Two years ago, a struggling HTC rebranded itself with an outstanding (not to mention gorgeous) flagship smartphone, the HTC One (M7). Today, though the company is still making stunning handsets, it also looks hesitant to depart too far from that formula, as we now have the second iterative update to that original design, the HTC One M9. Let's compare the three generations of the One.
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The HTC One M9 is roughly the same size as last year's One M8. Compared to 2013's One M7, though, the M9 is 6 percent taller and 3 percent wider.
The HTC One is the rare mobile product lineup that has actually gotten a little thicker every year.
The HTC One M9 is a smidge lighter than last year's model, but it's still 10 percent heavier than the smaller M7.
That aluminum unibody build is no less stunning two years later, but it is a lot more familiar. It also makes us wonder how long HTC is going to cling to this same basic design scheme. On one hand, you could say "if it ain't broke" ... but on the other, we have to wonder if the company is becoming a little risk-averse with its flagship.
The new model does have some subtle design changes, like a more square-ish camera hole and a two-toned finish with different colored edges.
Three of the four colors are the same with the M9 as they are with the M8, with a pink option standing as the only newcomer.
No screen size change for the M9, as it sticks with the 5-incher we saw last year. The M7 only gives you 88 percent as much screen area.
The original HTC One did, however, have capacitive keys below its screen, rather than the onscreen navigation buttons we've seen the last two generations. In most places, that has all three phones' available screen real estate coming out around the same size.
... the exception is when Android's Immersive Mode kicks in (places like e-reading and video apps) to fade out those buttons, letting you use the full 5 inches in the M8 and M9.
This could be the biggest disappointment with the One M9, as it stands pat with 1080p resolution – even as many Android flagships are moving into Quad HD land.
These phones' full HD is still very sharp, but the Quad HD displays in rivals like the Galaxy S6 give you more eye candy.
Unless HTC adds different variants later, it's going to stand as the rare mobile flagship that's only being offered in one storage tier.
The One M9 and M8, though, do let you complement that internal storage by popping in a microSD card (sold separately).
In several of these categories, it almost looks like the product hasn't evolved ... but its performance certainly has. The 64-bit, octa-core Snapdragon 810 in the new model should be a significant upgrade over last year's CPU.
The M9 is also the first HTC flagship to jump into 3 GB of RAM.
These capacities don't necessarily mean a lot on their own; stay tuned for our full review for the low-down on the M9's battery life.
Last year's M8 had some of the best battery life of any 2014 flagship, so it will be interesting to see if HTC improved on it with the 2015 model.
Camera megapixels (rear)
Remember the last two years, when HTC insisted that the megapixel argument was a bunch of baloney? Well, the company would probably like you to forget that now, as the M9 drops the "Ultrapixel" (fewer, but bigger, pixels) camera in favor of a much higher-resolution 20 MP sensor.
Camera megapixels (front)
The Ultrapixel camera does live on, though, on the front of the M9. How humiliating: once touted as a groundbreaking rear camera, it's now been demoted to selfie duty.
The older models' rear cameras did have wider apertures than you'll find in the One M9.
Though it was a little hit-or-miss, we enjoyed playing with the depth effects made possible by the second camera on the One M8's backside. We'll have to find other ways to entertain ourselves this year, as HTC dropped the polarizing feature.
If you own the HTC One M7, you're likely still waiting for the Android 5.0 Lollipop update, but at least the unlocked version is already running Google's latest.
The One M9 will launch with the latest version of HTC's custom UI, Sense 7. We'll have more on that when we get a review unit in hand.
Windows Phone variant
What do you say we get together in March of next year to ring in the arrival of the HTC One M10?
Starting price (at launch, full retail)
HTC hasn't announced pricing for the One M9 yet, but if past is prologue, you can probably guess what it will cost off-contract.
Starting price (at launch, on-contract)
... ditto for on-contract pricing.View gallery - 22 images