HTC, known for its consistently high quality in the smartphone space, laid a bit of an egg this year with its somewhat underwhelming One M9 flagship. Ironically, a new Asia-only variant has some qualities that could have given the M9 a better shot at being one of the best phones of 2015.
The biggest of those qualities is display. While the flagship One M9 had a last-gen. 5-inch 1080p display, the One ME cranks that up to a 5.2-inch Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) screen. That change alone could have made the M9 a much more tempting alternative to the Galaxy S6 and GS6 edge.
The ME also has a fingerprint sensor, another category that gave Samsung's flagships a leg-up on the M9. It isn't yet clear, though, whether the ME's sensor is swipe-based or touch-based.
The ME's back is made of polycarbonate, but it does use the same parlor trick that we've seen on phones like the Nexus 6, Moto X and Note 4: it has metal sides, to provide a more premium feel than an all-plastic phone would. Despite its plastic it isn't the lightest phone around, weighing in at 155 g/5.5oz (just a smidge lighter than the M9), nor the thickest (at 9.8 mm/0.38-in), but it does carry over some qualities of the trademark HTC One design.
The ME appears to use the same cameras as the M9, with a 20 MP (ƒ/2.2) rear sensor with a 4 MP UltraPixel camera on the front. It also shares 3 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage with the M9, as well as a microSD slot.
The HTC One ME does stray from Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, instead using an octa-core MediaTek helio X10, clocked at 2.2 GHz – a high-end chip in itself, though not one we've spent any time with in the US.
If nothing else, the One ME certainly seems a lot more interesting than the M9. Swap its plastic back for the M9's aluminum build, and we'd have a flagship worthy of a rivalry with the GS6.
The ME appears to be a China-only release, at least for the time being. We'd say it's beyond a long-shot that this phone will make its way to the US or Europe, but based on its spec sheet and design, we'll keep our fingers crossed nonetheless.