Microsoft snaps up the technology behind the Surface Pro 3’s pen

In love with the Surface pen? You’re not the only one. Microsoft
confirmed on its Surface blog this morning that it acquired the
pen-sensing technology that helps power the Surface Pro 3 from the
company that created it, Israeli tech outfit N-trig. If you’re the type
who pays attention to Israeli business newspapers, this whole thing
might not come as a shock – Calcalist reported earlier this year that Microsoft was eyeing N-trig for a full-on acquisition
that would see the company’s 190 employees folded into the Microsoft
mothership at some point. That’s not the case anymore, though: We’ve
been able to confirm the folks in Redmond just bought the technology,
and not the whole company.

So, aside from a little M&A
intrigue to spice up your Friday morning, what does this mean for you?
Well, the Surface Pen is one of those bits of the Surface experience
that seems totally extraneous at first, and then more-or-less lovely
after you’ve gotten to play with it. It’s far from perfect — N-trig’s
pen ditched its predecessor’s ability to erase stuff by flipping the
thing around — but the purchase signals Microsoft’s commitment to
making pen input something that could feasibly replace the traditional
thumb-punching and finger-poking touchscreens have attuned us too. It
shouldn’t be long before we see some of N-trig’s tech in action, either
Windows 10’s launch is just over the horizon at this point and we
already know that some new Windows smartphones will play nice with pen
inputs thanks to a feature called DirectInk.
That we’ll be able to write on a broad swath of new devices soon was
never a question, though there is one loose end we haven’t been able to
tie up: What’s going to happen to the rest of N-trig?

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LG G4 vs Apple iPhone 6

LG G4 vs Apple iPhone 6

Introduction

A 5.5-inch phone that retains the design language of the LG G3 with LG’s signature rear-positioned buttons, the LG G4
focuses on two key areas for improvement: first, it’s style, with a new
leather back cover option and second – an improved, 16-megapixel camera
that aims to rival the best. One of these best devices that will be
natural competition to the LG G4 is the Apple iPhone 6.
A kind of a gold standard for design with its sleek metallic body, and
reliable, consistently great 8-megapixel camera, the iPhone 6 might be
smaller in size, but packs an equally sizable punch.

Apart from
the size, the two differ mostly in that they run on two fairly different
operating systems: the G4 runs on Android that is skinned to LG’s
liking, while the iPhone runs on iOS 8 that takes pride in its
user-friendly face.

In this full comparison between the LG G4 and
Apple iPhone 6, we compare the two in all the important aspects, from
the aforementioned design and camera, to their performance, call
quality, and battery life. Let’s get right to it.

Design

The
LG G4 is a rather large phone, especially when compared with the sleek
iPhone 6, but both have their distinct appeal. The leather back of the
G4 feels soft and warm, while the iPhone 6 has a cold, but sturdy metal
body…

The LG G4 comes in two versions differing only in their back
cover: there is one with a diamond-shaped, 3D-like plastic finish that
sells for the price of a regular flagship, and another model with a
premium genuine leather back cover that is offered for $50 more. The
first one is nice plastic, but still plastic. It is the leather one that
is definitely the fancier one: it has got that signature stitch that
goes right along the center, and different colors of it come with a
different kind of leather. The black one, for instance, has a large
porous structure, while the brown one has a finer grain to it, so we
would recommend getting a hold of various color versions to pick your
favorite not just by its color, but also by feel. The Apple iPhone 6, on
the other hand, comes in a sturdy metal body that lacks the warmth and
soft touch of leather. The aluminum is a cold material that just
subconsciously says you’re holding a solid device that will last for a
long time. It’s hard to pick a favorite between two vastly different
materials – it will depend on your own preference.

In terms of
size, the 5.5-inch LG G4 dwarfs the iPhone 6, which is also noticeably
thinner and lighter: thickness is 0.27” (6.9mm) with the iPhone, and
0.25” to the whopping 0.39” (9.8mm) on the G4. In fact, the G4 is the
thickest, chubbiest flagship of the year so far.

