HTC Utopia Coverage: One M9, Grip and Vibe VR
HTC’s “Utopia” event took place today at Mobile World Congress 2015, and throughout the show we learned about some of the most interesting products we’ll see in 2015. HTC’s reputation as a design first company has been well-maintained, and their new repertoire of devices speaks volumes of the experiences they are crafting for us. The show began shortly after its 10AM EST schedule, with a short presentation that was soon followed by the voice of Robert Downey Jr, who is known to be linked with HTC as a superhero M8 user.
The promotional video quickly gave us an idea of the themes that would circumvent the entire talk: “it’s just us, in this world, on this planet, intensely quiet… we are all One”.
HTC began by explaining that they had what they thought were the most exciting and innovative products that we would see in Barcelona this year. While that is up for debate, the enthusiasm permeated through the stage and HTC once again began exposing their motivation. Their products are crafted to be “where design and technology, people and their passions, are blended together”, and they were quick to remind us that their previous HTC One phones have won awards due to this very philosophy. The M8 is still voted “the best phone” a year after, so the expectations are high and they know it.
HTC CEO Peter Chou took the stage and began by saying that HTC always goes far and beyond to redefine the edge of possibilities. “We understand your smartphone is a statement of taste and personal style”, he told us, and further commented on how a beautiful design is at the core of their philosophy. Ultimately, Chou believes HTC has one single goal: “we build products to be loved”.
A short design story video rolled up on the screen, promptly reminding us that our devices continue to evolve. They claim that inside the genetic code of the One M9, we will be able to see the design philosophy of HTC, in its ultimate culmination. The device was revealed, and just as everyone expected, it was the design we’ve seen on the leaks of these past couple of months. While it doesn’t look like the revolution many expected, it looks gorgeous. HTC touted its simple, elegant curves and its effortless weight in the hand. The device was machined with a zero gap process that made the phone almost entirely out of metal to create what they believe is “a new industry standard for luxury”.
The HTC M9 is the third generation of their iconic design format. HTC mentioned that while people say that the M8 is still the most beautiful phone, they didn’t want to stop there – they challenged themselves to aim higher. The new phone features a square camera in what is a remarkably similar design to that of the M8, with few differences in the uni-body carcass: the antenna format is the same, combined with great ergonomics, but the M9 features the first dual tone, dual finish in a metal smartphone. The back surface is brushed with a hairline finish, and the sides feature mirror-like smoothness. HTC stated that they didn’t want to compromise their design, and so the whole phone is machined out of a single solid block of aluminum.
HTC moved on to tell us a little more about the internals: the M9 features the Snapdragon 810 that everyone had been hoping for, along with 3GB of RAM to deliver the best performance available in the market. Its new connectivity improvements allow the M9 to see downloads of up to 450mpbs on mobile data, through 4G LTE with support for over 20 bands. Further details tell us that there will be a microsd slot and an IR blaster, as well as a 5-inch 1080p screen with Corning Gorilla Glass and a 2840mAh battery. The phone will power Android 5.0 Lollipop with a new Sense 7 UI. You can find our recap on its specs here.
HTC set out to revamp their camera systems, as their previous models were notoriously known for taking bad pictures. “We are always taking photos on the go” they comment, as they tell us about how close to 1 trillion photos were taken with smartphones in 2014 alone. The best camera is the one that sits in your pocket, and the M9 packs a powerful 20.7MP sensor in the main shooter, and a 4 “ultrapixel” sensor on the front. With the latest in BSI technology, the improved low-light capabilities of the front camera and software optimizations, this camera is touted to take good photos and fabulous selfies despite low light or other hazards. Despite all these promises, recent reports say the results are actually very underwhelming, but at least RAW and 4K recording made the cut. The camera application, gallery and editor are also vastly improved with new tools such as “shapes” and “elements” and also a double exposure mode for very artsy results.
They continued by explaining the new software features they cooked into Sense 7, their new beautiful skinned ROM. Their new homescreen widget allows for a configuration of apps that adapt to the context of your day, intelligently displaying the applications you need at just the right time and place. The beauty of previous Sense ROMs is further expanded with a new theme engine that will allow you to colorize apps, blinkfeed and change other aspects of the interface. The custom themes can express your sense of style, and you will able to export these themes to share them with friends and family, too. They also called the new Sense your next “friend”, that knows just what you want by providing tips such as restaurant suggestions depending on where you are.
The Boomsound speakers return once more to deliver a first-class mobile audio experience: HTC worked closely with dolby 5.1 surround to bring richer, more immersive sound to your M9. With Airplay, you can also group speakers together throughout your home. They also showed us a new second generation dot-view case that has better customization options, improved integration with scrolling messages and even games you can play without even opening your flipcase. The HTC One M9 will be available in the middle of March throughout Asia and North America in Silver, Gunmetal Grey, Pink and Gold colors. The HTC One M8 and other previous HTC phones will also get an update to Sense 7 via OTA later this year.
HTC Fitness Band
HTC’s design expertise merged with Under Armour’s fitness experience in a partnership to provide their common goal of a new gadget to improve the way you train and live. “The first product of many to come”, they called it: HTC Grip, a new smart fitness tracker wristband that includes Gsensor, gyro, compass and GPS to track multiple activities. It can detect whether you are walking, running, cycling or even going through a gym session. Its curved display makes it easy to view training data and notifications on the move, and it allows you to control your Android or iOS smartphone to not miss out on calls or messages. The Grip seamlessly syncs training data with Under Armour records, and there’s an interactive network that tracks your progress and provides tailored advice for nutrition and training methodologies to prevent injury and maximize your exercise. You can invite up to 20 friends to compete in customized fitness challenges with real-time updates for a fun work-out, too. HTC summarizes it well enough: “train as if you had a tram of professional experts coaching you”.
HTC is now taking a trip into the world of virtual reality, something they think that, despite having been a tech enthusiast dream for decades, none of the options has properly defined it. They promised to be “ready to immerse us” with an experience nobody has seen before, starting with a groundbreaking partnership with Valve. Nobody knows videogames better than Valve, so this collaboration is something to get excited about. HTC aims to transform the way we interact with the world. While this claim is quite bold, their focus is on the word “we”, as they are working hard to bring this experience to the mainstream general consumer.
“The possibilities are limitless”, HTC told us before recapitulating the scenarios we should expect from VR: attending real time concerts, learning history, watching incredible movies, reliving memories… HTC believes that “nothing will be the same”. Their new headset, the HTC Vive, aims to redefine the game with incredible audio fidelity in a really light design. They worked hard to minimize motion sickness, and with wireless controls and hand-tracking you can move around and interact in new ways. They claim this to be the “most gorgeous piece of hardware” to be delivered for VR this year, and with partnerships with Alchemy labs, HBO and museums, there’s a lot to expect from this new product.
HTC will have a consumer version ready before the year ends, and you can visit their website to get more information. “You really have to see this to believe it”, they told us. The essence of HTC Vive is feeling as if you are actually there, living the experience – hence the name, “vive”, which means “to live” in latin languages like French and Spanish. There will be limited spots at first, but they will be further expanded with locations around the world at their offices.
HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang closed the event by telling us that their new technology will touch every aspect of the world, and they aim to enhance how we experience it. She quoted Oscar Wilde by saying “progress is the realization of Utopias” – and with HTC’s upcoming products, the world is going to look a lot closer like the crazy future we once dreamed of as kids.