I need to start by saying I’m partial to HTC phones. Not only because they were my entry into Android phones (like many Android users in fact), but because I stuck with them. Up through the One M7, they were my only experience with Android. I had every HTC Evo phone in the series prior to the M7.

The One M8 gave me a reason to finally try another OEM, because the M8 did not push the envelope like previous HTC phones did. When the One M9 launch came by, I was hoping HTC would knock it out of the park. It didn’t, by any means.

So here I am, still waiting for a reason to join HTC once again.

But what exactly is HTC doing wrong? In other words, how would you change the One phone so that you would buy it?

Before I begin, this article is not meant to be another opportunity for haters to drop in a “HTC sucks, I hope they go under” comment. While HTC has made mistakes, it is no where near the level to just say the company sucks and turn your head away.


It’s no doubt that the One series have been beauties. HTC lets the finely-machined metal do the talking. Although the simplistic design is tired at its 3rd iteration, that sexy brushed metal can still attract.

[df-gallery url=”https://www.androidguys.com/gallery/htc-one-m9/”]

Unfortunately with the M9, HTC did not fix a glaring problem with the M8. The phone is simply too big for a 5-inch phone.

The size of the phone is too weird of a spot to be in. The phone is too big for consumers who still want a smaller display. And the display is too small for consumers who want a phablet.

And why is this? The bezel is due to both the dual-front speakers and that infamous black bar area under the screen.

Now, HTC has expressed that there’s important circuitry under the black bar that inhibits removing it. Excuses won’t help save your phone. Something has to be done.

Concept of what the M9 was thought to be
Concept of what the M9 was thought to be

The next problem is in only offering a 5-inch display phone. This is the craziest thing to me. There are so many people who want large displays. Ignoring that much of the market is inexcusable.



As many, I was pretty upset about the camera in the One M9. Not only because it was a weak contender in the flagship arena, but because in the past, HTC had so much emphasis on superior smartphone camera technology. On the One X/Evo LTE, HTC made it a point to increase the lens aperture (where others didn’t make it a focus until later on).

The subsequent Ultrapixel camera received mixed reception, but at least HTC was taking a stance on something they believed in. I still value low-light capability over MP count.

But with the M9 camera, I didn’t sense any of that passion. It just felt like HTC said, “Here you go, a high MP camera. Enjoy.” Firstly, abandoning the low-light focus made HTC look disorganized and lost. Next, the Toshiba-manufacturer camera sensor in the M9 had issues that other flagships have ironed out by now (grainy/fuzzy shots in lower-light and over-exposure in dynamic range situations). I don’t know if the fault was in the choice of sensor or not enough development on HTC’s part.

What else?

I’ve covered my big issues with HTC’s current offering: Bezel, no large display option, and camera. Do you agree? If you could, what would you tell HTC the next launch needs to have to get your hard-earned money?

Leaks of the upcoming One A9 are worrisome, hinting at a mid-ranger with considerable bezel. It was once thought to be a big-hitter, to make up for the M9’s lack of sales. The direction of the A9 now appears to be a strong budget contender. We’ll know the full scoop on Oct. 20th.

Regardless of what happens, I won’t forget where we’ve come from. HTC was there in the beginning of Android, and its contribution isn’t deserving of quick dismissal.

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  1. I couldn’t agree more. The things that turned me off on the M8 and even more so the M9 was the size of the device/bezel and the camera. The phone felt too tall and that is due to the design (the front-facing speakers and that logo). When the concept was “leaked” I was freaking excited and I would have been all over the M9. But they settled for only minor tweaks to the existing design. Other makers have shown how to have front-facing speakers w/o taking up so much space. If they truly need that space under the logo, then move the speakers to the outside like the concept (I still look at that concept and think it’s a sweet looking device).

    The camera- well enough has been said about it, so I won’t go on, but it was the biggest reason for my decision to move away from the HTC One series. The M9 camera (while decent) was such a let-down, especially compared to the great strides others were making in the camera improvements (LG and Samsung). The camera has increasingly become one of the most important factors in my phone purchase decision as the best camera is the one you have with you. Despite having a DLSR, I find myself in situations without it where I need a great camera and HTC has failed to make enough improvements to keep up with the competition.

    I also think they should offer something else with a larger screen as an option. Not a dumbed-down version like the past One Max (mid-range processor), but a phone that will compete with others in that category.

  2. All kinds of hardware updates, yes. But that much “dead space” around the screen is a big no for many users, as pointed out by the author.
    Fix all that and one problem still remains, their OS. They so need to skip that launcher and overthemed android. Its like a completely different OS and most android users want android. They look at htc and see something that doesnt look like the android on the other phones. They could still be unique and have a sexy device even if they remove like 90% of that horrible thing they call UI. Including the outdated icons and too many builtin htc bloatware apps.

    Apart from that, overall hardware device still looks good just needs to get on a diet to remove some space around the screens.

    My 2 cents, bye.

  3. I am also a long time HTC devotee, starting with the units they manufactured for other companies (e.g. Palm) and moving through the Incredible on through the M9. Another disclaimer, I regularly test products for them.

    I think they have made only two serious mis-steps, but they are huge, and have cost them market share. The first was the huge bet on “ultrapixel” cameras. Nobody drank the Cool-Aid. Nobody bought the hype. It was just marketing hokum that totalled up to an inferior camera in an otherwise magnificent handset. I agree that merely “switching back” to megapixel in the M9 without making a bigger fuss (or adding OIS) made the M9 underwhelming and doomed it at the start.

