We chat to HTC about what makes it's latest flagship smartphone - the HTC One M9 - so special, and why we should be excited...
Looking forward to getting your hands on the new HTC One M9? Us too. The new flagship has a huge amount going for it, from the refined all-metal design to an improved camera setup, to even boomier BoomSound. But what’s gone into making all those headline features better than ever?
To find out, we’ve been speaking to HTC’s Ben Walsh – the man in the know when it comes to all things One. So what does he think makes the HTC One M9 really special?
A design built on legacy
“We’ve continued with the all-metal design with the new One M9,” Ben says, describing the HTC One’s trademark looks, and explaining that it’s the first thing it has over its rivals. “It’s something we pioneered with the M7, and achieved even greater coverage of in the One (M8). But going into the HTC One M9, we wanted to achieve something different. The two-tone finish is something that we’re very proud of.
“It’s unique,” he adds, “and it’s a step up from the HTC One (M8). But it’s also our key differentiator. Despite the key competition trying to arrive at more premium devices this year, no one else has got an all-metal body like we have. And it’s very hard to match a premium finish in anything other than metal in the high end smartphone category.”
That two-tone look is certainly striking, but compared to some of its rivals and their radical redesigns, HTC has decided to stick relatively close to its guns. It’s an incremental refurb, so we wanted to ask Ben why that’s the case.
“The HTC One M7 was the most awarded smartphone of 2013, and the HTC One (M8) has been the most-awarded smartphone of 2014,” he says, “and a large amount of those awards were for the design – the appreciation of the premium metal finish that we’ve brought to the whole of the device, not just the edge.”
With that being so, you can see why HTC would be keen not to fix what isn’t broken. In fact, Ben tells us that the company wants to start looking at its phone designs in the same way we see other great designs: as timeless classics.
We’re keen to continue our design story in much the same way that premium car manufacturers do, in that they have a design that continues through all of their models. If you look at the Porsche 911, there’s the same look and feel throughout the years. Any design story is one built on legacy and incremental improvements to the best possible design – the one that you feel you’ve arrived at the first time round,” he explains. “We’re not apologetic about it: it’s very deliberate. We hope that in years to come each phone in the range will stand out as great design in its own right, and also help build a design heritage for us. And design heritage is all about nodding to great designs of the past.”
The result is a phone that looks familiar and completely new all at once, but there’s much more to a phone than how it looks…
Not just skin deep
“We’re all in this highly competitive environment,” Ben says, “and we’re trying to bring something different to the table.” So what else does the HTC One M9 have besides its striking design to set it apart?
“Well there’s an interesting point on the battery” he says. “While the battery improvement in the One (M8) was significant – I could easily get through a day and a half with one charge – the M9 battery is even bigger.
We’re very, very confident that with the M9 we have a really good battery performance.
We’re very, very confident that with the M9 we have really good battery performance. Battery is a number one concern for customers – it drives our photo taking, media consumption, phone calls and everything. We’re using our phones more and more, so we need better battery power. I’d say it’s an equal first in terms of our focus at HTC – to make sure that great hardware and software is matched with great battery performance.”
Speaking of photo taking, HTC’s reshuffled the One M9’s camera line-up, putting the UltraPixel technology found in the One (M8) on the front. Ben explains:
“In the camera department we’ve got a 20-Megapixel rear camera now. When you stack that up against the competition we’re four Megapixels ahead of the closest, and even with some of the latest announcements our sensor is almost three times better than some of our competitors. The rear camera’s important, but then also there’s the selfie camera too, now with UltraPixel technology. We’ve brought that round to the front to take better shots at night time.”
We’ll go much more in-depth with the HTC One M9’s camera technology in another Vodafone Social exclusive interview soon, so stay tuned!
Sense-ible software tweaks
That’s what’s new with the hardware, but what about the software? What makes the HTC One M9 tick? The phone runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop, but like all HTC’s smartphones it’s been gently tweaked with Sense UI, offering features like Blinkfeed and a multitude of possibilities for customisation:
“What we’ve tried to deliver with Sense is a slightly more personalised experience,” Ben says. “We’ve added a couple of elements to do that, like functionality that allows you to automatically change the apps that you have on your home screen depending on your environment. So if you’re at home, the phone will surface the apps that you normally use there, and then when you go to the office it will surface apps that you use during work. Sense is getting very intelligent in that regard, with that extra layer to support people’s requirements.
We’re also very keen to allow our customers to be able to change the theme of their phone, and to personalise it beyond just adding a new wallpaper. There are all sorts of things you can do on the new phone,” he explains, “from literally changing the look of your icons, the fonts, the wallpapers, the backgrounds to your text messages… There’s functionality where you can take a picture and set it as your background theme; before you know it, all of the apps and backgrounds have changed colour to align with the colours in your photo. We want to support people’s individuality.”
All told, there’s a lot going on in and around the HTC One M9. But what’s Ben’s favourite feature?
“My personal favourite feature is one we’ve not mentioned yet,” he tells us, “and that’s the Dolby Audio Surround Sound Speakers with BoomSound. I’m really into music, and last year was the first time I went on holiday and didn’t pack a speaker system to accompany my mobile – I just used the speakers on the One (M8). But the sound in the M9 is quite ridiculous; it feels like you’re in your own mini cinema. “You could easily have a party on the beach with just your HTD One M9 as the speakers.”
If you’re anything like us, all of the above will have piqued your interest in a big way. Luckily the HTC One M9 is available to pre-order from Vodafone right now. Click here to pre-order yours.
More on the M9… You can read up on all the specs from the official HTC One (M9) announcement here. Stay tuned to Vodafone Social for lots more soon.