The interesting
thing about the LG G4 is its Slim Arc curve up front: the screen is just
slightly curved, but that slight curve reduces the chance of having
your phone drop flat on its screen, and hence, the chances of breaking
the display are probably smaller.

The color options on the LG G4
include: ceramic white, metallic gray and gold for the plastic model,
and red, brown, blue, yellow, and black genuine leather. The iPhone 6,
on the other hand, has a silver, gold, and dark grey color finishes.

It’s
also worth pointing out that the iPhone 6 has a fingerprint scanner
built right in the home key. Its primary purpose is to make your device
more secure by locking it with your fingerprint, and you can use Apple
Pay for cashless payments in the US. The LG G4, on its part, lacks a
fingerprint scanner. The LG G4, on its part, has an IR blaster and an
app that goes with it allowing you to control your TV or other
electronics. This time, it’s the iPhone that lacks such a feature.

LG G4

LG G4

5.86 x 3 x 0.39 inches

148.9 x 76.1 x 9.8 mm

5.47 oz (155 g)

LG G4

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6

5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 inches

138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm

4.55 oz (129 g)

Apple iPhone 6

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.

Display

The LG G4 sports a super sharp 5.5-inch
display with a Quad HD resolution, while the iPhone 6 sports a 4.7”
screen with a resolution of 750 x 1334 pixels. Color accuracy is not
perfect on both, but the iPhone 6 is much closer to the ideal.

The
LG G4 features a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 1440 x 2560
pixels, and it’s using an IPS LCD panel that LG claims has improved
qualities over the G3 predecessor. The Apple iPhone 6, on its own,
features a much smaller, 4.7-inch screen with a resolution of 750 × 1334
pixels and also uses IPS LCD technology. Both appear very sharp, but
when you look up close you notice that the much larger pixel density of
the LG G4 (538ppi) translates in sharper looking detail, much sharper
than the iPhone 6 with its 326ppi. That’s something you notice mostly
when looking at the phone from very up close, but not so much in daily
use.

Since both phones would appear sharp enough for most people,
it is arguably the color accuracy that makes the bigger difference for
the end user. The LG G4 features a so-called ‘Quantum Display’, but how
does this marketing term translate into real-life? First, we look at
gamma, a value indicating whether the luminance of the screen is
appropriate at various nuance levels. Ideally, it should ideally be
around 2.2, and good news is that the G4 is just about at that sweet
spot with a gamma measuring 2.24. The iPhone 6 also excels in this
regard with a gamma of 2.23, so we can conclude that on both phones,
darker areas will appear as dark as they should be, while brighter areas
of images will be as bright as they should be.

Next, we look at
color balance, and unfortunately that’s where we can see that the LG G4
has a preference for colder tonalities. The white point reference value
we are looking for here is 6500K, and the G4 is notably above it, in the
territories where whites appear bluish at 8000K. The iPhone 6, on the
other hand, is also a bit on the cold side, but just slightly with a
white point of about 7150K.

Finally, we test the actual color
accuracy. We look for compliance with the sRGB color gamut, the color
space that pretty much all content on the web is optimized for. The LG
G4 has colors that are wider than sRGB, meaning they appear
unrealistically overblown. Some people might like it, but the screen is
not color accurate by a long shot. The iPhone 6, on the other hand, is
not perfectly calibrated either, but is much closer to that sought after
perfection as its colors nearly match the reference values.

All
tech explanations aside, we can sum it all up by saying that the LG G4
has overblown, eye-popping colors that might please some people, but are
not color accurate. The iPhone 6 is closer to that ideal, but also not
there.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness
(nits)Higher is better
Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Apple iPhone 6 606

(Excellent)

7

(Good)

1:1563

(Excellent)

7162

(Good)

2.23 3.51

(Good)

3

(Good)

LG G4 454

(Good)

2

(Excellent)

1:1930

(Excellent)

8031

(Poor)

2.24 5.08

(Average)

7.28

(Average)

View all

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Running Old Mac II Software on a Smartwatch Is a Great and Terrible Idea

Running Old Mac II Software on a Smartwatch Is a Great and Terrible Idea

When Macintosh II debuted in 1987, it was the first color display for
Apple computers. It was a software leap forward to be sure, and now it
fits on your wrist—if that’s something you want.

