The HTC One has a horrible name, but it's also a fitting one. It's HTC's One saving grace, the One thing that almost single-handedly gave an injection of adrenaline to its dying corpse. It's also the One Android phone that changed how Android handsets were made — metal beats plastic.
And now a new One is coming, and it could be One of the most exciting phones of 2015. HTC's big announcement is coming up on March 1 at Mobile World Congress, and rumours say that it could be a conservative update, building on what worked so well with the M8. Other rumours say that that HTC is planning a drastic rework. We could be in for a surprise.
Whichever winds up being the case, the M9 will almost certainly be a great phone (like its predecssors) and a potential candidate for your next Android smartphone.
What will it be called?
Leaks concerning HTC's new flagship have been floating around for months, and at first it seemed like the phone was getting new everything — even a new name. Back in December, the somewhat reliable @upleaks said via Twitter that HTC was actually ditching the M9 naming convention for something else entirely: "Hima". Buuuuut then it turns out probably not:
Confirmed：HTC Hima will be going to the market with marketing name HTC One M9.
— @upleaks (@upleaks) February 4, 2015
Even though the new One may be sticking with the (bad) "M[X]" naming convention, at least it took a bold step towards rationality by getting rid of the dumb parentheses. That's something.
Now, there are also rumours of something called the "Hima Ace Plus" (M9 Prime?) floating around, a 5.5-inch deal. However, it's not expected to launch this March but in August or September. This might just be early rumblings of a new HTC Max, but for now we won't worry about it.
I think we can all rest easy and say the M9 will be made out that same chiseled block of aluminium, just like its two predecessors. After all, why fix what isn't broken? For the front of the device, leaks of prototypes show a few nips here and some tucks there. Take a look for yourself.
The photo above, from nowhereelse.fr, certainly looks like a One M-something. In fact, it looks suspiciously like the M8. Duo speakers resting on the top and bottom, relatively the same size, with maybe a slightly lighter colour palette. Here are two the two phones together, comparing the slight differences.
So a slight re-imagining of the HTC branding band, slimmer bezels and a little bit different take on the front-facing camera (which is additionally rumoured to have HTC's totally fine but also not revolutionary UltraPixel tech inside). Phandroid also has a similar image for the M9, and this one of the back:
You'll notice one particular feature missing, which is an absent second camera to complete the One's typical Duo Camera setup, hardware that gave the M8 Lytro-like after-the-fact focusing, gave the phone digital (instead of optical) image stabilisation, and let you do fun tricks like this:
We'll be sort of sad to see it go! While it wasn't always super useful, the Duo Camera was one of the most interesting and unique things about the M8, but GSM Arena reports that of all the M9 cases already posted on Amazon — usually a good source of leaked information — none of them have the appropriate holes for a Duo cam. Additional leaks showing the M9 Dot View case, the nifty flip cover that turns the main screen into a retro-y display, seems to confirm the same.
These leaks are in-step with Bloomberg's report that the M9 would resemble the M8 in both size and design. So this is most likely the phone we're looking at.
There are other, more far-fetched possibilities. One designer pulled together a render of the new M9 based on current leaks, which completely re-imagines the the BoomSound speakers, making them look more like the subtle, almost invisible edge-mounted speakers on the Nexus 9, which was also made by HTC.
And to throw a whoa-if-true spanner in everyone's careful leaking, Evan Blass, the famous leaker formerly of @evleaks (who says the image on the right is "official"), wrote on HTCSource that HTC has been outfitting the M9 with decoy bodies when handing the phone to hardware partners who needed pre-launch access. So if Blass is right (He could be? It's a toss-up) all the real photos are wrong and we'll see something completely different (and more like the renders above) come March 1st. It would also mean that HTC is being preeeeetty damn secretive and savvy. We'll see!
HTC has done a good job keeping the look of the M9 a secret, but its done a less-than-stellar job keeping the specs on the down-low. Bloomberg ruined a lot of the surprise, saying the M9 would have a 20Mp rear camera, a new Snapdragon 810 processor. Once again, @upleaks fills in the rest saying we should expect a 5-inch 1080p display, 3GB of RAM, and 4 UltraPixel front camera, 32GB or 64GB on-board storage, a microSD expansion slot, BoomSound dual speakers and a 2840mAh battery.
Now that screen resolution is sort of low. Most smartphones seem to be making the evolutionary leap to Quad HD. The LG G3 launched with such a pixel-packed LCD in the spring last year, and the new Droid Turbo and Note 4 followed suit. But! If these rumours hold true, HTC will be bumping up battery capacity from the M8 while keeping the same full HD LCD panel, meaning even better battery life than last year's. If you ask me, that's way more valuable than a more pixel-packed screen.
The same source who delivered hardware specs also told Bloomberg to expect the One M9 to ship with Android 5.0.2 with HTC's Sense 7 UI on top. If you're really interested in knowing every single app that will probably ship with the M9 you can already take a look. I would also suspect that there will be a heavy influence on camera software since the M9 will be upgrading the sensor and also expanded Sense photo capabilities as with the Desire Eye last year.
Other than camera speculation and that detailed list of applications, there's not much else out there on what the M9's Lollipop/Sense 7 Frankenstein software will look like, but you can take a look at these purty, rumoured stock wallpapers the M9 may come with:
It also looks like HTC may put out a Windows Phone version of its new flagship much faster this time around, instead of waiting a few months and then putting in under a temporary exclusive with Verizon. If they do run a Windows Phone variant, it would most likely be an exact hardware copy of the M9 (just like the M8 for Windows), only dressed up in Windows Phone clothing.
Cost and availability?
All rumours point to the M9 coming to all major carriers in the US. And if history is any indicator (and it usually is), the M9 will arrive at around $US200-$US250 range, just like its predecessor. That price seems to make the most sense as it competes with the iPhone 6 base model as well as the rumoured price for the upcoming S6.
Bonus Round: HTC Petra
But perhaps HTC's most anticipated "mythical" device is its wearable. After all, everybody is doing making one. No, literally every company including Motorola, Samsung, ASUS, Sony, LG, Huawei, Apple and Microsoft is doing it. HTC is the noticeable holdout, and Mobile World Congress 2015 might be when we'll finally see something.
For one, the name is up for debate. "Petra", much like "Hima", definitely sounds like a codename. The most interesting part is that the wearable may be OS agnostic, meaning it would be both Android and iOS friendly (no word on WP). Other than that, this mystery wearable is said to have 1.8-inch flexible display and last for three days on a single charge. In some ways, it kind of sounds like a Microsoft Band, and may also be focused on fitness as well. That makes sense considering HTC's recent partnership with Under Armour, which just bought MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness, and Endomondo.
Honestly, all of this sounds a little light at this point in the game for the wearable to be ready for MWC. Unless HTC wants to pull an Apple and announce a product that won't come out for half a year. Let's hope not.
So lots of questions still need answering before March 1 rolls around, or else we may just have to be patient and see what HTC says. Wouldn't that be just the worst?