    The second, larger mistake, IMHO, is that their marketing has completely sucked. They seem to be more about developing a “culture” and “personality,” and developing social media buzz, even when those efforts come at great expense AND don’t particularly contribute to sales volume. I have had HTC employees tell me that building buzz is important — even while conceding that it hasn’t helped sales. And don’t get me started on Robert Downey, Jr. What HTC’s Taiwan HQ failed to recognize was that in the USA, if it doesn’t contribute to sales, it’s irrelevant (and it’s very bad business).

    I still think they are the best handset manufacturer; their designs are second to none, witness Apple’s out-and-out theft of HTC’s designs for their iPhone 6. It is a testament to HTC’s poor marketing skills that everyone is accusing HTC of “stealing” the iphone design with the leaked images of a rumored handset.

    If they keep making excellent handsets AND marketing them properly, they have a clear path back. (And, btw, don’t forget they have a gaming headset and probably wearables coming). If they continue “business as usual” they will go the away of another groundbreaking tech design company: Palm.

    Finally, I have to say one more thing. This bezel thing is just plain stupid. Nobody looks at the bezel when the screen is on, people. If you are, check your eyes, you’re missing the screen. And when the screen is off, who cares what’s on the bezel? Yeesh. This perpetual fuss has just killed me. It doesn’t matter. Period.

    • Great point about the marketing, you’re absolutely right. HTC has done a terrible job with marketing. I loved their first commercials, where they focused on how a phone compliments your life.

      With the bezel thing, I was mainly focused on how it makes the phone bigger than what it should be. It’s too tall for a 5″ device. I’ve seen people turn it down, because of this (and very disappointingly because it’s one of the only flagship left with a small screen).

  4. I’m still sporting an M7. Tried an iPhone last spring for 3 days and went back to the M7. Nice phone. Would love an HTC upgrade, but have not the M8 or M9 because of the camera. I don’t get why writers are tired of the same design signatures, especially one as well crafted as the HTC one’s. The iPhone writers don’t complain about the tired iPhone look. I would love a storage card slot and a huge battery or removable battery along with a killer main shooter.

  5. The best path for HTC is Chapter 11. Nobody wants their crap anymore. They got too big too fast and their products and support turned to garbage. Nobody will miss them WHEN their assets get sold for pennies on the dollar.

  6. The answer is with a flagship killer, it seems this is the new attraction people seeking. That is my advice

  7. As a long time HTC user, I really like their overall design. And contrary to the author’s perspective, it is the smaller screen/dimensions that appeal most to me about their standard flagship. There is always the “plus” version for those that desire a larger screen size.

    However, I’m a busy professional and I’m often on the go with phone in tow. I want something that is convenient and travels light but also provides great capability. I have an Android tablet for needs that require a larger screen. There are few sub-5″ phones in the market today that don’t also greatly compromise on specs or offer a lesser design. I’m still using the M7 daily and it has been the best phone I’ve ever owned. I could have upgraded months ago but nothing has compelled me to do so. However, I can tell that it no longer performs as optimally and is not scheduled for Android Marshmallow upgrade so its retirement is imminent.

    I’ve been a die-hard Android fan for about six years, but the lack of moderately-sized devices with flagship specs of late has me really rethinking whether an iPhone might provide better utility for me (gasp!). I hope there will be some better offerings in the market in the near future so I can avoid that path.

  8. Really good article, I think you hit on the main pain points. The only one I’d add is battery life. HTC has been notorious for using much smaller batteries than their competitors and from the M7 on they’ve always had mediocre battery life. The crazy thing to me has been HTCs inability to listen to it’s customers. No matter how many times they hear “remove the double chin, get a high quality camera, and make the battery bigger” they have failed to do any of these in 3 years.

  9. I would love to see an HTC phablet phone with a finger print sensor. Oh wait, they already made one two years ago with the HTC One Max. Although definitely ahead of its time, the HTC One Max had a lower performance than the M7 that doomed it from the start. If HTC can release just two phones, an HTC One and an HTC One Max with similar specs except screen size, I think they will do well. That strategy seems to have worked for Apple and Google.

  10. Need a no-compromise device … which, knowing HTC, is nearly unachievable for them. But seriously: Lumia build quality, microSD, removable battery, thin bezel, WQHD screen, excellent camera.

  11. I really like HTC and am still enjoying my sexy feeling HTC One S. The quality of HTC is great. The One M series carried on the same design far too long and every model blink feed etc. Edges from glass to frame were sharp. Our business would love to see them have a super compact model no more than 140mm high or less. A beefed up One A9 if you like. I strongly believe that a 4inch screen in a body no more than 140 and in the same style and roundness of the A9 will be a winner across so many socio economic platforms. Im looking to upgrade, I have looked at the apple and sony z5 compact and have resigned myself that a small increase in size is ok so ill wait for the A9 and other models to be released on Oct 20th.

  12. The complaints about the M9 not looking like a render or a concept device are stupid beyond belief. Do cars look like their concept brothers? No…not at all. I have the M8 and it was a marked improvement over the M7 in many ways. My wife sports the M9 and came over from the Moto X and has been very pleased.

    That said, I hope the M10 released in 2016 goes back to the UP camera technology.

  13. I agree that with HTC only offering 5″ displays on their phones is “old”, and when clearly the market is driving for displays that are at least 6″ inches, HTC need to produce a larger smartphone for the U.S. and other markets around the world. They produce the “Butterfly” phablet and it’s sold in Japan, why not sell in the U.S.? Apple finally saw the light by producing a larger IPhone, and in doing so copied many Andriod smartphone manufacturers. Many Andriod smartphone manufacturers have been producing 5.5″ to 6″ displays on their phones for a couple of years now. Especially in overseas markets like in Asia. Even Samsung makes a Andriod smartphone with a 7″ inch display that is sold overseas.

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