YouTube user Corbin Davenport is like a retro-computer-to-smartwatch porting expert. He’s brought Windows 95 to smartwatches
and now Macintosh is getting a turn. It’s a neat little moment of tech
nostalgia, seeing old boot-up screens and menus, until you try to
navigate anything without a mouse.

Yeah, I think I’ll stick with Android Wear, thanks. [Android Police]

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The most popular smartphone in the US increases its lead slightly

The iPhone has slightly increased its lead as the most popular smartphone in the U.S., according to newly released data from comScore. The global leader in digital media analytics, comScore issues regular updates on key trends in the U.S. smartphone industry through its MobiLens and Mobile Metrix offerings.
Apple ranked as the top smartphone manufacturer during the three months ending in March 2015 with 42.6 percent of U.S. subscribers, a 1 point increase over Dec. 2014. Samsung came in at second place with 28.3 percent of smartphone subscribers in the U.S., losing 1.4 points of ground. In third place, LG gained 0.4 points by landing in the hands of 8.4 percent of the market.
comScore-manufacturers
The top smartphone platform in the U.S. is still Android, with 52.4 percent of the market share. Apple gained ground here, too, rising 1 point over December’s numbers to 42.6 percent. Android’s market share dropped 0.7 percent during the first quarter of 2015.
comScore-platforms

The increase in Apple’s numbers is modest, to be sure, but it shows that customers are still switching to iOS even though the iPhone is expected to be refreshed in the fall. It will be interesting to look at these figures again in another three months, when early results come in of the impact of Apple Watch on smartphone consumers. Cupertino is banking on interest in its new wearable device driving more sales of the iPhone, but will that actually happen? — AppAdvice

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LG mentions the iPhone 6 Plus on its website to show its lower screen resolution compared to the G4

Usually, when a smartphone manufacturer’s website mentions a competing handset, it’s just for the sake of comparison, and to ultimately suggest that said handset isn’t on par with the respective manufacturer’s products. Well, this is exactly what LG is doing now on the official product page of its brand new G4



As you can see above (or at the source link below), LG says that, “pixel for pixel, the display on the new G4 has a higher resolution than the iPhone 6 Plus. With more than 3.5 million pixels at your disposal, you can see everything in amazing detail.” 



Of course, the quality of a display is far from being exclusively related to its pixel resolution. But LG is right: the 5.5-inch Quad HD (1440 x 2560) screen of the G4 is sharper than the 5.5-inch 1080p (1080 x 1920) display of the iPhone 6 Plus. Obviously, it’s also sharper than the 4.7-inch, 750 x 1334 pixels screen of the regular iPhone 6 model. This being said, we’re looking forward to thoroughly testing the screen of the G4, which, until now, looks quite impressive. 



In the meantime, you can check out this G4 vs. iPhone 6 quick comparison, or you could see how the G4 fares, size-wise, against the iPhone 6 Plus and other flagships.

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Three new Blackberry phones leaked in photos

