For years mobile phones were piece of plastic. Some looked good, but still had that cheap feeling of thin plastic. Long time smartphone manufacturers helped change this with the introduction of its HTC One M7 flagship device a couple of years ago and improved on that with its HTC One M8 last year.
When HTC announced its latest model, the HTC One M8 I thought it was a disappointment in terms of looks. It was a natural follow up of its predecessor. But when I first had my hands on a real life model... This completely changed my view.
You see, we are talking about a really beautiful device, made with jewelery skill and precision. Its metal unibody is a pleasure to hold and the sides end in a sharp edge that make it easy to hold it. It also sports a dual-tone finish around the edge - in my case the review unit is the silver and rose gold (no it's not real gold here folks).
The 5" full HD 1080p screen is really nice and bright. It shows both apps and photos perfectly - and the new 20 megapixel camera with sapphire cover lens takes really good photos, in a variety of conditions - including new effects that take it a step closer to DSLRs (just look at the full size photo below and click for a larger version).
During the weekend I watched Lucy on Google Play Movies. The screen made justice to this sci-fi creation, and the dolby surround sound coming out of the two frontal speakers really improve the whole experience.
As an Android device this one is, again, a step up from its previous incarnations. It comes out of the box with Android 5.0.1 and support for business applications such as Google's own (obviously) plus Microsoft Office, OneNote, OneDrive and other cloud services.
The HTC Sense is still there, with its BlinkFeed option. Some people like this "live" information firehose but I rather use a service such as Feedly - don't worry you can easily switch this on/off and retain the HTC Sense launcher. I like the way the launcher works (the vertical scrolling, folders and viewer size) so I stick with it instead of using somethign such as Google Now Launcher. But one new thing that HTC is introducing is pretty cool: HTC Themes. Basically you can select from a variety of themes available from HTC or create your own. When loading a new wallpaper you have an option to analyse the image and extract the colours that would best go together and apply that as part of an overall theme throughout the device.
Another new feature is the HTC Sense Home, a new widget that changes the icons depending on your location: Home, Work or Out.
Another new thing is the Cloudex app that allows you to show photos from social platforms such as Facebook and Google+ automatically inside the phone gallery.
Talking about media, I didn't have any compatible device to try the HTC Connect - use a three-finger swip to "cast" (stream) digital content from the phone to compatible devices from Harman Kardon, and other manufacturers - but it looks like an interesting feature from the demos I saw.
In terms of performance I know there is a lot being talked about around test results and how warm the device gets. My own use is a real world usage, with a couple of Office 365 account with full push, a few connected social networks, Fitbit and other services running. The device didn't feel any warmer than other devices I experienced before, even from other manufacturers (Lumia 1020 and 930 come to mind here). And in terms of performance, it is noticeably faster than the previous M7 and M8 versions, thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core 4 x 2GHz + 4 x 1.5GHz, 64-bit processor.
The review unit is the 32GB model and after automatically restoring my apps from the M8 backup I still have about 16GB free. Add your microSD card to the mix and you will have a device with some good storage for local digital content (in my case mostly family photos and offline HERE and Sygic maps).
One thing I didn't like about the HTC One M9 was the headset position - this time at the bottom of the phone. On the ohther hand I like how they moved the power button from the top to the side, below the volume buttons. Buttons, yes, because now they are two buttons instead of single floating button as in previous models.
Overall I think the HTC One M9 makes a good first impression and performs extremely well.