HTC One M9

Hands on: Getting to know the HTC One M9

There's more to HTC's new flagship than first meets the eye. Time for an up-close look at the stunningly gorgeous HTC One M9.

HTC One M9 Hands On

Whew -- what a month for Android phones! As if Samsung's new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge weren't enough to keep us busy, HTC is also getting ready to release its shiny new One M9 at the same time. 

The One M9 goes on sale at all the major U.S. carriers on April 10th (yep -- the same exact day Samsung's devices debut). It'll generally cost $200 on contract or $600 to $700 outright (either up front or spread out over a two-year payment plan). HTC is also selling an unlocked version of the phone directly for $649; that version of the device is already available to order.

I'll be spending several days living with the M9 soon and will have a detailed real-world review to share with you once I've had a chance to get to know the phone inside and out. For now, I wanted to take a moment to pass along some of my initial impressions -- the first things I thought as I took the M9 out of its box and started to check it out:

First: Holy smokes, this is a nice phone.

No exaggeration: This was my very first thought upon unpackaging the M9 and holding it in my hand. (Well, almost. I might have used a different "s"-word instead of "smokes.")

HTC One M9 Design

Seriously: When it comes to construction and design, this is one luxurious device. HTC describes the M9's finish as being "jewelry-grade," and it really does feel more like a precious object than a phone.

Yes, it's quite similar to last year's One M8 -- but you know what? That was a ridiculously well-designed phone that held up well over time. Refining a near-universally-praised design may not excite tech pundits, but when it comes to real-world usage, it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

And speaking of that...

The physical changes from last year's phone are subtle -- but significant.

You really have to hold the One M9 in your hand to appreciate how much difference HTC's changes to the body have made. To be sure, they're subtle -- but they go a long way in affecting what the phone is like to use.

Things like a less slippery finish, a shorter and narrower frame, and a newly added "lip" along the perimeter make the M9 feel meaningfully more comfortable in the hand than its predecessor. The M8's somewhat awkward nature was one of the few gripes folks (myself included) had with the phone, and the M9's evolution makes that a thing of the past.

There is, however, one physical change I'm not so sure about:

The One's button placement still leaves something to be desired.

Up until now, HTC had stuck the power buttons on the top edges of its One phones -- a placement that made them tough to reach, especially given the height of these devices. The M9 attempts to fix that by moving the power button to the phone's side, which seems like a perfect solution -- until you use it.

HTC One M9 Buttons

The problem is that the power button now sits directly beneath the volume buttons -- and since all three buttons are roughly the same size and shape, it's tough to tell which you're touching without taking a moment to feel around or look down at the device. (The power button does have a slight texture to it, but it's not pronounced enough to be immediately obvious.)

The buttons also barely protrude from the device and are consequently a bit tricky to find with your fingers in the first place. It's a small thing, relatively speaking, but it's impossible not to notice when you start handling the phone.

Wait. That's IT?!

Hey, I told you -- just some quick surface-level first impressions for now. But fear not: There's so, so, so much more to talk about with the HTC One M9 -- the software, the performance, the stamina, and of course the hotly debated new 20-megapixel rear-facing camera -- and we'll get to all of that before you know it.

Whether we're talking body shape or camera capability, what ultimately matters is what the phone's like to use in the real world -- and that's why I'll be taking the time to live with this U.S. model before putting together a review.

I'll be using the M9 around the clock for several days starting later this week and will share in-depth details about my experiences soon. So stick around: Between this phone and Samsung's latest efforts, there's lots o' interesting stuff ahead.

UPDATE: HTC One M9 deep-dive review: Third time's (almost) the charm

Android Power on Twitter

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon