Quick Look At Some Of The Official HTC Accessories Available For The HTC …

23 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

HTC One M9 (Unlocked).

The life-cycle of a smartphone is now being measured in single years. 12 months is all the time the major brands are willing to let one generation of device be seen as the flagship phone they produce. According to recent reports, the HTC One M9 Plus will hit retailers in the coming months as a larger, 2K display-hosting spin-off to the Taiwanese manufacturer’s latest flagship offering and Galaxy S6 challenger. We’ve heard plenty of rumors that a phablet-sized One M9+ is already in the works, but another new leak claims to reveal exactly how big the phone will be. Shaping up as the device the flagship M9 should have been, the M9 Plus is expected to offer significant specs improvements over is iPhone 6 rivalling sibling.

Evolution rather than revolution tends to be the attitude – every two years things can get a little more drastic. 2015 for HTC is one of these incremental years; it’s what Apple fans would call an “S” year; there won’t be a bold new iPhone, but rather the tweaked 4S, 5S or 5C. (Martyn Landi/PA) HTC are doing something similar – the One M8 that launched this time last year was bold, beautifully designed, and came with fantastic speakers. All of this is still true of the M9, with HTC adding that their aim with this year’s One was to combine the best parts of its two forebears – the M8 and M7 – in order to get everything right this time.

HTC sent us an unlocked, international One M9 with non-final software that doesn’t map exactly to the phone being sold in the U.S. (Any other “review” coming out today will have the same issue, as we’re all waiting for carrier units.) So we’re not rating this phone, but providing an extended preview. A bold statement, and one that would be quite a feat if they can carry it off… Take the M9 out of the box and hold it for the first time and there are two instant, strong emotions: familiarity and a dash of expectation. You can see the two devices side-by-side in a newly leaked render from Hemmerstoffer, which also reveals a few other differences in design and hardware. The M9 looks very similar to the M8 – and this is a very good thing: the M8 was a great-looking smartphone, and the M9 probably now replaces it as the best looking phone running Android.

From the excellent music playback, premium design and exclusive apps – HTC wants to automate your daily routine and further integrate itself into it. It’s a solid, all-metal phone at 5.69 by 2.74 by 0.38 inches (HWD) and 5.5 ounces, with a 5-inch, 1080p LCD on the front and Volume and Power buttons on the side. Although no official word has yet been given on the phone’s anticipated arrival, in the past, HTC has given its flagship phone a number of months’ breathing space before throwing a series of spin-offs into the fray. It’s also available in all gold or gunmetal grey, so it can come down to a matter of taste. (Martyn Landi/PA) Elsewhere in design there have been two other big changes for better and worse.

While wallpapers and app folders have long given users a degree of expression when it comes to personalisation, things have been taken up a gear on the M9. Sense 7 is the newest version of this, and it wants to be your new best friend. (Screenshot) One of the central features of it is Themes, a very smart and fun feature that takes the photos you select as a background, and tweaks the phone’s screen colours to match it. Within the first year of ownership, HTC will replace your phone once if it has a cracked screen, water damage, or if you’re trying to switch carriers. When you’ve got a design that works incredibly well – that’s timeless and classic – you don’t want to chuck out all that experience you’ve gained from before and start afresh”, said HTC’s director of commercialisation product management, Graham Wheeler.

That last bit is important because each of the four U.S. carriers has its own model of the phone, which may not be compatible with all of the other carriers’ models. Given that HTC recently unveiled its phone replacement service – HTC Uh Oh – for US-based M9 owners, it’s expected that the service will also be offered to eventual M9 Plus users. It’s surprising how much time you’ll find yourself spending on this. (Screenshot) Sense 7′s presence is further extended by the homescreen, which automatically updates depending on your location – it pushes productivity apps when you’re at work, for example, and your entertainment apps while at home. It’s true, there wasn’t much to improve on the M8 in terms of design, so a radical change might’ve been a dangerous and unnecessary gamble when the original formula already worked so well. The memory card slot is essentially another SIM card slot on the other side of the device, and it worked just fine with our 64GB SanDisk Extreme card in testing.

The new octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor under the hood means that you never have to wait for apps to open or start up, and you really notice the snappiness of it. HTC has doubled down on its Sense 7 skin this year, with a range of setup and theming experiences that extend the company’s tasteful physical design into the virtual world.

It is sometimes the little things you notice that can make the biggest difference, and the way notifications stay on the lock screen, even if you unlock your phone but don’t address them, is great for productivity. iPhone users will know that this doesn’t happen on iOS, and though tidy on many occasions, can lead you to forgetting to reply to messages. Two non-techie friends of mine who briefly played with it, wanted to buy it based on its design entirely and repeatedly ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ when twirling it around in their hands. I don’t know how that translates into real-world, global, sales, but clearly the design is a major factor for people with a partial interest in technology.

He added: “If you look at where we are today, the technology around smartphones are so advanced that your eyes can’t really see the differences between one screen technology and another screen technology. “With another screen technology there might be a flip side such as power consumption. HTC is fortunately bringing back its DotView case to tackle this, with new functions like the ability to play games through the case’s dotview matrix. It’s also releasing a transparent case so you can enjoy the premium design without damaging it, however seeing the phone through a plastic shield just isn’t the same as holding cold hard metal in your hand. I’m also happy to see the return of expandable storage, especially since long-time supporter of the micro SD, Samsung, has now dropped it in the S6. The handset’s much-mooted 2K screen might steal the headlines, but it is far from the only major specs improvement tipped to feature on the future phone.