Blackberry has definitely been going through some hard times lately. The legendary company hasn’t quite managed to stay relevant and is left targeting a pretty narrow, niche consumer market. The company’s latest smartphone, theBlackBerry Leap, which came out at MWC 2015 didn’t really manage to impress,, but there might still be some hope for the Canadian company to rekindle at least some of its former glory.
As some of you surely remember, at the very same Barcelona venue last month, Blackberry gave us a quick tease by bringing up on stage what clearly looked like a slider with a double-edged screen. A new set of leaked images seems to showcase the very same phone, as well as two more BlackBerry devices, so fans have a lot to look forward to.
First up, is the aforementioned curved device. It is dubbed the BlackBerry Slider or BlackBerry Venice and it is gearing up to be a true flagship offering. It should feature a 5.1-inch display, with a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels. Currently, we can’t really say in the display is actually curved, like the one on the Galaxy S6 edge, or the effect is achieved by some clever optical work, like with the upcoming Oppo R7, but that is really beside the point. The smartphone looks quite nice and a very pleasant change of pace for BlackBerry. Its specs sheet should also include an octa-core CPU, a 16MP main camera, 5MP front-facing shooter and a 3,650 mAh battery, so it is definitely studding into flagship territory.
There are two other new devices that are featured in the leaked photos. One is said to be a direct successor to the current BlackBerry Passport. As far as we know, it will bear the name Oslo and share much of its sibling’s specs sheet, like the same 1440 x 1440 pixels display, Snapdragon 800 chipset, a 13MP camera with OIS and a 3450 mAh battery. The device also looks to be quite similar on the physical side, with the same spacious physical QWERTY keyboard.
Last, but not least, we have a device, allegedly bearing the model number P’9984, which could only mean one thing – a new Porsche Design handset. It also looks to be modeled after the BlackBerry Passport, but bears that signature design and color-pallet.
Neither of the devices has been discussed at lengths by BlackBerry, so we can don’t have any info on availability or pricing.

 – GSMArena.com news

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LG G4 rumor round-up: leaked images, performance, price and release date

LG G4 rumor round-up: leaked images, performance, price and release date
The LG G4 rumor mill has started churning information at full speed ahead of the expected official announcement of LG’s new flagship. We already have an official announcement date: it’s April 28th, mark it on your calendars. In the meantime, in anticipation of the big unveiling, it’s time to start rounding things up ahead of the big launch.
LG G4 rumors so far agree suggest that it will bring improvements a few key areas: the camera, as the new G4 is expected to feature a fast f/1.8 lens on a 16-megapixel camera sensor; materials as all teasers suggest a leather-like finish on the G4; and a brand new user interface in the form of LG’s UX 4 with livelier, fresher colors and Android 5.0 Lollipop as the base.
What else will we see in the LG G4? And could it steal the thunder from the hottest phones right now: the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Apple iPhone 6, and the HTC One M9? Let’s find out.

Design and display: curve ahead

LG surprised us with the G Flex 2 early this year at CES 2015, a futuristic handset with a self-healing back cover, but – most impressively – a curved, flexible display that would bend to such an extent that you can even sit on the phone while it’s in your rear pocket without breaking it.

The flexible part with all its increased durability consequences might be reserved for the futuristic G Flex 2, but all indications suggest the LG G4 will have a slightly curved screen. First and foremost, the first leaked image claiming to portray the G4 shows a very subtle curve, but also – and very importantly – we’ve seen this slight curve make its debut on the family of new mid-rangers LG introduced at Mobile World Congress 2015 (devices like the LG Magna, for instance). Will such a tiny curve have any actual repercussions on functionality like the edge of the Galaxy S6 edge has, for instance? We’re yet to see, but we would not be surprised if LG emphasized such a possibly extravagant feature, if just to have an equal footing with Samsung in this regard.

5.5-inch Quad HD display, but increased color gamut seems like marketing fluff

What about the screen? LG has officially released a brand new 5.5-inch Quad HD (1440 x 2560-pixel) LCD display panel right before the G4 unveiling, boasting about it being “a quantum jump in terms of key features, including color gamut, brightness, contrast ratio, touch function, power consumption and thinness.” What does that mean? LG explains that the screen will have a 120% color gamut, a 50% higher contrast ratio (supposedly, from earlier model) and it’s 30% brighter than most other displays. We don’t have the tiny details, but it’s worth remembering that adhering to color standards is what makes a display look actually great, and in this train of thought, having a 120% color gamut than the standard 100% is not something to brag about, as it will make for inaccurate, overblown colors. It seemed like such marketing fluff was in the past when companies like Samsung bragged about having wider color gamuts (the Galaxy S6 display, for instance, now adheres to the standard 100% sRGB color gamut, which makes its colors look truly outstanding), but unfortunately, the G4 seems set to take a step backwards in this regard.

