HTC One M9 Review

Here’s my review from the latest episode of Bad Voltage. Note that a slightly longer version, with some pictures and a quote is available at LQ.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Android. As a result, I use and test a lot of different Android phones. I plan to start actually reviewing more of them. First up is the HTC One M9. You may remember that I mentioned the One M8 when I reviewed the Nexus 5. HTC’s 2015 top-of-the-line phone builds on the same sleek design as last year’s M8, sticking to the luxurious all-metal case and 5 inch Super LCD3 1080p HD screen while incorporating some key spec improvements, such as an upgraded Octo-core Snapdragon 810 processor, a 20 mega-pixel camera and a 2840 mAh battery. While it’s a bit heavy at 157g, especially compared to the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6, I prefer the weight and balance HTC has created. At 5.69 by 2.74 inches, it’s about as large as I prefer a phone to be (For comparison, the iPhone 6+ is 6.22 x 3.06 and the Nexus 6 is 6.27 x 3.27) The M9 is one of the few flagship phones to still feature expandable storage via SD card, and it offers a unique Uh Oh one-year replacement program in the US. While the phone ships with Android 5.0, I’d expect a 5.1 roll-out in the next month or so. The device is priced at $649 unlocked in the US, with on-contract pricing starting at $199.

With the specs out of the way, let’s get to what’s important; how does the One M9 perform on a day to day basis. Let’s start with the first thing you’ll notice if you’re coming from a non-HTC phone, which is Sense 7. Sense is the UI skin that HTC puts on their Android phones. If you’re a Samsung user, it’s the equivalent to TouchWiz. My last couple full time phones have been from the Nexus family and I tend to prefer the stock Android experience. That said, Sense 7 is actually quite nice. It’s clean, performs well and has a few little touches that would be welcome additions to Android proper. An interesting new feature is a home-screen widget which dynamically changes which apps are displayed within it, depending on your location. (Work, Home, on the go). The theme generator is also pretty cool: you can take a snap of anything and the phone will analyze the image and create a full palette of colors to use with icons and app headers. Even the font and icon shapes will be altered to match the overall feel of the new theme.

While the screen doesn’t have the density or resolution of the Galaxy S6 or LG G4, its 441 pixel per inch screen looks better than the similarly spec’d Nexus 5. HTC has once again eschewed playing the number game here and opted for a non-2k experience which offers almost no discernible benefits to me at this screen size while eating up more of your limited battery. While the speakers haven’t changed much since the previous version, they are still far and away the best available in any phone. The camera is one area that has had a big change since the previous model. The 4-mega-pixel Ultrapixel sensor has been moved to the front of the phone and the aforementioned 20-mega-pixel camera now sits on the back. The phone produced quality photos in my tests, although low light scenarios are a bit of a weak point. I did notice some shutter lag at times, but there are similar lags on my Nexus 5.

While the battery is slightly more capacious than the previous One and HTC estimates you should get a full day of use out of the phone, I’d say that’s ambitious. To be fair, most Android flagship phones seem to be roughly equivalent in this regard and it’s really an area manufacturers need to focus on in my opinion. One other thing that’s changed, and this time not for the better in my opinion, is the power button transferring to the right-hand side of the phone. This may be a more natural place for it to be positioned and some people seem to prefer it, but the fact that it’s the same size and shape as the volume buttons above it results in me inadvertently hitting the incorrect button at times. It’s placement has also resulted in me accidentally powering the screen off. Perhaps I hold my phone in a different position than most people, but I suspect it’s something I’d get used to over time.

One frustrating thing about the phone is that, while it supports QuickCharge 2.0, which can charge the phone 60% in just 30 minutes, the charger that ships with the phone is not QuickCharge enabled. That seems ludicrous for a phone in this price range. It should also be noted that during serious use, the phone tends to get a bit hotter than other phones I’ve used.

