It was well known that on April 14, the One M9 would be launched in India. Although HTC devices haven’t had the best sales reception in India, the M9 – as the company’s global flagship – surely had a chance with high-end specifications such as a 5-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 810 octa-core SoC, and a 20MP rear camera along with a 4MP UltraPixel front facing camera, as well as that premium aluminium unibody design.
The event happened, and there was no launch of the One M9. What?
Instead, HTC India launched the One M9+ and the E9+, both handsets originally launched for the Chinese market on April 8. The M9+ is theoretically a larger, upgraded M9, while the E9+ is a cheaper phablet with a plastic metal frame design.
The One M9+ will be available on May 3 at a price tag of INR 52,500 – more expensive than its main competitor the Galaxy S6 – while the pricing for the One E9+ hasn’t been specified yet. For that handset availability is said to be a more generic mid-May.
Also, they made it clear that there are no plans to launch the regular M9. This is shocking news from an established player like HTC. By not offering a global flagship in India, HTC has made an unprecedented decision: this situation has practically never occurred in the past. It’s a disturbing trend. By all means offer the M9+ and E9+, but HTC should give the option of the M9 as well.
Some publications are saying that the One M9+ is a better phone than the One M9. They say HTC should have launched it in the West too. Let’s see if this claim is correct, doing analysis of specifications…
The HTC One M9+
The One M9+ is a different type of phone. It was rumoured to launch simultaneously with the M9 at MWC, but it didn’t make the cut. At that time it was also rumoured to have a Snapdragon 810 version for international markets as well as the MediaTek MT6795T version for Asian markets. As we see now, the Snapdragon 810 version was cancelled. It also resulted in HTC limiting availability only to Asia.
Let’s take a look at the One M9+ specifications:
- 5.2-inch QHD (1440×2560) Super LCD3 display
- Octa-core 2.2GHz MediaTek Helio X10 MT6795T SoC: 8x ARM Cortex-A53, PowerVR G6200 GPU
- 3GB of RAM
- 32GB of storage, with expandable microSD card slot
- 20MP 1/2.4″ Toshiba T4KA7 rear camera + Duo Camera
- 4MP 1/3″ OmniVision OV4688 UltraPixel front facing camera
- 2840mAh battery
- Touch-based fingerprint scanner on the front
- Android 5.0.2 Lollipop + HTC Sense 7
The upgrades and downgrades
On paper, the upgrades from the M9 are in the display (bigger, higher resolution), the return of the Duo Camera from the HTC One M8 (although it didn’t work that well then), and that touch-based fingerprint scanner, which by definition will be a lot better than the swipe-based fingerprint scanner HTC once included on the One Max.
The downsides on the other hand, are mostly concentrated in the processor. First off, the inclusion of a MediaTek chipset makes the One M9+ the most expensive MediaTek phone, by far.
The choice of an octa-core Cortex-A53 setup for the CPU is itself controversial – the Snapdragon 810 (even though it isn’t free from its share of controversy) is sure to be faster in real-world performance, and the same will be even more true for the Exynos 7420 in the Galaxy S6.
We’ll be interested in comparing the sustained CPU performance with these SoCs as well as the last-generation Snapdragon 801 (which has four Krait cores).
Next up is the GPU. It’s laughable to see something like the PowerVR G6200 in an INR 52,500 phone. The GPU is slower than the PowerVR G6430 in the iPhone 5s, and slower than the Adreno 330 in the Snapdragon 800. It offers about the same performance as the Adreno 320 / Adreno 405 in Snapdragon 600 / 615.
Coupled with the QHD resolution, we have major qualms about the gaming experience. Sure, games run upscaled from 720p/1080p, but even at those resolutions, there will be issues with frame rates unless graphics are low. Then you have potential throttling, which is sure to make it even worse.
Battery life is also a major unknown quantity (a reminder: the MediaTek chip is manufactured at 28nm versus 20nm for the Snapdragon 810), and something we won’t know about until the reviews are published (right now this phone hasn’t been reviewed yet).
Did HTC make good choices with the other components?
- Display: On paper, the 5.2-inch QHD display of the One M9+ is a serious upgrade from the 1080p display on the M9. (And kindly don’t use the argument that QHD is unnecessary. You can see the difference in text-intensive tasks like reading). The One M9’s panel has OK viewing angles but less than stellar colour calibration, and up till now, QHD LCDs haven’t had the greatest luck with contrast. Has HTC used a top quality panel or an older one? That we will come to know only after the reviews.
- RAM and storage: At 3GB/32GB with a microSD card slot, HTC has this covered.
- Camera: Although the 20MP rear camera seems to be the same as that of the One M9 (which is an OK – less than great – sensor paired with a terrible Auto mode and suffers from lack of OIS) it’s now paired with a Duo Camera, which hasn’t been seen since the M8. Our guess is that this means the background defocus feature will perform better, although it’s hard to tell if that will actually be true.
- UltraPixel front facing camera: All the reviews have been praising the M9 for including the 4MP UltraPixel as a front camera, so the M9+ should also have the same advantage in this field.
- Fingerprint scanner: After a generation of terrible swipe-based fingerprint scanners from the Android manufacturers, we’re finally seeing a move to touch-based fingerprint scanners.
- BoomSound speakers: For many people, it will be the defining feature of this phone. However they also have a heavy cost on the overall size of the phone (along with the black bar which contains the display driver).
- Software: As the One M9+ is not going to be released in the West, the speed of software updates will be questionable (and slower than the One M9). You can expect Android 5.0 + Sense 7, one version of Android behind the stock experience.
So right now, a lot of variables in the One M9+ are unknown. It can still manage to be a good device, but in our opinion, it’s heavily overpriced by HTC (again, nothing new, but we’re speaking of a MediaTek chip this time).
And we’re still hoping HTC changes its opinion on the decision not to bring the One M9. A lot of people would have preferred the smaller, faster (better CPU + GPU), and more regularly updated phone. Not good. Not good at all.
The HTC One E9+
Against the Galaxy S6, the outlook for the One M9+ is grim. The One E9+ though is a cheaper version of the M9+ – and price is everything. It has much of the same specifications but some variations. The spec sheet is as follows:
- 5.5-inch QHD Super LCD3 display
- Octa-core 2GHz MediaTek Helio X10 MT6795M SoC
- 3GB of RAM
- 16GB of storage with microSD
- 20MP rear camera
- 4MP UltraPixel front camera
- 2800mAh battery
The One E9+ has a display size of 5.5-inches, making it a phablet. It also loses the aluminium unibody design for a plastic + metal frame one. The Duo Camera and fingerprint scanner disappear again and storage is downgraded to 16GB. The processor is also clocked at 2GHz instead of 2.2GHz.
The question is, how much cheaper than the M9+? HTC has yet to tell.
We’ll revisit both of these phones once the reviews arrive for their analysis, so stay tuned.
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