Everybody was overexcited about the HTC One M9 being launched at the MWC 2015 show in Barcelona, and that excitement was repaid with a flagship smartphone touting competitive specs and features, all the while continuing with a design language that sat well with fans of the smartphone manufacturer. After its launch event, the HTC One M9 became the second (or third, depending on how you look at it) best smartphone of the MWC 2015 show, right after the two Samsung brothers, the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge. The One M9 has pros and cons, but most smartphone enthusiasts and fans agree that the Taiwanese company could have done better. Turns out, they did do better with the HTC One M9 Plus or One M9+, which brought together in one compact smartphone all the features that fans found to be missing from the flagship smartphone launched for the global market. Which is why HTC enthusiasts and smartphone fans in general are already pretty upset about the new HTC One M9 Plus launch and release.
People have been voicing their indignation on community forums and message boards all around the internet after hearing about the Chinese launch of the HTC One M9 Plus, for one simple reason: that’s the flagship, yet it’s exclusive to China. Fans are feeling betrayed, and with good reason. Many don’t understand the strategy behind the HTC One M9 and One M9 Plus, because something seems off about the entire portfolio that HTC introduced this Spring. First off, the One M9 is a powerhouse, touting the 64 bit Snapdragon 810 chipset and 3 GB RAM and performing well on benchmark tests. Real life tests also praise its performance and design, but there are many complaints about the One M9 camera, even though the latest software update issued a couple of weeks after the launch event fixed some of the bad post processing that was going on. And in comes the HTC One M9 Plus with over the top features, yet missing the good specs that are present in the flagship smartphone, which raises the question: why release two smartphones, one endowed with great specs, the other with great features, instead of releasing an international version that encompasses both these smartphones?
If you are confused, you should know that there are major differences between the HTC One M9 Plus specs compared to the regular One M9. Some are better, some are worse, and the phone is exclusive to the Chinese market for now. In order to understand why HTC’s move is bordering “stupid” as some might say in various Youtube rants that I’ve come across, we should see how the two smartphones actually size up next to each other, so let’s give it a go.
First off, the HTC One M9 release date was on Friday, while the HTC One M9 Plus release date is not set just yet. They’ve unveiled the One M9 Plus at the beginning of April in China to positive feedback, and made it clear that for the time being it is a China-exclusive release. Moving on to some actual specs, the first difference that we notice between the HTC One M9 and One M9 Plus is the design, which features a fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button of the latter. This feature was deemed missing and a con for the HTC One M9, so it makes sense that HTC wanted to release a phone that has a feature that every other major smartphone manufacturer is beginning to include in their releases, especially since mobile payments are becoming more and more popular. But why put it on an exclusive release instead of on the flagship smartphone that will be available globally, in order to make use of that fingerprint sensor in the U.S., where mobile payments are most popular at the moment, all the while taking on Apple, the most popular smartphone manufacturer and mobile payments provider of the States? Beats me.
The second difference lies in the display. The HTC One M9 display is a 5 inch FHD Super LCD3 display that has a 1080*1920 resolution that adds up to a great 441 ppi pixel density, protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4. We’ve no beef with the lower resolution display, nor the screen size, but there are millions out there who are wondering why QHD resolution is not a thing with HTC. Well, once the HTC One M9 Plus display was revealed, there was no doubt left about how well HTC can implement QHD resolution in their smartphones. The HTC One M9 Plus display is a larger, 5.2 inch Super LCD3 panel with a QHD resolution of 1440*2560 which add up to 534 ppi pixel density and the panel is protected by the same Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The display is the first thing we notice as being different between the flagship HTC One M9 and the China-exclusive One M9 Plus and fans are not happy about it. Because the phone is China exclusive, it does not support American, European or other regional LTE and 3G bands and networks, which in turn means that even if one could import the HTC One M9, they could not use it. A big blow to the fans from the Taiwanese company and we’re not entirely understanding why they did this.
