HTC One M9 vs HTC One M8 smartphone comparison

The HTC One M9 has been announced at MWC 2015. As the first flagship Android phone of 2015 it is a big, big deal. And in our view at least it is a great smartphone.

HTC needs a winner right now, and we think it is the HTC One M9. Should you get an HTC One M8 or wait for the HTC One M9 Hima? Read on and we will explain, based on our extensive testing of the HTC One M8, and our HTC One M9 review: hands-on with HTC's best ever smartphone - the headline there may give away what we really feel. (For more, see HTC One M9 UK release date, price, specs rumours.)

HTC One M9 Hima vs HTC One M8 smartphone comparison: UK price and availability

The HTC One M8 is widely available in the UK. At launch, the HTC One M8 cost £550 on a SIM-free basis – but these days you can get it for less. And it is going to go down quickly when the HTC One M9 launches. Right now you can get a good deal on the HTC One M8 here.

If you want an HTC One M8, shop around and you can find this great handset for as little as £400 - £450. The HTC One M9 finally arrived on 1 March 2015, at a lavish launch event. You can relive the excitement here: New HTC One M9 launch as it happened.

You'll be able to get your hands on the new HTC One M9 at the very end of the month: it will be released on 31st March. The firm hasn't announced a price but we expect it it will have a typical flagship price, which is currently around the £549 mark. We'll update this article when retailers reveal their prices. (See also: Best smartphones in the UK | Best phones | Best mobile phones.)

So today your only choice is the HTC One M8. But hang around for a few weeks and you will have a choice of that phone for a very cheap price, or the HTC One M9, which will be widely available.

HTC One M9 Hima vs HTC One M8 smartphone comparison: design and build

The HTC One M8 has a uni-body aluminium design. It measures 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4mm and weighs 160g. Relatively large for a 2014 flagship, it doesn't feel too large in the hand. Of all the Androids the HTC One M8 is the only one that feels like an iPhone-like premium smartphone. Ergonomic, but also sturdy. This is important because, as well as feeling like a device which has been carefully designed and put together, it doesn't feel overly delicate.

There is a case for the HTC One M8, but we doubt you would need it. From launch, the M8 itself is available in three different colours. The most popular is likely to be 'Metal Grey' but there's also 'Artic Silver' and 'Amber Gold'.

HTC One M8

The HTC One M9 has been criticised for looking too similar to its predecessor. This seems harsh - as described above the HTC One M8 is beautiful. Why change?

It's made from a similar metal block to that of the M8 and uses the same curved shape and hairline finish while using angular features from the HTC One M7 (the original HTC One). New features in the design include a scratch-resistant coating, machine drilled buttons, and a sapphire glass lens on the rear camera. The power button is now on the side instead of the top which we think is a much better place for it.

Colour options are similar but HTC has employed a new two-tone look with the back and sides getting contrasting adonisation. In our photos you can see the rear cover has a silver finish while the sides are gold. If this model doesn't float your boat then there will also be 'gold on gold' and 'gun metal grey on grey'.

The HTC One M9 is a very desirable smartphone when held in the hand. It fits nicely and like the M8, is one of the only phones on the market to compete with the iPhone on build quality. It screams of craftsmanship but the stepped design might not be to everyone's taste as at certain angles it looks like a case.

We were hoping for a thinner and lighter design and although the device is slightly lighter than its predecessor, it's marginally thicker. Overall it is an improvement on the HTC One M8, but only a marginal step forward. We wouldn't upgrade just for this. (See also: 16 best new phones coming in 2015.)

HTC One M9 Hima vs HTC One M8 smartphone comparison: display

HTC has given the One M8 a 5in display - that's actually a little on the small side in the current big beasts phablet market, but we found it a great size in a well-sized handset. The screen's resolution is a 'mere' Full HD (1920x1080). This gives a more than healthy pixel density of 441ppi. The HTC One's display is crisp, vibrant and looks stunning. We like the contrast ratio and viewing angles.

One thing we particularly like about the M8's screen is its silky gloss finish which, more than other phones, means your finger glides brilliantly across its surface. It's just another detail which makes this phone feel so premium. With the HTC One M9, HTC has decided to stick with a 5in screen for the M9 and has also kept the resolution at Full HD (1080 x 1920). As with the design, there's no upgrade here because there doesn't need to be (but that cheaper HTC One M8 is looking like a bargain right now). 

HTC One M9 vs HTC One M8

HTC One M9 Hima vs HTC One M8 smartphone comparison: specs and performance

The M8 runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor. In this case the 801 quad-core chip has a slightly lower than average clock speed of 2.3GHz. And there is 'only' 2GB of memory. The HTC One M8 continues to offer outstanding performance, and around 24 hours of battery life with reasonable use.

Fast forrward ot the HTC One M9 and memory has been boosted by 50 percent to 3 GB and there's a new processor in the form of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 which is both octa-core and 64-bit. It comes with the Adreno 430 GPU. We'll test performance properly when we get to spend a lot of time with a final unit, but signs look promising based on our hands-on time. This is a very fast phone, and it should be faster and more future-proofed than is the HTC One M8. (Also see: what's the fastest smartphone 2015.)

Wireless setup remains strong with 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, NFC and an IR blaster. If you were hoping for any new features such as a fingerprint scanner or heart rate monitor then it's bad news.

Mysteriously, even before launch the HTC One M9 showed up in the Geekbench 3.0 database, a benchmark we use to compare smartphone- and tablet processing power. According to the database the HTC One M9 recorded 1232 points in the single-core component, and 3,587 points in multicore. If true, that would make the HTC One M9 faster than any smartphone we've ever reviewed. Whether you need a faster smartphone is another question, but expect good progress in this space.

