Exclusive – HTC unveils new One M9 and wearables too!
HTC is full of surprises. While the announcement of their highly anticipated flagship smartphone, codenamed Project Hima and now officially designated as the HTC One M9 is both welcomed and expected, what was unveiled afterwards is showing that the Taiwanese bespoke smartphone maker is broadening their horizons significantly. On top of the HTC One M9 smartphone, HTC also announced two new wearables – the HTC re grip for fitness buffs and the biggest surprise of all at MWC – a tie-up with Valve, yes – that Valve – to create a virtual reality headset dubbed the HTC Vive.
The HTC One M9, befitting its flagship range is carved from a single machined block of aluminium. Externally, it has the same design language as its forebears with a machined aluminium unibody casing that looks and feels bespoke. It retains the characteristic machined ‘T’ shape on the back though this time around, the HTC One M9 has a two-toned finish with the flagship colour, Silver On Gold having a primarily brushed metal finish all around with shiny gold hued trim on the sides. It will also launch in a more understated darker Gunmetal Gray finish and a blinged up Gold on Gold. The front itself, usually a multi-piece assembly is now a single machined block of aluminium along with the back which also comes with a scratchproof coating.
In terms of hardware, it hits all the high marks with a Snapdragon 810 2Ghz octa-core processor running the show paired with 3GB RAM and 32GB of internal storage along with a microSD card that accepts cards of up to 128GB in size. It also throws in 115GB of free Google Drive space in the bargain. The display up front, contrary to rumours running around the ‘net, comes in just one size – a 5-inch Full HD super LCD3 display sheathed in Gorilla glass. The primary rear camera of the HTC One M9 is an updated 20-MP camera with BIS, an f/2.2 27.8mm sapphire lens and a dual colour LED flash. The front is, in keeping with the recent trend in selfies, an Ultrapixel camera with an f/2.0 lens and also hosts their BoomSound front-facing speakers flanking the top and bottom of the display.
The One M9 also has 4G LTE, a quick charging mode with a non-removable 2800mAh battery and a redesigned Sense user interface, now in its seventh iteration on top of Android Lollipop 5.0.2. Launch dates and prices for Malaysia aren’t confirmed as yet but it’ll cost roughly as much as the original M8 did at launch with a similar release date. The One M9 will also be released with a whole slew of accessories including an updated version of their dot matrix cover, dubbed the Dot View 2, a ruggedised armoured Active Case that adds IP68 drop proofing and water resistance and a sports as well as an audiophile grade pair of ear buds.
The HTC Re grip marks HTC’s first entry into the fitness wearable arena. Rather than just a simple activity tracker, the grip is designed more for serious athletes. Made in a team-up with American clothing and accessory maker Under Armour, the HTC grip comes with a 1.8-inch mono passive AMOLED touchscreen up front and is able to track a number of activities – indoor and outdoor walking and running, cycling, hiking and weight lifting. It’s IP57 rated for water resistance and data is fed through the UA Record app for both iOS and Android which is lets you monitor your progress. Charging the grip is via a proprietary cable that hooks up to one of the ends of the watch strap with the other end of said cable ending in a USB port. The onboard battery offers five plus hours of battery life with the GPS on and 2.5 days of standby time. It’ll also pair up via Bluetooth with any third party heart tracker device too. It is currently slated for a North America release in a lime green and black finish for US$199. No word on if it will reach other regional markets on when but you’ll be the first to know when we do.
Last but not least, HTC’s new Vive VR headset was the biggest surprise of all. While details haven’t been set in stone, the new virtual reality headset, based on presented renders of the developer edition will be a standalone peripheral that will hook up to your PC and your bonce, of course, to present a vivid virtual reality experience without the need for a smartphone or other device to slot in. Rather than prior attempts that have limited the VR experience to turning your head around from a fixed point the Vive expands your horizons and lets you look around and explore a 360-degrees room-sized equivalent of a virtual landscape. The applications are immense and aren’t just limited to gaming as educational opportunities abound with the Vive. Navigation is via a wireless controller. It has been slated to reach stores in the States along with a slew of content by the holiday season of 2015.