Most importantly, the expected dimensions of the LG G4 have leaked out as well. The phone will be slightly taller and wider than the G3 (take a look at our size comparison below for the actual numbers). We see two possible reasons for this: a larger display (latest rumors point to a 5.6-inch screen), or additional functionality at a similar screen size. Again, it’s too early to tell which would it be (or whether it’d be both), but one thing about the display seems certain: this will be at least a Quad HD screen with impressive sharpness.

LG G4 LG G4

5.87 x 2.96 x 0.35 inches

149.1 x 75.3 x 8.9mm

oz (0 g)

LG G4

LG G3 LG G3

5.76 x 2.94 x 0.35 inches

146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm

5.26 oz (149 g)

LG G3

LG G2 LG G2

5.45 x 2.79 x 0.35 inches

138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9 mm

5.04 oz (143 g)

LG G2

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit ourVisual Phone Size Comparison page.

Catching up with mobile payments: will there be a fingerprint scanner?

There is one area where both Apple and Samsung have made great strides forward, and where others have simply failed to catch up: mobile payments. And it’s been years in the making: Apple introduced Apple Pay last year, but has had the necessary fingerprint scanners in iPhones since the iPhone 5s, while Samsung just uncovered its rival service Samsung Pay, but has also had a fingerprint scanner in its flagship Galaxy S5 and Note 4.

LG on the other hand? Not a single device with a fingerprint scanner, and hence, no mobile payment system. No this is a long shot, but the initial reports by the generally reliable Korean media pointed out that the LG G4 will finally bring a change and introduce a fingerprint reader with an accompanying payment system. Logic also gives credence to this rumor – LG needs to catch up in the payment area in order to keep its devices relevant. Also, it seems that by now both Apple and Samsung have settled on touch-based (rather than swipe-based) fingerprint sensors, so – if LG goes ahead with this – a touch sensor is exactly what’s expected. Is it certain that the G4 is getting a fingerprint scanner, though? Not at all: look for this feature, but don’t bet your chips that it will be there.

Performance: Snapdragon 810 sits on the bench, Snapdragon 808 is a starter

We’ve been hearing about LG working on its own system chip for years now, but it seems that early rumors all agreed that the LG G4 will run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810.

The octa-core Snapdragon 810 is a 64-bit chip using four Cortex A57 high-performance cores and four Cortex A53 energy-efficient cores in a big.LITTLE setup. Those four cores, however, tend to get really hot, unless you cap their performance. And if you do, you lose a lot of the performance gains.

Hexa-core Snapdragon 808 might be a safe bet to avoid overheating problems

Skip forward to recent days, and we have the first leaked benchmark runs of the LG G4, where it is – surprisingly – listed touting a Snapdragon 808 system chip. The Snapdragon 808 is another SoC in Qualcomm’s all-64-bit new lineup, but rather than having four high-performance (and high-heat) Cortex A57 cores, it features only two of them along with the four battery-savvy Cortex A53s. The GPU in the Snapdragon 808 is the Adreno 418, a graphics chip that is 20% faster than the Adreno 330 found in the Snapdragon 800/801, but still behind the Adreno 430 and Adrenoe 420. Overall, though, it’s clear that the Snapdragon 808 should be a bit behind most 2015 flagships in terms of pure performance. Good news is that this suggests that the LG G4 will also continue LG’s tradition of being more affordable than top-tier phones like the Galaxy S6.

LG has set a precedent with last year’s flagship G3 sporting 32GB of internal storage (twice more than the usual 16 gigs), and we expect this good tradition to continue in 2015. We’ve also heard rumors about the back cover of the phone being removable, which could mean that the phone will support expandable storage via microSD cards.

Interface: a taste of Lollipop with a brand new LG UX 4.0

LG UX 4.0

 

In order to make full use of the 64-bit Snapdragon 810, the LG G4 has to run on the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop, and – of course – it does. The system is said to be overlayed with LG’s updated UX 4.0 custom skin.