So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? The One M8 was one of my favorite phones last year. The slick design of the M9 is still amazing, but I will say the competition has upped its game considerably. While the M8 had the plasticky S5 and the small iPhone to contend with, the M9 has to compete with the also well designed S6 and the newer updated iPhone 6. A flagship phone has to score well in a lot of areas for me to consider it a phone worth recommending. It has to have solid performance, gorgeous design, a camera that will capture memories accurately and expediently, last through a full day of use and be reasonably priced. That’s a tall order to be sure. I think the HTC One M9 makes the short list (along with the Samsung Galaxy S6 and if you don’t mind a giant phone, the Nexus 6 or LG G4). If you’re looking for an Android phone I’d recommend you look at those phones and pick the one that suits your personal tastes best. As the Nexus 6 is too big for me, my personal choice would currently be the One M9. As a testament to just how good the phone is, I lent my review device to an iPhone user so they could get a feel for Android. They’re no longer an iPhone user.


Android Version Stats for LQ Mobile (2015)

With the recent news that Google will not patch the WebView vulnerability in versions of Android <= 4.3, I thought it would be a good time to look at the Android version stats for LQ Mobile. You can see stats from seven months ago here. Also, a reminder that is now a part of The Questions Network.

Platform Version
Android 4.4 33.14%
Android 4.1 16.82%
Android 4.2 11.18%
Android 4.0.3 – 4.0.4 10.11%
Android 2.3.3-2.3.7 9.69%
Android 5.0 9.44%
Android 4.3 6.96%
Android 2.2 1.82%

So, how has the Android version landscape changed since the last post and what are the implications of the WebView vulnerability in that context? Android 4.4 is still the most common version, with over a third of the market. Versions 4.2 and 4.3 are still common, but less so than previously. Versions 4.0.3/4.0.3 and 2.3.x are both very old and still fairly popular with roughly 10% each. That’s disappointing. Lollipop adoption among LQ Mobile users is significantly higher than Google is seeing generally (still less than .1%) which isn’t surprising given the technical nature of LQ members. Even with that advantage, however, roughly half of LQ Mobile users are using a version of Android that’s vulnerable. Given that data, it’s easy to understand why Google has broken out quite a bit of functionality/code into Google Play Services, which they can update independently of handset manufacturers and carriers


Android Version and Device Stats for LQ Native App II

Now that the native LQ android app is in the 5-10,000 download range, I thought I’d post an update to this previous post on the topic of Android version and device stats. See this post if you’re interested in browser and OS stats for the main LQ site.

Platform Version
Android 4.4 29.54%
Android 4.1 20.42%
Android 4.0.3-4.0.4 13.59%
Android 4.2 12.49%
Android 2.3.3-2.3.7 11.70%
Android 4.3 9.27%
Android 2.2 1.96%


Google Nexus 7 (grouper) 6.13%
Samsung Galaxy S3 (m0) 3.53%
Google Nexus 5 2.75%
Samsung Galaxy S2 2.28%
Samsung Galaxy S3 2.20%
Google Nexus 7 (flo) 2.12%
Samsung Galaxy S4 1.81%
Google Nexus 4 1.73%
Samsung Galaxy Tab2 1.49%

So, how has Android fragmentation changed since my original post in February of 2012? At first blush it may appear that it’s actually more fragmented from a device version perspective. Previously, the top two versions accounted for over 70% of all installs, while now that number is just 50%. That’s misleading though, as almost 90% of all installs are now on a 4.x variant. This clustering around a much more polished version of Android, along with the fact that Google has broken so much functionality out into Google Play Services, means that from a developers perspective things are significantly better than they were during the time-frame of my previous post. I will admit I’m surprised by the age of the top devices, but they may be specific to the LQ crowd (and it’s no surprise to me to see the Nexus 5 as the second most popular phone).


Google Nexus 5 Review

This review was originally done for Bad Voltage, but I figured it may also be of interest to my general readers.

