carrier just needs to get on fixing their radios.

Battery life

With great mAh comes great battery life! Not so much. Here’s the thing. You’ll get some extra umph over a smaller battery, but 2840mAh will get gobbled up exactly as fast as your last phone. The official specs say 25.4 hours talk time on 2G, 21.7 hours on 3G. You’re probably not talking, but playing some data intensive game, and there’s not a great measurement for that out there.

With more cores come more battery drain on games that use more cores.

What you’ll find when you break out Battery Monitor Widget or the like is the HTC One M9 is insanely good at battery management on some things, and meh on others.

There’re four lower speed cores that use less juice and four higher speed ones that presumably use more. I think if properly implemented and managed you could start squeezing some serious life out of these, but at the moment with the current kernel it appears to be a game of ramp up, ramp down.

Sense 7

HTC One M9 Sense 7The new version of HTC Sense offers a theme engine and the ability to move around the default Android controls or define your own. If you’re entrenched in stock, which I seem to be by default, the options are not much of a selling point.

If you want to customize your phone all to hell since you can, they’re a welcome addition to the HTC arsenal.

It’s an improvement over Sense 6.x, but it doesn’t feel like a monumental release, just an “oh, yes, that is better.” Unfortunately that’s what I start feeling about the entire device.


The compass actually seems to be somewhat decent, even if it does want to display 90% off in some apps. I’ve had a long history of bleh directional info from HTC compasses.

Ambient light display I think has problems transitioning from LED or CFL, but I think that’s software. Similarly I think the proximity sensor is a bit whack, but that also seems to be software polling intervals when you’re talking on the phone rather than the sensor itself.


Royal dog zoomI wrote about this a bit ago. As I’m colorblind I can’t tell you what the color reproduction is, but the images are great to the pixel level when you’re doing the raw (DNG) format. When you use the HTC Camera app, it compresses them into crappy pixelated meh.

There doesn’t seem to be a quality slider or control I can locate. If you’re wanting to use the HTC Camera which accesses the ImageSense chipset for fast photos, it appears you’ll suffer significant photo degradation.

Shoes zoomFor a quick comparison – I received printing quality photos from my daughter’s school 2400×3000, the come in at 3.39 megabytes. I take a picture with the HTC One M9 at 5376×3024 and the size is 3.15Mb.

Now, there are some factors such as JPEG compression, what I was actually photographing, level of compression available (an all white wall can be compressed extremely small) but take my word for it, something’s up with the compression settings on the HTC One M9. This is software fixable, but considering they’ve claimed to have fixed it and it’s still going on my guess is they need to go back and tell the app dev for the camera to put in manual JPEG compression settings.

In case you’re not particularly wowed by the size difference. The pro photos were 7mp, coming in at 3.4Mb, the One M9 photos were 16mp (yeah, 16, not 20 like the camera’s rated at) at 3.15 mp. This means the HTC One M9 is crushing 2.28 times the data into a smaller picture. No wonder things look messed up.

Even the DNG files seem to be 5384×3028 which comes out to 16,302,752 pixels (16MP on a 20MP cam). So either something is screwed up with my camera app, settings, or it’s just not delivering what the lens is capable of. 4K resolution is significantly less than that as a note so you’re not losing anything there.

The focus time is ok, but it’s not focusing with lasers nor does it have optical image stabilization so should you want those the camera is not your thing.

Front camera

It’s the Ultrapixel tech from the M8. Once again, it works great in low light, can provide beautiful images, but it’s a lower resolution so of course it must be inferior.


Each carrier will push their own bloat on you. It seems HTC doesn’t push a terrible lot of bloat these days now that their stuff’s in the market. As I had to factory reset my M9 several times I got to download the Sprint Bloat Package more than once.

Agonizing install times

I’m guessing this has something to do with Android ART Runtime (written that way to annoy the ATM machines) on 64-bit devices, but after you download an app it takes significantly longer than Christmas post-download to install an app. That’s exaggeration, but my 32-bit devices with ART don’t seem to be this slow.

Post install things are fine.

HD Voice

All carrier dependent. Mine claims they have it, it’s not in my area.

Let’s make huge files and transfer them slowly!

So I’m taking 40 megabyte photos in the DNG (raw) format. At the end of a shoot I’ve got a couple of gigs worth of amazing Llama photos and need to get them off of the phone so I can edit them and save them with reasonable JPEG compression .

We’re still limited to USB 2.0 transfers, which at a maximum theoretical speed is a picture and a half a second. In reality it’s a picture every two or three seconds, or about 1.5 minutes per gig. Phones with USB 3.0+ that would be nine seconds.

Let’s also transfer WiFi slowly

Transmitting on WiFi AC I tend to sustain about a 1MB/s upload rate. I can receive at amazing speeds, but that transmit rules out using AC. I don’t have a lot of AC routers laying about, but I can tell my phone transmits slower than my old computer.

Room for improvement (in a good sense)

You can slap a microSD in there up to 2TB. That’s incredibly useful if you want to take full uncompressed photos and lots of 4K video, but you’re still going to either have to fiddle with popping the microSD out or transferring at very slow speeds.


+2400mA on a Quick Charge 2.0The metal back means we’re not going to have built in wireless charging, which is sad. Once you start you’ll understand why it’s cool, which I guess is what they says about crack as well.

On the upside of this, you’ve got the ability to charge at extremely high rates with a Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 charger. While I don’t know if Battery Monitor Widget is reporting correctly, quite often I get charge rates listed as +2600mA

While I only have a +2466mA photo at the ready, extremely fast charge rates in comparison to the older HTC devices really do go a long way to make me not feel like this is something I have to worry about the battery all the time on.

I might get a notification once a day that I’m a bit low on battery. I slap it on the charger for 15 minutes and that’s the last time I’m going to see that message. This includes car adapters, meaning if I wasted my battery at work it’s going to be charged enough for a night of playing around on it and taking toddler photos by the time I get home.


It’s a good solid phone, only phone I think that has ever just felt perfect in my hand, I’ve got my problems with the HTC software, but hopefully they’ll get that fixed soon enough.

It doesn’t feel like it’s the head of the pack this time.

Solid phone, not quite worth the price when compared to others of this generation in terms of camera and software, but might shine if you’re a huge unibody fan.

I don’t think it’s a leader at the moment, but it’s close to the three or four front of the pack. It’s a good solid phone, with some love and work by HTC to get past these software problems I think it’ll be great.

Unfortunately it wasn’t released great, it was released “oh, that we’ll fix later”

I picked mine up for about $400 on Ebay, or you can get them between $199-$708 on Amazon depending on carrier, contract, and power seats.

At $199 I’d say great! 4.5-stars. At $400 I’m like ok, this is better than my M8 – 3 stars! (still a positive) and at full price and comparing it to the leaders of the pack I’d say 2.5 as it’s not that far behind.

Your star ratings may vary.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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