Moving on to probably the most debated area of smartphone engineering, hardware configuration, we can see that there’s a good reason why the HTC One M9 is the flagship and the One M9 Plus is an exclusive release. While the One M9 specs include a 64 bit octa core Snapdragon 810 CPU, backed by an Adreno 430 GPU and 3 GB RAM, the HTC One M9 Plus specs include an octa core Mediatek MT6795T CPU, backed by PowerVR G6200 GPU and 3 GB RAM. While on paper, performance shouldn’t be that much different between these two smartphones, the Snapdragon 810 is usually better when it comes to graphics intensive games and apps than Mediatek processors in general. Since we can’t put the HTC One M9 Plus performance to the test yet, we can’t say for sure how much performance differs from that of the flagship. Our sources who have played around with the One M9 Plus for a couple of minutes didn’t notice major differences, but a couple of minutes of testing is never enough to get a full portrait of what a phone can do. A microSD card slot that can hold cards with up to 128 GB extra storage is an extra feature in the One M9 Plus, but the One M9 flagship’s microSD card slot can hold up to 200 GB extra storage.
When it comes to the camera setup, both the One M9 camera and One M9 Plus camera are largely the same: 20.7 MP sensors on the rear with dual-tone flash and 4 MP Ultrapixel selfie cameras on the front. The difference in camera setups between the two is that the One M9 Plus camera has an extra 2.1 MP depth-sensor attached on top of the standard Toshiba sensor that’s found in the One M9. The One M9 camera performance is in no way spotless, and although the software update of last week in the U.S. has improved the picture post processing algorithms, it did not make the camera super-powerful. The update did make a difference in overall picture and video quality, but not as much as to catch up to the Galaxy S6. We can’t say much about the One M9 Plus camera because we haven’t tested it, but sources say it’s a bit inferior to that of the flagship One M9.
The rest of the hardware and connectivity specs are all the same, including battery size, NFC, IR blaster and BoomSound stereo speakers. The difference between the One M9 and One M9 Plus further on is the absence of fast charging from the latter, which is due to the Mediatek processor’s inferiority compared to the Snapdragon 810. Until we can do some One M9 Plus hands on tests for a couple of days at least, it would be best if we refrained from judgement on performance when it comes to software and camera, but the specs that we’ve learned do make us question the marketing strategy behind this move from HTC.
First off, it is clear that the fingerprint sensor, larger QHD display and the added depth-sensor for the camera make the One M9 Plus better suited for the flagship role. If HTC would have been smart, they would have released just one phone, banging together the hardware and processor from the One M9 with the display, microSD card slot, depth sensor and fingerprint sensor of the HTC One M9 Plus. We don’t understand why the company made the One M9 Plus China-exclusive since it is clear that it is turning out to be the more popular device, regardless of the inferior processor. If they had placed the Snapdragon 810 inside the One M9 Plus and had made it a global release, there wouldn’t have been the outrage from fans which we’ve seen over the past few days. Everybody seems to be disappointed in what HTC is doing, and it feels like the company itself isn’t really sure what it wants to do this year. Design chiefs have left the company and Juno Cho has become CEO of HTC in the past few weeks, so there’s definitely instability coming from within HTC. Still, that shouldn’t have forced the company into releasing an exclusive phone with better features and a flagship that is only average compared to what other companies did or are planning to do in 2015.
While we can’t bring ourselves to comprehend why HTC did the moves they did with the One M9 and One M9 Plus, we might be missing the point. We can’t pinpoint the inner workings of such a large multinational company like HTC, but our spidey senses tell us this move might have been the first wrong move and it might spell downfall for the company’s revenues in the smartphone segment this year. The question remains: will the One M9 Plus be truly exclusive to China in the future? We hope not, because if the company prices it right, this phone could be the true flagship of the year, even without the Snapdragon 810 and fast charging capabilities. Reading all that and hopefully getting an idea about what the One M9 Plus brings to the table, which would you choose if you had them in front of you?