If speed is your thing, the HTC One M9 is a worthy upgrade.

HTC One M9 Hima vs HTC One M8 smartphone comparison: storage

The HTC One M8 comes with only 16GB onboard storage. You will need more storage than that, and you can add it: there is an SD card slot that allows you to mount an additional 128GB.

With the HTC One M9 you get 32GB of internal storage and an SD card slot capable of accepting up to 128 GB cards. Minor improvement here, then.

HTC One M9 Hima vs HTC One M8 smartphone comparison: cameras

With its recent cameras HTC has eschewed the megapixels arms race. And that is probably a good thing. The HTC One M8 has a HTC UltraPixel Duo Camera including a 5Mp front camera with wide angle lens. There isn't as much detail in photos compared to the M8's rivals but because its pixels are bigger the phone is better suited to low-light situations. The dual-focus feature is interesting and fun. Sadly video quality is poor.

The HTC One M9 no longer has the Duo Camera setup consisting of two camera lenses. Instead, HTC has gone for a 20 Mp rear camera with the same dual-LED flash.

It can record video in 4K resolution and uses a 'dynamic exposure algorithm' to mimic the human eye. Despite the lack of a second depth sensor, we're told it can still produce similar effects to the Duo Camera. The front camera on the M9 is the rear camera from the M8 for selfies and although all of this seems promising HTC has asked us not to comment on photo or video quality as the handset we saw was pre-production and not running the final software.

To go with the new hardware is a software feature called One Gallery which we haven't been able to try out but will in theory bring all your photos together from the likes of Dropbox, Flickr, Google Drive and Facebook into one place.

It is difficult to be truly sure at this stage, but the hardware- and software improvements made in the HTC One M9 suggest that it will be a much better camera.

HTC One M8

HTC One M9 Hima vs HTC One M8 smartphone comparison: software

The HTC One M8 runs Android KitKat. HTC's BlinkFeed feature is more in your face than a standard Android install, but remains beloved by some. Sense 6.0 brought with it some new features, including on-screen buttons, full-screen mode, and Motion Launch Gestures. There are other minor tweaks, but customisation has been improved with the ability to select different theme. In a similar way to other phones which use themes, a wallpaper is tied in with a particular colour which is then used throughout the software such as the settings menu. We haven't tried this out yet but you can also choose a different system font to create a very different look and feel.

As you would expect, the HTC One M9 runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop which is the latest version. However, HTC doesn't leave it as is so puts its own skin or user interface over the top. The M9 introduces Sense 7.0 which has some new features.

HTC largely does things its own way with BlinkFeed to the left of the main homescreen, a grid view recent apps menu and a vertically scrolling app menu. However, the stock dropdown notification bar is in use (with some HTC style added) and the good news is that you can customise which quick settings you want.

Talking of customisation, this is the main emphasis of Sense 7.0 so there's a new Themes app where you can download various user interface themes. However, you can edit details yourself such as icon styles and fonts. The software will also generate a theme for you based on a photo.

We've already mentioned HTC Connect and One Gallery in relation to audio and photo and another new feature is called HTC Home. It's another thing which we've not been able to test but it sounds great. The software is location aware so you can use a different lock- and homescreens depending on where you are.

For example, when at work you'll get icons for your email and calendar and these will automatically get replaced with a remote control app and Facebook when you get home. You can select what you want for each layout but suggestions will be made based on your habits. (See also: Best Android phones 2015 UK | Best Android smartphone reviews.)

The upgrade to Lollipop alone is a reason for me to want to upgrade the handset. But those HTC Sense developments are well worth having too.

HTC One (M8): Specs

  • 5 inch, Full HD 1080p, 441 PPI
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, quad-core, 2.3GHz
  • Android 4.4 KitKat with HTC Sense 6.0, HTC BlinkFeed
  • 16GB, available capacity around 10GB
  • microSD (up to 128GB)
  • 2 GB DDR2 RAM
  • Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS, Digital compass
  • Gyro sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, barometer
  • 3.5mm stereo audio jack
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX
  • dual-band Wi-Fi up to 11ac
  • micro-USB 2.0 (5-pin) port with mobile high-definition video link (MHL)
  • Infrared
  • HTC BoomSound - Dual front stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers
  • HTC UltraPixel Duo Camera
  • 5Mp front camera with wide angle lens
  • 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4mm
  • 160g
  • 5 inch, Full HD 1080p, 441 PPI
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, quad-core, 2.3GHz
  • Android 4.4 KitKat with HTC Sense 6.0, HTC BlinkFeed
  • 16GB, available capacity around 10GB
  • microSD (up to 128GB)
  • 2 GB DDR2 RAM
  • Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS, Digital compass
  • Gyro sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, barometer
  • 3.5mm stereo audio jack
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX
  • dual-band Wi-Fi up to 11ac
  • micro-USB 2.0 (5-pin) port with mobile high-definition video link (MHL)
  • Infrared
  • HTC BoomSound - Dual front stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers
  • HTC UltraPixel Duo Camera
  • 5Mp front camera with wide angle lens
  • 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4mm
  • 160g

OUR VERDICT

More of an iterative upgrade than a must-have change. Evolution rather than revolution. The HTC One M9 is an improved version of the already excellent HTC One M8. This will mean both that the cheaper HTC One M8 becomes and even better deal, but also that the HTC One M9 is a good upgrade from its predecessor. HTC's best ever smartphone: which makes it pretty great.

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