The HTC One M9 is the 2015 flagship phone from the Taiwanese manufacturer that's long been known for its design chops. And while this version of the phone — the third in what we'd consider to be the modern HTC One line, going back to 2013's M7 — hasn't exactly impressed as many folks as perhaps the company might like, it's still one of the better smartphones out there.
Whether you're in the market for a new smartphone and are thinking about getting the M9, or you've just picked one up and need a little help getting started, this is for you. It's our beginner's guide to the HTC One M9. Inside you'll find links to more in-depth pieces on software and hardware features, and how you'll be able to make the most out of your M9.
The HTC One M9 largely follows the stylings its predecessors, the M8 and M7. You've got a large, metal slab of a phone, front-facing stereo speakers (which are excellent), and cameras on the front and back.
The important specs you need to know include:
|Display||5-inch IPS at 1080p resolution|
|Operating system||Android 5.x Lollipop|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 810|
|Storage||32GB on board, microSD card up to 128GB|
|Front camera||UltraPixel (4MP effective resolution)|
The setup process in Sense 7 is pretty much the same as it's been in every HTC phone in recent memory. You've got a mix of HTC and Google here. (And you might see some setup stuff from your carrier, if you bought a phone through them.) Take your time and look through the options here. You'll sign into your accounts, and you can also use this to help sync data from an older phone, if you're upgrading.
It's worth another mention, though, that this is your first opportunity to opt out of any sort of location tracking, and also to review the privacy policies. (Or, ya know, we can blow through all that like we normally do.)
Now onto the meat of the M9 — actually using the phone. A good bit of your time is going to be spent in the usual place — the home screens. And for the most part things will look familiar to previous versions of Sense. You've got BlinkFeed, home screens and the app launcher.
But that's not to say there's nothing new here.
BlinkFeed, for the uninitiated, is a FlipBoard-like newsreader that's baked into Sense 7. You'll find it on the far left of the home screen. And it's pretty good. I can tie into Twitter and Facebook and even read your Google+ stream. Plus you'll get news feeds — be sure to add Android Central — from all your favorite sources.
New in Sense 7 is the ability to suggest places to eat based on your location (with a little help from Yelp). These also can be surfaced to your lock screen.
Sense Home Widget
The Sense Home Widget is the more controversial change in Sense 7. It takes up half the space on the main home screen (you can still add other screens if you want) and predicts what apps you use at certain times of the day, and in certain places. If you're at home, it shows the apps you use frequently while at home. Same for work, and when you're "Out." If that works for you, great! But if you're anything like us, you'll find yourself diving into the app drawer more frequently. The good news is that this is just a widget, and you can easily remove it.
There are a couple oddball folders inside this widget as well — "Suggested" apps and "Downloads." Our recommendation is to just delete them first thing.
If you've got an app you use frequently and want to make sure it stays on the Sense Home widget, you can "pin" it by tapping and holding. This sort of looses its importance if you do it for all the app spots, though.
More: Detailed instructions on the Sense Home widget
Notifications and Quick settings
Pull down from the top of your phone and you'll get your notifications. HTC has left them pretty much as Google intended. Heavily styled, however, are the quick settings. Pull down from the top a second time (or just do it once with two fingers) and you'll be greeted with toggles for things like Wifi, Bluetooth, mobile data, brightness and airplane mode. Tap an icon to toggle it on or off, and tap the three dots to go into that setting's options.
This also is where the flashlight app now lives. You can edit the order of the quick settings, and add a few others if you wish. It's all functional, but HTC's look here is starting to look a bit dated.
The camera has been the big sore spot of the HTC One M9. Make no mistake about that. It's not that it's a horrible camera, it's just that the processing struggles a bit, particularly when compared to other top-end smartphones. That's not to say the M9 has the worst camera in the world or anything. You'll be able to get good shots out of it, just not as good as often as we'd like.
With some tweaking and a little knowledge of how things work, you can, however, make the M9's camera better than what you get out of the box.
