HTC Malaysia has made a surprising move by bringing the One M9+ to the country, instead of the One M9 that we saw back in MWC 2015 earlier this year. The M9+ was launched in China last month in a rather low-key announcement, but HTC is calling it a more powerful version – and in many ways, it’s true.
We were invited for an exclusive media preview of the device ahead of its official launch later today, and here’s our first impressions of HTC’s new flagship smartphone.
Samsung made a radical shift in its design paradigm for its Galaxy S6 and S6 edge flagships; to many, it was a move deemed necessary. Unlike Samsung, HTC sought to refine what it feels to be a winning design that debuted two years back with the One M7.
It’s not hard to see why: the One M9+ remains the most photogenic smartphone we’ve ever seen. The all-metal back catches light delightfully, the subtle curve lending classy reflections in all lighting conditions.
One key difference between the M9+ and last year’s M8 is the M9+’s more angular sides, which HTC says was introduced to increase grip – the beautiful curved sides of the M8 proved too slippery for many owners, and with this slight design change, HTC also removed the metal unibody in favour of a dual-shot metal frame. Hence, instead of a single-tone silver or gunmetal grey, the M9+ now features an attractive gold hue on the side.
In the hands, the M9+ is certainly more grippy, but the angular shapes will leave quite an impressions on your palm when held over long periods – this is, after all, a pretty hefty phone.
However, there are two major additions that separates the M9+ from the M9. The first can be seen in the front, where a fingerprint sensor now sits below the screen. It isn’t a button, but rather a touch-based fingerprint sensor that you can use to unlock the device.
Unlike the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6, the fact that the sensor does not integrate a home button means unlocking your phone is still a two-step method – which isn’t the most intuitive move. As mentioned by HTC, the touch sensor does not require the screen to be turned on before unlocking, and is a one-step process instead of what’s written earlier.
What’s more, the sensor is also a touch-based home button, technically giving users two home buttons. HTC says a double-tap on the sensor will take you back home, but in our hands-on session I found that tapping it once was all it takes. If you accidentally brush your finger on this button, like in the hands-on video demo above shows, you will accidentally go back to the home screen. Based on first impressions, the implementation of the fingerprint sensor is still a rather clumsy one by HTC.
The other addition is the introduction of the “world’s first 20MP Duo Camera” by HTC. Given that only HTC uses the Duo Camera, this isn’t the most groundbreaking introduction. Unlike the M9’s 20MP sensor, the M9+ packs the same 20MP sensor with an additional depth sensor, giving users the “best of both worlds” – another statement by HTC.
Does that mean users will be able to snap beautiful 20MP pictures with great bokeh effects? That should presumably be the case, but in truth, it isn’t. Here’s another rather clumsy implementation from HTC: the camera app now switches between Duo and High-Res modes. If you want to take high-resolution images, the depth sensor will not be activated. If you prefer nice bokeh effects, you’ll have to switch to Duo mode, where the limitation is that you’ll be snapping images in 4MP – just like on the M8. The M9+ also does not feature optical image stabilisation on the rear camera.
As for hardware, the M9+ shares many of the same specs as the regular M9, but with a few trade-offs. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 on the M9 is replaced by a MediaTek MT6795 “Helio” octa-core chipset – we had precious little time with the device, and so we can’t judge how good this chipset is just yet. On the other hand, while the M9 “only” packs a Full HD display, the M9+ features a 2560 x 1440 5.2-inch Super LCD 3 display. Having seen both the M9 at MWC 2015 and the M9+, the only thing I can say is under normal usage and circumstances, it is very, very difficult to distinguish any noticeable differences between the two displays.
The One M9+ also features HTC’s new Sense 7 UI. It’s essentially the same as what we’ve seen on the M9, such as the introduction of themes and a dedicated Themes store, a fourth navigational button, and the new HTC Sense Home Widget. As expected, the software is light, snappy and performs very well in the brief time we spent with it. We will, of course, reserve final judgement when we’ve used it for review.
With an expected price of RM2,599, the HTC One M9+ is definitely an interesting choice by HTC. It will officially be launched later today, with an expected availability date set for 30 April nationwide. The One M9+ will be available in the traditional HTC colourways, Silver and Gunmetal Grey with Gold accents, while the all-gold colourway is also set to be available in Malaysia at a later date.