An omission from HTC’s past flagship phones, the industry-wide push into biometric security measures has seemingly forced the move on the Taiwanese manufacturer. You’re most likely to look at it when you’re waiting around somewhere for a few minutes; I found it a bit frustrating because I didn’t have LTE (as I’ll explain below). It includes the Cloudex cloud-storage software, HTC’s Zoe video-sharing app, Zoodles Kid Mode parental controls, and the Scribble drawing-notebook app, to point out a few you might want to replace. Doing away with Qualcomm’s latest 64-bit Snapdragon 810 chipset – a unit repeatedly marred by overheating concerns – HTC will reportedly move to a 2.0GHz, octa-core MediaTek processor. This is all aided by the fact that the M9 supports 24-bit high-res audio (CD quality), so if you’re using a streaming service that supports high-quality sound (Tidal for example) then you can fully experience the best of BoomSound, but even just Spotify’s 320kbps streaming (known as ‘extreme quality’) is excellent.

Performance wise it is currently unclear how much of a difference this will make to the device, although stepping away from the Qualcomm chip should help reduce costs. It had excellent results on integer and floating-point math measures, but dragged a bit on graphics compared with more arcane processors like Apple’s A8 and Nvidia’s K1. Those processors aren’t widely available in Android devices, though, and the Snapdragon 810, for better or for worse, is the fastest mainstream Android processor available right now. Both pre-production versions of the LG G Flex 2 and the One M9 occasionally had overheating issues, and both sets of problems were fixed with software updates. Some may question the extra bezel space needed to include the top and bottom speakers, but, for me, they suit the phone’s overall style and the extra size is a welcome trade-off for the extra functionality.

The models HTC sent to reviewers lack both the 1700MHz 3G band and all American LTE bands, which means it underperforms on both AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks. Short clips on social media become theatre productions and any music that you play accidentally (because you’re headphones aren’t plugged in properly) will entertain strangers miles away. Samsung dropped Qualcomm for its Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge because it reportedly overheated in testing, and a recent M9 benchmark leak showed erratic results with a big heat issue.

Compared directly with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, low-light photos taken with the HTC M9 have more pixels, but they’re darker and blurrier, with less saturated colors and much more visible artifacting. Outdoors, the Note 4 (and an iPhone 6) had much better-balanced exposure, whereas the M9 tended to throw darker areas into deep shadow unless I manually adjusted the exposure. I can’t really explain the erratic results, but the final scores are what you’d expect from the new 810 chip – the previous scores are a mystery. I did notice some minimal lag when using the ‘close all apps’ function, which takes a second or two, and the camera app doesn’t launch as quickly as the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6. The main video camera records at up to 4K resolution, and has a 1080p60 mode. 1080p video captured with the main camera had a perfectly good frame rate of 30 frames per second, but image stabilization was not in evidence, with very wobbly footage.

The front-facing camera only captured 1080p video at an unacceptable 12 fps in a standalone video, although it had no problem with 24 fps in split-screen mode. It’s not at Samsung’s crazy super AMOLED level yet, but it’s a lot brighter than the M8, which I found frustratingly dark – especially in bright light. The M8’s camera was praised for its duo-camera setup that took (almost) professional-looking background defocus shots and its UltraPixel technology.

Because the M8’s ultra pixel technology, which lets in 300% more light according to HTC, meant pictures on a bright day would come out over exposed. The result is that in bright conditions, pictures fully capture the quality of the image without over-exposure and that washed out look that sometimes dogged the M8. What did impress me is the dual-tone flash that emits a softer, saffron coloured light to give a more natural illumination rather than a hard, bright white light which can wash out faces and objects. The second camera that captured depth information has been replaced by software in the form of a downloadable effect called “Brokeh”, which provides an identical de-fcous effect. I asked HTC why the duo-camera had been removed and I was told that it’s “incredibly difficult” to have a 20MP duo-lens camera setup, and that HTC had managed to reproduce the same effect with software.

I will say, though, before my review unit was hauled off by HTC for an urgent update, some images were coming out very blurry, even with the steadiest of hands. And the rather disturbing face fusion which blends two faces together, which did a scarily accurate job of blending mine and my girlfriend’s face (I’ll spare you the terror). What I did like was the elements feature which adds a nice animation to your pictures to make it seem as if you’re being showered with confetti or bubbles.

Anecdotally, when Zoe prompted me to find friends on Zoe in my contact list, a search turned-up with zilch and the message “you’re the first of your friends to use Zoe”. I’m not sure if the M9 has a shorter life than its predecessor (I’ll explore that further in a future M8 Vs M9 article) but the M9’s battery didn’t last as long as I’d expect from a 2015 device, or even perhaps from a 2014 device. If you’re used to getting more than a day out of your device like with, say, the Sony Xperia Z3, then the M9 will be a sharp reminder of the dark days of the 8pm power-up. You still need to go through the rigmarole of pairing a bluetooth device and then selecting which device to send the content to, which requires a few more taps than just swiping up. I did think it was funny that I expressed my concern at these “gimmicks” at the M9 preview weeks ago, because they rarely work in practice as well as they do in demo.

Pictures are searchable by name or description, but that requires you to tag them with a name or description (“pictures of me” or “holiday in France” for example). You can select themes from the store within the app – some are paid and some are free – and then it will change icons, background and colour schemes once installed.

The rumours around overheating problems proved to be a red herring, but I was concerned about the erratic benchmarking results.But, with arguably the most important aspect – battery life – HTC failed.

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