LG has officially unveiled the new UX 4.0 before the announcement of the LG G4, so we now have all the official details. The flat style of the interface remains, but it has become a bit more colorful. LG promises some big changes, and the one we’re most excited about is the improvement to speed: UX 4.0 should run smoother, a change that is particularly needed given that the LG G3 had a noticeably stuttery performance.

LG also introduces neat new features like Quick Shot that allows you to double-tap on the rear home key to start the camera swiftly from any app and even when your display is off. Inside the camera, you now have not only the all-auto mode, but three modes: Simple, Basic and Manual. The manual is the one we’re most curious to see (hopefully, it gives control over shutter speed and ISO for a full manual ride).
As a whole, UX 4.0 learns more from your routines, making the Smart Notice smarter, and the information is far more relevant. So, if you are a runner, the notification will offer the weather forecast as well as additional tid bits like, “Perfect time to go for a run.” Unique customizations continue from there where the UX 4.0 will also assign a unique ringtone ID for every caller that is in your favorites list.
Here is a summary of the new features in each version of LG’s user interface:
Version Main Features User Benefit
UX 1.0 Quck Memo, QSlide Efficient management
UX 2.0 KnockON, KnockCode Greater convenience
UX 3.0 Gesture Shot, Touch & Shoot Easier and simpler usage
UX 4.0 Camera Manual Mode, Smart Notice Personalized user experience

Camera

The LG G4 will feature a 16-megapixel main camera with a fast, f/1.8 aperture lens and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. LG emphasizes the wide-aperture lens and all the light-gathering advantages that it brings, so we’re looking forward to the G4 being a great camera for low-light shots. The 8-megapixel resolution of the front cam is also above most of the competition, and while resolution is not equal to quality, it does suggest higher amount of detail. LG boasts that the selfie cam features an ultra-thin IR filter to keep infrared light from entering the camera lens, and sets expectations for images with “more natural and accurate colors.”

Three new modes in LG G4 camera
Three new modes in LG G4 camera
The camera can be started from within any app (even the lock screen) with a double tap on the rear key, and it packs a simple, basic, and manual modes.
As a quick flashback, the LG G3 arrived with a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, and with the rear-positioned keys, using it was quick and easy. The same ease of use will be preserved in the G4. The quality of the images on the G3 was very good, but a step short of excellent: detail was a bit smudged and images tended to have a slight yellow-ish tint, and those are two issues we hope to see fixed in the new LG G4.

LG G3 camera samples downsized, see our review for full-size samples

LG G4 price and release date

LG G4 will be unveiled earlier this year, on April 28th

The LG G4 announcement date is now officially set for April 28th when LG will hold events in six of the world’s largest cities: New York, London, Paris, Istanbul, Singapore, and Seoul. It’s interesting to note that company executives confirmed that LG will follow the G4 up with another high-end smartphone in the second half of the year.

The LG G4 actual release date in stores is not clear yet, but we’d put an informed guess that it will be around a month after the unveiling – in late May or early June.

The LG G4 price should also follow the example of last year’s model, and this means that the G4 would be more affordable than the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6, its main rivals (we expect a price of some $100 on contract, or around $550 off contract).

Measure
Measure

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Motorola Nexus 6 arrives officially in six new markets

Google expanded the availability of Motorola Nexus 6 to six new markets. The Android 5.1 Lollipop phablet is now available to purchase from the new Google Store in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, and Portugal.
This means that Google’s flagship handset is now available directly from Google in a total of 21 markets globally. The search giant and Motorola have clearly caught up with the brisk demand for the device, which caused quick sellouts at launch.

