They say the early bird gets the worm, but from what we can tell, it feels like HTC is hoping to do a little more and snag would-be buyers of Samsung’s Galaxy S6, arriving a little earlier than expected.
It’s official: the 2015 smartphone season has begun, with HTC firing the first shot from what it revealed at Mobile World Congress, announcing that its new generation “One” handset would be coming to Australia in March, as early as next week, fresh from its first official showing in Spain earlier in the month.
That’s a release date of a good week or two before Samsung is expected to release the Galaxy S6 in Australia, expected to launch here on April 10, and giving HTC a good window to impress customers before its next major rival launches.
So what’s there to look forward to?
In case you missed the announcement in early March, HTC’s 2015 One is also called the M9, and is the next generation of HTC’s One series of phones.
The latest model continues what the company started in 2013 with a metal body, Full HD screen, and attention to powerful front-facing speakers with upgrades to several of these, new features, and a better metal body designed to be more luxurious and more in line with what people have come to expect from high-grade materials.
First up is what’s inside, because that counts for something, with HTC jumping from the Snapdragon 801 quad-core chip used last year to a Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor comprised of two quad-core setups. This is also a 64-bit chip, paired with 3GB RAM (past the 2GB sweet spot), and Android 5.0 “Lollipop” appears on the phone out of the box, pretty much the latest and greatest, though we can only assume an update to Android 5.1 will arrive shortly.
Storage on the M9 is set to 32GB with room to move via a microSD slot which itself can take up to 2TB of storage. Let’s just put that into perspective quickly, because we don’t know where you can find a 1TB microSD, let alone a 2TB card, but that essentially means your phone may soon be able to store as much as your laptop, and if you have an Ultrabook, more than what that computer can offer.
On the camera front, an area HTC has always taken the time to look at, we’re seeing a 20 megapixel camera on the back covered with sapphire crystal so it shouldn’t scratch easily or break, with 4K video support also thrown in. Selfies are important, too, and for that HTC has relocated its UltraPixel camera from last year’s M8 to the front, meaning there’s a 4 megapixel low-light friendly camera up front with a slightly wider angle lens than what’s on the back. Neato.
Sound is also a big deal, and HTC’s BoomSound stereo speakers up front have been updated with Dolby Audio, an idea which sounds good, but we’ll wait to find out what it actually means. In theory, this means that movies played on your phone should sound better, though two speakers coming from the front may not disperse surround sound as well as HTC expects.
And then there’s your regular bits and bobs, with WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, DLNA, 3.5mm headset jack, GPS, 4G LTE over several bands with support for Category 6 (300Mbps max down, 50Mbps max up), though HTC actually made mention that it could also work in some places on Category 9, a technology we don’t have yet but could offer speeds as much as 450Mbps down. Wow.
The screen hasn’t changed much from last year, though, relying on a 5 inch Full HD display, though we’re seeing some changes to HTC’s Android overlay, HTC Sense now at version 7 (HTC Sense 7).
A new home widget can identify where you are and offer app suggestions and information based on coordinating calendar information, and there’s even a gallery application that will bring in all your photos from other services — Google Drive, Dropbox, Instagram, etc — and unite them under one app, while HTC’s Photo Editor seeks to bring an Instagram-style editor to your photos so you don’t have to download Instagram just to get the retro effects.
And finally, there are themes that are customisable by you.
Take a picture and HTC’s theme editor will scan the photo for colours, making a custom theme out of something you like to turn your phone into that style, essentially giving you a sense of individuality that you can change whenever you want. In case you’re not sure you want to do that, HTC will also come with some themes, and will even turn to designers including Under Armour, Disney, and UEFA for this area later in the year.
HTC’s other area that we need to look at is the body, and for that the phone manufacturer has kept its reliance on high quality materials, keeping with the style it worked with last year, an all-metal body phone, which itself was an evolution of the HTC One M7 before it and the HTC Legend aluminium unibody phone a few years before that.
This year, it’s more of a refinement, with a two-tone body with mirror polished edges to make the phone stand out, the solid metal casing, and a weight of around 157 grams.
“HTC pioneered all-metal unibody design on smartphones,” said Ben Hodgson (above), Country Manager for HTC Australia and New Zealand. “We have meticulously refined over many years, every aspect to deliver the pure luxury you see on the HTC One M9.”
Pricing for the phone is next, and outright this will come with a tag that competes with Apple head-on, fetching $1099 outright, or available on plans from Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, and Virgin. Availability will be from next week, and hopefully we’ll have a review online just in time, so stay tuned.