Last year's HTC One M8 was one of the, if not the, best Android phone of 2014. Its premium metal design made the rest of the Android competition feel cheap by comparison, HTC's Sense UI offered some meaningful additions (particularly when it came to depth-shifting photography) and its BoomSound front-facing speakers made headphone-free movie viewing on a smartphone actually pleasurable.
Can this year's One M9 follow in its footsteps? As upstart competition manages to beat HTC on price and meet them on specs, it's going to be increasingly difficult for HTC to stand out in the crowded Android smartphone market. Will the HTC One M9 excite enough to be your next phone, or will HTC take too few chances to warrant emptying your wallet?
What Will the Next HTC One Smartphone be Called?
Most likely the HTC One M9, as seemingly confirmed by Bloomberg sources. Though it seems HTC never intended for the 2013 and 2014 HTC One devices to go by their M7 and M8 codenames, it's the easiest way to identify each year's different device, and now seems to have been accepted as the naming convention by the company itself.
However, there have also been rumours of another device, the HTC Hima, circulating at the moment too. It's not yet clear whether or not this is a) HTC's new working codename for the M9, or b) a HTC One M9 variant, like the HTC One Maxx was.
What Will the HTC One M9 Look Like?
Very much like the M8, by all accounts. Our clearest glimpse at the HTC One M9 comes from French gadget blog NowhereElse, who published images showing what is apparently an M9 prototype:
It's a dead-ringer for last year's M8, with the exception of a square cut away for the rear camera module, as opposed to the circular one for the M8's UltraPixel snapper, suggesting the Duo Camera arrangement has been ditched.
Until that post though there had been little in the way of leaked shots. Previously, the only clear alleged glimpse we'd had came from Chinese site zol.com.cn, showing the HTC One M9 looking very much like its One M8 predecessor:
Considering both leaks, expect a brushed metal, slightly rounded unibody casing with dual, front-facing BoomSound speakers and a large screen, likely in the region of 5 to 5.5 inches in size. Though the front panel in the above shot looks marginally different, the overall design is unlikely to change much from the M8 – no bad thing considering how attractive last year's model was.
That is, of course, unless two HTC One M9 phones launch, as suggested by serial leaker @EvLeaks. The Twitter account posted a shot of not one, but two new HTC handsets:
While both have smaller BoomSound speaker grilles and centred front-facing cameras, note that only the larger device has a physical home button, possibly also sporting a fingerprint scanner.
What Will the HTC One M9 Screen be Like?
There are conflicting reports on the screen tech HTC has opted to use for the HTC One M9. For starters, screen size has varied in reports from 5-inches to 5.5-inches. Given it is pictured, the 5.2-inch claim from NowhereElse seems the most reasonable at present, up slightly from last year's 5-inch One M8.
Screen resolution is disputed too. IBTimes cites a source stating the One M9 will have a 2K, 2560 x 1440 resolution display, while NowhereElse and the @upleaks Twitter account are putting money on it being a 1080p display, according to their sources. While screen resolution peacocking is always a favourite of the mobile giants (here's looking at you, LG), a 1080p display is more than enough, especially as we wait for battery capacity to keep pace with ever-enlarging pixel counts.
It may well be that, as suggested by the @EvLeaks post, two HTC One M9 handsets are on the way -- a smaller, 1080p number, and a larger qHD device.
How About Internal Specs?
If we take the NowhereElse leak as a jumping off point, we could expect to see a 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB or RAM and Adreno 430 graphics feature in the HTC One M9. That corroborates with both Bloomberg and @upleaks' sources, and is an improvement over the quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor that My Drivers anticipates being used. 3GB of RAM seems to be one point where all sources agree, with a 128GB storage option being touted by IBTimes. Going by the leaked pictures and history of the One line, you'd expect the excellent front-facing BoomSound speakers to return too.
Will the HTC One M9 Have an UltraPixel Camera?
Would you except "sort of" for an answer? According to Bloomberg, it really depends on which camera you're talking about. Their sources state that HTC is ready to give up on using the divisive UltraPixel camera on the rear in favour of a standard 20MP camera instead. According to that report, the UltraPixel camera (initially trumpeted by HTC for its low-light capabilities) will then be relegated to the front-facing camera spot for selfies. Low-light selfies, eh? Hmm...
Going back once more the NowhereElse leak, it seems that the depth-sensing Duo Camera system of the M8 is being dropped too. If that prototype is legitimate, there doesn't seem to be any effort made to accommodate a dual rear camera set up.
Phandroid has also spotted that HTC employee Jerry Wang has been posting images to his Flickr account from unusual devices, with the model numbers HTC 0PJA10 and HTC 0PJA13. While these have yet to be associated with the One M9, the resolution of the shots lines up with the standard 20MP rear camera rumours we've been hearing (cropped to a 16:9 ratio, the 3024 x 5376 could theoretically come from a 20MP snapper).
However, they're hardly inspiring. Washed out and lacking in detail, they're either hastily taken or struggling to find an attractive focus point
Of course, there are plenty of variables that could result in lacklustre shots -- we've no idea of the source subjects for the photos, the settings used on the phone, whether the image processing software is finalised or even if the photographer was simply taking shoddy shots for some mysterious reason. But either way it's set alarm bells ringing regarding the rumoured decision to drop the UltraPixel camera sensor.
Are There Any Decent HTC One M9 Concepts Out There?
Aside from the Emprogadgets shot up top? Not as many as there usually are for Samsung or iPhone releases! Cue HTC fanboys stating that you can't riff on perfection, etc etc. Still, we did get this slick render from Jermaine Smit back in November. While its spec sheet suggested by Smit seems unlikely, we'd be inclined to agree that the M9 won't stray too much from the gorgeous design of the M9:
How About Smartwatches? HTC Got Anything Going on There?
Alongside the UltraPixel revelations, Bloomberg sources also suggested that HTC may launch a smartwatch alongside the One M9. This would presumably be made in collaboration with US fitness apparel brand Under Armor, with whom HTC announced a partnership deal back at CES 2015 at the start of the year.
Again, there's little to go on at the moment -- sources don't even state whether HTC is looking to use Android Wear, or opting to use an alternative operating system, as LG is doing with WebOS. Under Armor does already have its own UA Record fitness app -- its open-source build makes it compatible with all manner of health tracking devices. Here's hoping whatever HTC's offering may be is device agnostic too.
How Much Will the HTC One M9 Cost, and When Will it be Released?
Without a definite spec sheet to go by, we can only look to last year's pricing for the HTC One M8 for inspiration. SIM-free and off contract, it started at £549.99 for the 16GB version. That wasn't cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but the premium materials used did make it feel worth the expense. I'd expect the HTC One M9 to hover around a similar price -- though affordable, powerful handsets like the OnePlus One may be forcing HTC to reassess what consumers define as good value. Obviously, if two handsets launch, you'd expect the smaller one to be slightly cheaper.
Sending out invites in the second week of January for its MWC showcase on March 1st, it seems very likely that we'll the M9 revealed at that event. However, whereas the HTC One M8 was available to buy the very same day as its unveiling, it fell later in the month of March than the M9 is expected to make its debut. Providing that there's no production issue, I'd anticipate pre-orders opening up in the first week of March, fulfilled by the end of the month.
This post was originally published on January 20th, 2015. It was updated on January 29th, 2015, to take into account the new @EvLeaks render and alleged leaked camera shots.
Lead Image Credit: Emprogadgets