The HTC One M9 is definitely a charmer. HTC has retained a lot of the slick style from its predecessor and a single glance at the phone is enough to spot the distinct One touch. While the device does inherit a lot of design queues, there are at least a few very notable changes, which according to HTC make for a very minimal and universally appealing design.
While the One (M8) was more rugged and manly, the design goal with the One M9 was to create a unisex handset. This effort is even more apparent when looking at the abundance of new customization features in the new Sense UI 7, but more on that later.
The One M9 will be available in several new paintjobs - there is a Silver model with Rose Gold frame, a Gun Metal Gray one, a completely Gold version and a Pink model with Gold frame.
The dual-tone finishes work very naturally, due to a prominent new design feature of the One M9. The front frame is now surrounded by an edge, tracing its entire outline. It is almost like the front panel is a separate, smaller block, placed on top of the rest of the phone. It is quite an interesting design accent and it really helps getting a good grip when handling the phone.
The HTC One M9 is also a little shorter and less wide than its predecessor. It measures 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.61 mm, compared to 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4 mm on the One M8. It is a tad thicker, but still lies very comfortable in the hand thanks to its curved back. Weight has been reduced as well and is now at 157g instead of 160g.
A quick glance at the above comparison quickly reveals there have been some control changes in the device. The most noticeable being the power button, which is now moved to a much more convenient location on the right side of the phone, right below the volume buttons.
Speaking of which, that's another significant change. The volume rocker on the One (M8) has been swapped with two separate buttons, both very nicely rounded.
To prevent mistaking the three identically shaped buttons HTC has opted for a slightly different texture on the power button and its little touches like this that really make the phone stand out.
Another thing still present on the right side of the phone is the SIM card slot. It is very much identical to the one on the M8 with the same ejector pin hole. Going round the rest of the device, we find just a few more elements that disturb the otherwise flush frame.
The left side houses only the SD card slot, again much the same as the one on the One M8. The top of the phone is completely bare, with a black plastic strip hiding the IR emitter.
No surprises on the bottom either. Here we find the micro USB port and the 3.5mm jack right next to it.
The back of the phone is as clean as possible. This is definitely a complementing angle. Not much has changed from the previous generation and frankly, it is for the best. HTC has kept the same placement and design of the plastic strip accents. They stretch all the way to the front panel and not only look good, but are also vital for proper antenna reception. The only real difference is the camera lens, which is now square and significantly bigger. Gone is the dual camera setup we saw in the One (M8), but HTC is saying they've not given up on the concept just yet and might use it in other phones.
HTC has focused a lot on premium materials and an exquisite manufacturing process in the One M9. The overall part-count of the shell has been reduced. The front panel is now a single uniform piece. To achieve a premium look and feel, the phone has undergone a dual anodization process, opposed to its predecessor, which was sand-blasted, like Apple's laptops for example.
The device does feel significantly different to the touch, this might also be due to the special outside coating. HTC boats that their device offers the industry's first dual-finish. Part of this new exterior is an improved scratch-resistant coating, sot the handset should be a lot less scratch-prone than its predecessors.
HTC's new manufacturing process sounds just as impressive as the end product itself. The manufacturing of a single unit is a 70 step process and takes about 300 minutes per unit. It also, reportedly, involves a lot of manual labor, by "experienced craftsmen".
The HTC One M9 does not offer any enhanced water resistance. HTC explains that despite their best desire, this is extremely hard to achieve on an all metal device, but users will be able to pick up an IP69 water-protective case for the device once it comes out.
Speaking of accessories, the HTC One M9 will be released along with a new and improved second generation Dot View case. HTC promises a new retro-style look as well as a wider color selection. Dot View compatibility will also be improved with new features and what the manufacturer refers to as "through-the-case" notifications. HTC also plans to release a waterproof Active Headset to accompany users one extreme adventures.
HTC has opted to keep the same screen form the One (M8), with slight improvements in manufacturing technology and software color modes. Other than that, it is the same 5.0-inch 1080p panel.
Sound is another department HTC rarely skips on and the One M9 is definitely no exception. The very successful stereo front speaker design in naturally present and HTC's BoomSound now comes with Dolby Audio and is manufactured according to the audio giant's standards.
The HTC One M9 offers top-of-the line hardware, but nothing really makes it stand out. The specs are impressive on paper, but seem to lack any twist to really skyrocket the device ahead of competitors, or its predecessor, for that matter. This is not to say the M9 does not offer impressive performance, but don't take our word for it, follow us to the next section for some benchmark scores.
All things considered the HTC One M9 looks and behaves like a logical, although quite tame successor to the iconic One line. The absence of a bigger or higher-res screen are indeed a bummer, but other than that, almost everything about the phone feels upgraded to 2015 standards. This straightforward incremental approach does show a lot of confidence in existing design and appeal, but does also lead to a significant lack of that all-important "wow factor".