On a side note, Google also officially brought the Asus-made Nexus Player to the United Kingdom. The TV console is available from the Google Store and Amazon among others for £79.99. – GSMArena.com news

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HTC One M9 review: Another year, another modest step forward

Let’s say you’re a smartphone maker and you cook up a formula for a beloved, game-changing device. The next year, you tweak that formula a bit to create a worthy, if slightly less exciting, follow-up of a phone. What do you do after another year has gone by? Try something completely different in hopes you’ll catch lightning in a bottle again, or keep plugging away on the mobile DNA that made you such a worthy name in the first place? If you’re HTC, the answer is obvious: You keep polishing and polishing that formula until you finally reach the ideal you’ve been working toward.

That’s what we have in the One M9. It’s still a ways off from fulfilling the vision that HTC’s design wonks had in mind, but in most ways it’s a very thoughtful refinement of what made the One series so special. Your pleas and complaints haven’t gone unheard. The thing is, when the One M9 does try new things — be they software features or hardware changes — it doesn’t always stick the landing.

Gallery 35 Photos

HTC One M9 review

One M9

Summary

HTC’s 2015 flagship was designed to feel more premium than previous models, but it runs the risk of feeling dated two years on. It’s sturdy and plenty powerful with its Snapdragon 810 chipset, but the M9’s 20-megapixel camera doesn’t seem any better than the UltraPixel shooter HTC ditched, and the occasional software quirk raises eyebrows.

Hardware

Note: I’m working with the international version of the One M9. I’ll update this review with new impressions once US units become available.
It’s impossible not to compare the M9 to the Ones that came before it, which leads to some simple shorthand for HTC’s design work this year: Put simply, it’s almost like the M7 and M8 had a baby. Where the M8 was polished and curvaceous like a river stone — a choice that meant the thing slid around more than some liked — the M9 channels more of the original One M7’s angularity. HTC’s newest flagship feels familiar as a result, but that’s not to say that everything HTC did was for the best.

Anyway, more on that later. Let’s start with the broad strokes. The M9’s sloping back would look almost identical to its predecessors were it not for some major camera changes: Last year’s Duo Camera UltraPixel setup has been replaced with a single, squarish, sapphire-covered pod that hosts a more traditional 20-megapixel shooter. Thankfully, none of that changes how comfortably the M9 settles into the hand. You’ll find the nano-SIM and microSD card slots (the latter of which takes cards up to a whopping 2TB) nestled into the left and right edges, respectively, just where they were last year. The lengthy volume rocker that ran down the previous phone’s side has been split into two discrete buttons, though, and the sleep/wake key has been moved below it and was given a neat spiral pattern so you can tell the difference without looking.

At first glance, the phone’s face is almost identical too. The only real changes you’ll notice when that 5-inch, 1080p screen is off are incredibly subtle ones, like the top BoomSound speaker being a little shorter to accommodate the bigger UltraPixel selfie camera. Hell, you might not even notice one of the quietest structural changes — the M9 is the first One with a front plate hewn from a single block of aluminum, with holes machined in to hold the screen and speakers in place. It’s an impressive feat of production, but it’s not like it makes the M9 feel any sturdier than it already is.

Come to think of it, it’s that kind of minute change that seems emblematic of the M9’s overall aesthetic. In most ways, we’re still dealing with the same One DNA as before, just peppered with a handful of modifications meant to make the whole thing feel more premium. Consider the color, for one: My review unit is the same two-toned, rose-gold-and-silver affair I first played with back at MWC, and it’s still just as polarizing as it was a few weeks ago. I’ve grown inordinately fond of the color combination, though others who saw it were less than impressed by the company flinging itself onto a gold-hued bandwagon. Thankfully, you’ll soon be able to pick up full-on silver or gunmetal models too.

More importantly, the M9 sits in my hand with just the right amount of weight and gravitas. It’s light without feeling chintzy; it screams “solid,” maybe even a little more than the M8 did. No wonder HTC’s brass has spent so much breath talking up that machined chassis. To hear them tell it, the metal’s “jewelry-grade” finish resists scratches and crafting each M9 involves 70 steps and takes 300 minutes to complete. Similar attention has been paid to what wound up inside the phone: We’re looking at one of Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 810s (a bit of silicon that pairs a 2.0GHz quad-core processor with another 1.5GHz quad-core unit), 3GB of DDR4 RAM, 32GB of storage and support for super-fast LTE Cat 9 data speeds where they’re available. All of that together is enough to make you wonder how well the company can produce these things at scale, but the effect is mostly wonderful.