In this episode I’m going to review the recently released Nexus 5 phone, manufactured by LG. While the 5 in the product name is a reference to the device’s nearly 5 inch screen, it’s also the 5th iteration of the Google Nexus line (the predecessors being the HTC Nexus One, Samsung Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the LG Nexus 4). The exterior of the Nexus 5 is made from a polycarbonate shell, unlike the Nexus 4, which used a glass-based construction. At 5.42 inches tall and 2.7 inches wide, it’s a big phone but is shaped to feel smaller than it looks. It’s surprisingly light for its size, at only 4.6oz, and is 8.6 millimeters thick. The phone feels a bit more solid than a Samsung Galaxy S4, but sitting next to an HTC One it looks a bit, well, plain. But being flashy or ostentatious was never Google’s goal with the Nexus line. It was to showcase the unbridled, unadulterated and bloatware free vanilla Google Android experience. And the phone’s 445 pixel per inch, 4.95-inch, 1080p IPS screen helps a great deal in doing that. At the time of this review the Nexus 5 was the only phone officially running Android’s latest version: Kit Kat. And that’s a big part of the Nexus experience and something no other phone is going to offer. Manufacturers often take many months to port new versions of Android to existing handsets and in some cases ports you think will come never do. Even the new Google Play edition of phones will likely never receive updates as quickly as the Nexus line. If that’s important to you, most of this review probably doesn’t matter. Get yourself a Nexus 5. It’s hands down the best Nexus phone to date. On that note, Kit Kat is the best Android version to date as well, and is a fairly significant change from previous versions of the software. It’s sleeker, cleaner, more refined and more modern looking while being considerably more responsive. Google Search and Google Now are integrated much more seamlessly than in previous versions. And while I’m not personally a fan of Hangouts replacing SMS and MMS, one nice thing about Android is that you can easily change that.

Now, back to the phone itself. Some good: The quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2G of RAM means that the phone is astonishingly fast. By far the fastest phone I’ve used to date. The display is absolutely gorgeous. The battery life has also been better than most Android phones I’ve used. The  overall build quality of the phone is high and the form factor is extremely usable. The Nexus experience is also difficult to beat. Some bad: While battery life has been better, it’s still fairly unpredictable at times. The camera is probably the weakest part of the phone and is considerably worse than other flagship offerings. That said, Google claims that much of the issue is software related so we may see some marked improvement here. The speaker, while fairly loud, is also frustratingly distorted at times. While I like the overall form factor of the phone, it is quizzical that they chose to give it such a large bottom bezel, especially considering the phone has only software buttons. The lack of an SD card slot is also disappointing.

So, what’s the Verdict? If you want the Nexus experience or would like to buy an off contract phone, at $349 for the 16GB model and $399 for the 32GB model I think the Nexus 5 is going to be impossible to beat. I’m certainly extremely happy with the device myself. That said if you’re in a position where you have to buy a phone on contract, the HTC One (which I’ve seen as low as $75 with a 2 year contract) or possibly the Samsung Galaxy S4 are probably better options.


Android Version and Device Stats for LQ Native App – Is Fragmentation an Issue?

Now that the native LQ android app has a few thousand installs (and since members really seem to enjoy LQ-related statistics posts), I’ve decided to post the platform version and device statistics for the app.

Platform Version
Android 2.3.3+ 48.1%
Android 2.2 24.4%
Android 2.1 7.1%
Android 3.1 2.1%
Android 4.0.3 1.9%
Android 3.2 1.5%
Android 4.0 1.5%
Samsung Galaxy S2 8.0%
HTC Desire HD 6.0%
Motorola Droid X 5.4%
Samsung Galaxy S (GT-I9000) 4.6%
HTC Thunderbolt 2.5%
HTC G2 2.5%
Samsung Nexus S 2.5%
Asus EeePad Transformer TF101 2.4%
HTC Desire 2.4%
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.2%

So, is Android fragmentation a problem? Well, I think this is an issue with multiple facets that get conflated into a single issue.

