Turn the phone on, load up apps, jump between software, and use the phone in general, and you find the phone handles its own, without so much of a speed bump except in one area, with the camera the only area we noticed delays, usually in loading up and firing off photos. The camera was the only section where lag was discernible, noticeable especially when shots weren’t fired when we pressed the shutter.
Beyond that, however, the system is fast, snappy, and a pleasure to use, and we suspect part of that is due to Android 5.0 “Lollipop” appearing on the phone out of the box.
Yes, just like the Motorola X2 from earlier in the year, Lollipop is the operating system, with support included for multi-tasking being the way you jump around tabs inside the Chrome web browser, more settings options, and a cleaner notification drop down with cards that appear over everything else you’re doing that can be swiped away with ease.
Just like we experienced in that phone, Lollipop is a joy to use, and HTC’s changes to its Sense overlay can be noted, also, thanks in part to the level of customisation applicable to this phone.
For starters, there are some interesting changes to the bottom bar of Android, the software buttons that let you go back to home, go back out of an app, and play with multi-tasking. Those are the general shortcuts you find on every Android phone from 2013 on-wards, and depending on who makes the handset, they’ll appear in different ways.
In the M9, however, HTC is making it possible for the shortcuts to appear however you want them, allowing you to not only move them about and rearrange the icons, but also add your own power shortcuts.
There can only be four at a time — sorry, but filling the bottom bar with tons of icons probably would just look ridiculous and be totally unusable — but this extra personalisation can be found in the “change navigation buttons” part of the personalise section, with options for switching the screen off, showing notifications, hiding the navigation bar, auto-rotate being turned on and off, and a quick way to get at settings.
This is a neat inclusion, and something we’ve yet to see on other Android phones. Some devices have gotten close, with LG’s G3 revealing a few extra and semi-controllable shortcuts in the past, though we never really wanted to use its extra note-taking features, and so we just left things the same. In the choices offered on the One M9, HTC is really letting you customise until your heart is content.
The customisation continues in other ways on the HTC One M9, with themes finally added beyond a few made by HTC, with these able to be made by you based on photos or images you take or find.
Within a few days of launch, you’ll already find quite a few themes available to download, some by HTC and others by, well, other people, but you can always make your own.
It’s worth pointing out that themes aren’t just a basic wallpaper, with the font for your phone able to be changed, as well as icon packs, sound effects, and the colours for header sections of apps.
Some of these themes will changes these areas, and others won’t, but you can easily make themes from an image and even have HTC’s software analyse a photo to get you started, which means your phone doesn’t have to resemble the same stock standard design everyone else uses if you don’t want to.
And being Android, if you really wanted, you could replace the launcher with something else if you desperately wanted to, but we found HTC’s Sense 7 a refreshing take on what HTC had been doing in the past.
Menus are much the same as they have been with a couple of colour changes, two grid sizes (3×4 or 4×5), and a few choices for how apps are sorted, but for the most part, Sense 7 is a tightening up of how an HTC phone looks and operates with some customisation brought into the picture, and we think people will like it, and respond well to it.
BlinkFeed, however, hasn’t changed much, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.