HTC pulled another doozy yesterday and launched a new smartphone called the HTC One S9, exclusive to the European market. Last year, they launched the HTC One M9 Plus as an Asian-exclusive and U.S. fans were quite offended by that stunt, many not liking what their segment got, which was the HTC One M9. This year, the HTC 10 was launched in the U.S. and while people are decidedly positive about it, with good reviews already praising its design and performance, many will feel once again betrayed by not getting what they’ve asked for: front-facing BoomSound speakers. Indeed, the HTC One S9 comes with the good ole BoomSound we’ve come to know and love, but that’s probably all that would interest U.S. fans about this smartphone. So what’s the difference between the One S9 and the HTC 10? Read on to find out.
The HTC 10 demonstrates HTC’s new approach to smartphone design. With a chamfered metal unibody, a fingerprint sensor up front and new BoomSound speakers (one on the bottom and one in the speaker above the screen), the HTC 10 gets good points from most people, although many still point out that it would have been a better choice to leave BoomSound alone and keep front-facing speakers. Although the representative BoomSound grills aren’t exactly there on the HTC One S9, being replaced by thinner grills that look a bit more permissive, they’re still stereo speakers, which is going to be their main selling point.
Like the HTC 10, the HTC One S9 design is made up of metal and it looks like the missing link between the One M9 and the HTC 10. It’s considerably smaller and it seems like it’s a bit more rounded around the corners. At the same time, the One S9 retains slightly rounded edges around the back for a more comfortable grip and keeps the overall design elements that have helped HTC become a well-known brand since the One M8.
Even though the One S9 is a smaller handset than the HTC 10, it’s not designed as well. It’s lighter than the flagship, and it’s also more slender in appearance, but it still manages to be thicker by a millimeter. Although HTC might make this available in more than one configuration, for now it’s only available in one with a nanoSIM slot. The HTC 10 is available with either one or two NanoSIM slots. Nonetheless, the dedicated microSD slot made the cut, so users can add up to 200 GB of extra storage if needed.
The HTC 10 was launched with a 5.2-inch Super LCD5 display with a QuadHD resolution, upping the ante for the company and competing heavily against the Galaxy S7 and LG G5. The HTC One S9 is more of a mid-range device, featuring a smaller 5.0-inch Super LCD display with a FullHD resolution. That’s a pretty standard choice for mid-rangers and it’s the same panel as the one on the One M9, launched last year for the U.S. market.
There are many similarities between the One M9 and the One S9, including size, display, battery and ports. The One S9 is like a mid-range version of the One M9 that HTC forgot to launch last year. Although the company has released quite a few mid-rangers last year, such as the One A9, it looks like they felt there was a need for yet another one to tout stereo BoomSound on. The handset is so far unimpressive, save for the speakers.
The HTC 10 comes with top of the line hardware, incorporating a Snapdragon 820 SoC, Adreno 530 GPU, 4 GB RAM, 32 or 64 GB internal storage, USB Type-C, fingerprint sensor, fast charging and all that jazz. Everything is topped off with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which is also there on the HTC One S9, at least. Otherwise, the One S9 is pretty bland in its spec sheet. The handset comes with a MediaTek Helio X10 GPU, PowerVR G6200 GPU, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB internal storage, microUSB 2.0 and no fingerprint sensor. It’s a standard mid-range configuration, although that Helio chipset has had some positive benchmark results and reviews. Overall, the SoC is fit for a mid-range device, but it doesn’t support fast charging and that’s a bit of a bummer.
Both the HTC 10 and the One S9 are still very new handsets and there are few reviews examining their performance out there. Nonetheless, there are a few very positive first impressions and short-term reviews, but in less than a month after the HTC 10 launch and less than a day since the One S9 launch, we can’t really give an objective opinion about how these handsets will perform over time. However, most early benchmark results for their SoCs show that the Snapdragon 820 is considerably better than the Helio X10 and can handle more graphics-intensive apps as well as long-term use. The HTC One S9 will probably make for a good mid-ranger, too, although I wonder why HTC didn’t bring this to the U.S. Notably, there’s not a lot of interest in Helio phones in the U.S., but I’m sure many would have been interested in the One S9 due to the speaker setup and decent camera. If there wasn’t the price. We’ll get to that in the end.
The HTC 10 is the flagship of the year from the Taiwanese company, while the One S9 is a mid-ranger with which they’re trying their luck on the European market. As such, you can expect the HTC 10 to have a much better camera experience with more features to make use of. While camera performance has not exactly been the strong-point of HTC flagships, the HTC 10 camera is getting positive reviews, with a few shortcomings.
The 10 features a 12 MP f/1.8 aperture camera that comes with touch focus and can record 4K. There’s OIS and there’s laser autofocus, so the experience is still on par with current flagships like the iPhone 6S, LG G5 and Galaxy S7. Nonetheless, the HTC 10 camera is a bit slow to focus, compared to the Galaxy S7. Up front, the HTC 10 comes with a 5MP f/1.8 camera that has OIS, so there’s a clear focus on selfies and vlogging with this one, and that pretty much balances things out a bit, in my opinion.
The HTC One S9 comes with a 13 MP f/2.0 camera with touch focus, it can only shoot 1080p video and doesn’t have too many features users can take advantage of. Up fron, there’s a 4MP f/2.0 lens that can also do 1080p video and HDR, which is pretty good for a mid-range smartphone. Overall, the camera setup is rather decent considering the One S9 is a mid-range smartphone.
As I’ve mentioned, the HTC One S9 has a lot in common with the One M9, and battery is one of these things. The mid-ranger comes with a 2840 mAh battery that is non-removable. I can’t speak of what kind of battery life the smartphone will have in the long-term, but the One M9 wasn’t the best in the field. Granted, the Helio X10 processor might have a say in things, even though it makes fast charging impossible, which is a bummer.
The HTC 10 on the other hand comes with a slightly larger 3000 mAh battery, which is once again one of the problems reviewers point out about the handset. Battery life is a bit inconsistent so far, with users sometimes getting a day and a half regular use, but sometimes the smartphone can’t even make it to the end of the day. This problem will most likely be addressed in an update in the future, but there’s no word about that just yet.
Price and conclusion
The HTC One S9 is an expensive little bugger. When HTC announced the smartphone yesterday, they said its unlocked price would be 500 euros, the equivalent of $565. For a mid-range device that doesn’t even offer a fingerprint sensor, it’s pretty darn expensive. I think that with this price, HTC could have used a better SoC that supported fast charging, and could have added a fingerprint sensor on the back, too. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal and it would have added much more value to the HTC One S9. This way, in the huge plethora of choices we have, it’s a mid-ranger that doesn’t seem worth the price.
The HTC 10 price is equally expensive and it’s not really competitive, the unlocked device costing around $700. That’s once again rather expensive, but at least the HTC 10 has a lot of future-proof features to offer (except stereo BoomSound). Even though it’s expensive, the handset is definitely a better buy than the HTC One S9. The One S9, in my opinion, is far too expensive for a mid-range device and it will lag behind cheaper options that offer the same or better specs and include a fingerprint sensor. Of course, BoomSound speakers are the selling point of this one, but are they worth the investment? I’m not sure yet.
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