First you have the version aspect. I have to admit I’m surprised by just how many Android handsets are running 2.2 and *gulp* 2.1 (which was released over two years ago; a veritable eon in mobile terms). Gingerbread 2.3 and Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 are huge improvements over previous versions of Android. While I think it’s a shame that so many users are stuck on older versions, I think this part is one that vendors and Google are working on and one that will improve significantly moving forward. Android was revving quickly in the earlier days and some of the hardware just couldn’t run future versions. Couple that with that fact that many vendors were new to Android and new to an ecosystem of this nature, and you had an initial learning curve that I think was destine to result in a suboptimal experience for end users. Fast forward to today and the press releases and public statements from vendors about which phones would be upgraded to ICS, along with time lines in many cases, and I think it’s clear this will become less and less of a problem.

Next you have the device aspect. This one is a bit trickier. The number one device here, the Samsung Galaxy S2 (which I incidentally own and really like), only represents 8% of all devices. The Android handset market is extremely varied. Not only that, it’s varied in many aspects; from screen size and quality, to device capabilities, to carrier restrictions… the list is almost endless. Unlike say, iOS and related apps, which only have to support a very finite number of configurations, Android and related apps have to deal with an almost endless number of combinations. This is an issue that Google is also working on, and has made significants strides with, but one that I think may take a little more time to figure out completely. It’s an issue they have to figure out if they want Android to be a long term success though, so I’d say there is a good chance they will succeed.

So, is Android fragmentation a problem? I’d say much less so than in the past. More importantly, I think it’s an issue that Google is well aware of, is working on intently, and will eventually mitigate to a large extent.


PS. If you have an Android-related question, don’t forget to visit LQ’s new sister site:

Announcing and Introducing The Questions Network

I’m extremely excited to announce that is now officially out of BETA. is for the discussion of all Android-related topics; from phones, tablets and other hardware devices to Android applications and development. Along with, AQ starts off what we’re calling The Questions Network. All sites in The Questions Network will share a unified login, meaning that if you’re one of the half a million members who have signed up for an LQ account, you’re able to login to AQ and start participating immediately. This will hold true for any future TQN sites as well; registering for one means you’re able to log into any. (Note that you’re account on an individual TQN site is not created until the first time you login.) The rapid adoption, vibrant ecosystem and its Linux roots made Android an easy selection as the topic of choice for the first addition to The Questions Network. What’s we’re hoping to do is take the lessons we’ve learning scaling and growing LQ and apply that to some other related topics. While we don’t have a definite selection for the next TQN site, we do have a couple ideas and are interested in what others think. I’m looking forward to this new challenge and anticipate learning some new things that we’ll be able to apply back to LQ. Note also that AQ runs the next generation platform that will eventually run LQ.


Happy New Year & Browser and OS stats for 2010

First, I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year on behalf of the entire LQ team. 2010 has been another great year for LQ and we have quite a bit of exciting developments in store for 2011, including a major code update. I’ve posted to this blog far less frequently in 2010 than I’d have liked to, and I’m going to work to change that this year (I do post to twitter fairly often, for those interested).

As has become tradition, here are the browser and OS statistics for the main LQ site for all of 2010 (2009 stats for comparison).

Firefox 57.11%
Chrome 16.44%
Internet Explorer 16.40%
Safari 3.43%
Opera 3.25%
Mozilla 2.21%
Konqueror .47%

Firefox is now on a multi-year slide while Chrome has passed IE to move into the number two position. Safari made some significant gains while Konqueror use was cut in half.

Operating Systems
Windows 51.71%
Linux 41.33%
Macintosh 5.78%
iPhone .21%
Android .15%

Windows use is slightly down this year while both Linux and OS X use are slightly up. As expected both iPhone and Android are up significantly. While Android saw more significant gains, it’s still a bit behind the iPhone. The iPad, for reference, is at .06%

I’d also like to take this time to thank each and every LQ member. You are what make the site great.



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