A couple of other things of note on the photography front with the HTC One M9:
- HTC broke some ground a couple generations ago with Zoes and Video Highlights. They're pretty standard in most galleries, now, and such is the case on the M9.
- The HTC One Gallery lets you pull in images from sources such as Flickr and Facebook and Dropbox.
- HTC's camera lets you shoot in RAW mode. Definitely give it a shot if you want manual control.
- And the M9 has a pretty robust photo editor on board.
New for HTC on the M9 is proper theming support. And it's a fairly in-depth feature, allowing you to not just customize the look (and sound) of your phone — you can contribute themes back to the community as well.
Locating and loading themes takes just a few seconds in HTC's themes app. You can't pick and choose which parts of themes to apply at first, but you can go back and change them after the fact. And HTC's theme engine is smart enough to pluck colors from images you upload and use them to style menus, if that's how you roll.
Audio, video and BoomSound
The combination of front-facing speakers and custom software has brought us HTC BoomSound, and it's been one of the bigger (and, frankly, awesome) improvements to smartphones in the past several years.
But 2015 sees the addition of a new software partner. Long gone is Beats (now a part of Apple, of course) and in its place is longtime audio expert Dolby.
New options for external speakers and earbuds
HTC's offering up several earbuds alongside its new phones in 2015. And with that comes a new software tweak.
There are separate options for HTC earbuds, in-ear headphones, the high-end HTC Pro Studio — and "other." The in-ear option is tuned the thinnest. In-ear adds some bass, and Pro Studio is the clearest and more balanced of the bunch.
The external speakers also have a couple options. There's music mode, and theater mode, with the latter giving things a nice boost.
You can toggle the speaker options in a notification pull-down. The options when you're using headphones are available in the main settings menu.
Also: Most major music and video apps should be able to take advantage of these Dolby options. And that does, of course, include HTC's custom apps. But we have found outliers. Rdio, for example, wasn't playing nice. But the likes of YouTube, Pandora and Spotify were just fine.
A few other minor but notable features on the HTC One M9 that you'll want to explore:
You can now change the on-screen buttons, with the option to add a fourth button and rearrange them as you see fit. Here's how to do it.
If for some reason Sense 7 is just too much for you— with its launcher and apps and icons and stuff — there's Easy Mode. Big buttons, fewer decisions. We dive into Easy Mode here.
Motion Launch & Glove Mode
Motion Launch Gestures are being downplayed a little bit from 2014's Sense 6, but they're still extremely useful options for quickly getting into your phone without actually hitting the power button. And we've got the same six this time around. You can:
- Double tap to wake and sleep
- Swipe down to turn on voice dialing
- Swipe up to unlock
- Swipe left to launch widget panel (home screen)
- Swipe right to launch BlinkFeed
- Volume button to launch camera
That last one is off by default, though we wish it wasn't.
New for 2015 is glove mode. As the name implies, turning it on makes it easier to use the phone with gloves by adjusting the sensitivity of the display.
Other HTC apps
And as you'd expect, HTC's got its usual suite of custom applications in Sense 7. Again, there's nothing really out of the ordinary here, and most of HTC's apps have been freshened up a bit in the UI department.
Here's what else you can look for. Unless otherwise noted, expect the standard but slightly updated fare from HTC:
- Car mode
- File manager
- FM Radio
- Help/HTC Backup/HTC Club
- HTC Dot View
- Kid Mode/Parent Dashboard
- Peel Smart Remote
- Voice Recorder
Like any good Android smartphone, there's a world of accessories available for the HTC One M9. We've taken a look at our top 5 overall accessories for the M9, as well as some of the top cases that are available.
Need more help?
If you're just getting started and you still need more help, don't fret! We've got more than 2 million members in our Android forums with all sorts of experience with all sorts of things. Point is, you're not alone.
So don't be afraid to ask questions. Or just lurk and see what others have sought help with, if you prefer. Chances are you're not alone.