Why HTC's UltraPixel Despair Left the HTC One M9 a Camera Confused

By Gareth Beavis on at

Think what you like about the new HTC One M9 – it’s the world’s best designed phone/ it’s mostly exactly the same as the one before – there’s one thing that confused me about this flagship.

You see, I’ve sat in countless briefings and presentations from the Taiwanese brand over the last 24 months, hearing how UltraPixels (the idea that you don’t need loads of megapixels, you just need fewer MASSIVE ones) are the future of cameraphones, that HTC was fighting the ‘megapixel myth’.

Warrior-brand HTC battled back against the insanity of others like Sony making a 20MP sensor and sticking it to the back of a phone...before doing the same thing. Exactly the same. It even bought the sensor from Sony.

So what gives guys? You can tell me all you like that the UltraPixel camera works on the front of the phone better, but that seems like an excuse to admit failure. (Admittedly UltraPixels on the front improves selfie quality massively – although that in itself makes me sad. Better to just make them look awful then people might stop taking them).

I was all set to berate HTC for this cop out, that it caved in simply because it couldn’t be bothered to make the effort to convince users that UltraPixels were worth it.
Then I dug a little deeper with the brand, and realised something: HTC is sad about UltraPixels.

Firstly, I didn’t know that it wasn’t HTC’s proprietary tech. It’s from STMicroelectronics, a European electronics manufacturer, and UltraPixel tech has already appeared on other phones in China.

Secondly, I got the distinct impression (although never explicitly said) during multiple conversations that HTC had tinkered with the tech and couldn’t get it to the level needed to have a great 8MP sensor. (I don’t know why. Apple’s done low light to a half-decent degree, and Samsung doesn’t look too far off either).

That said, I still think the brand looked at the weaknesses of the One M8 (and the camera was certainly one of them, bleeding light left, right and centre) and decided that the best thing to do was whack a massive sensor in there, so the spec sheet in your local phone emporium would look better than Samsung’s.

But I still have hope. I hope that HTC does better next year with the One M10 by bringing back the Duo Camera and a brilliant low light sensor coupled with a higher resolution (and gives it a better name while its at it).

I get the feeling the new One M9 camera is going to be unimpressive, a stock option to fill a need. I want innovation HTC, like you managed with the Duo Camera, plus an iPhone-beating picture experience.

Come on – be brave HTC. You can make UltraPixels work still. All you need to do is match the iPhone’s resolution and you’ll be fine – but don’t just give in and do what everyone else is doing for the sake of it.