Yep, that’s right: “mostly.” The biggest physical offender is hard to miss: The gold edge that runs around the M9’s sides terminates in a pronounced ridge that feels completely out of place. Some will mind it less than others — it does make the M9’s body feel less slippery than the M8’s — but a colleague summed up my feelings best when he said it was like having the edge of a butter knife pressed into your palm. Possible butterfinger moments aside, the beauty of the M8’s curves was that it made the physicality of the phone sort of fade into the background. Not so this time. At least that edge won’t catch on your pockets when you whip your phone out.

All told, it’d be easy to snipe at HTC for playing it too safe this year. I had to fight the temptation to do so myself. Like it or not, HTC’s design chiefs have a clear sense of what they want their flagships to look and feel like and they seem more than happy to chip away in a single direction year after year. That’s just great for their sense of artistry, but we’ll see if people actually flock to a phone that doesn’t look like a dramatic improvement over the ones that came before.

Display and sound

While rivals like Samsung and LG have flung their arms open to embrace Quad HD screens, HTC seems more than happy to buck the trend. Need evidence? Look no further than the M9’s face — the flagship comes loaded with a 5-inch Super LCD 3 display running at 1080p, putting it well behind the competition when it comes to sheer pixel density. Thing is, that’s far more of a disadvantage on paper than in practice. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to pick out an individual pixel on the M9’s display, and viewing angles are still first-rate here. What’s more curious than HTC’s resolution decision is just how different it is from the panel placed in the M8. Seriously.

The M9’s LCD is altogether much cooler than the M8’s, which makes for crisper, more neutral whites at the expense of slightly less impactful blacks. I spend more time than I’d like to admit poking around on Instagram every day, but the difference couldn’t have been any clearer than there — colors were much punchier on the M8’s screen, while the flower, puppy, graffiti and food pictures Instagram is notorious for came across as less saturated and, dare I say, neutered on the M9. Your mileage may vary (I’ve always preferred the slight oversaturation of AMOLED screens), but a certain dose of pop that made some photos come alive on last year’s model is gone here, and I’m frankly bummed because of it.

If there’s one thing HTC knows, though, it’s how to shoehorn a pair of speakers into a smartphone. BoomSound is back for a third year running and the dual-speaker setup still mostly sets a high bar for the rest of the industry’s high-end wares. Yep, there’s that pesky “mostly” again. I’ve run both the M8 and the M9 through my usual slew of test tracks, ranging from poppy ethereal stuff like Mika’s The Origin Of Love album to Sambomaster’s furious Japanese rock, and once again found that the M8 usually did a better job of reproducing classic tunes than its successor. Most times, the M8 was a touch louder and shined a little more light on the primary vocal track in the mix; meanwhile, the M9 projected a soundscape that drew me in a little more thanks to cleaner channel separation, but seemed softer in comparison.

That doesn’t mean the M9 is necessarily worse, just that it seems to be tuned a little differently. HTC has Dolby Audio running in the background to help give those speakers some more oomph, and I can’t help but wonder if that extra software isn’t to blame — too bad there’s no way to turn it off. If you’re feeling really picky, you can toggle between Music and Theater modes in the settings, but I honestly couldn’t make out the difference either way.

Software

Remember the old, overwrought days of Sense? With that gigantic weather/clock widget and HTC’s insistence that basically every bit of Android had to be customized to within an inch of its life? Yeah, so do I. Those were rough times. HTC’s done a great job of dialing back its influence on Android over the past few generations, and we’re now left with a version of Sense that’s both smarter and great at getting out of your way when you want it to. If you’ve spent any time at all with the M8, you’ll feel right at home here — just about all of the software features that made it what it was are back on top of Android 5.0.2, along with a few smart new bits that strive to do more than they actually can.

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