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Review: Updated: Sony Xperia X Compact

Review: Updated: Sony Xperia X Compact

Introduction and design

The Sony Xperia X Compact stands for something good. It’s a small phone in a world dominated by palm-stretching phablets. Like the iPhone SE, Sony’s latest is aimed squarely at the people who don’t want to let go of the miniature form factor.

In a market full of devices that look nearly identical to each other, Sony’s X Compact also has a style of its own, refined as ever, and a surprisingly long list of features for a phone its size.

But for all that it is, the Sony Xperia X Compact isn’t the cheapest or the fastest phone you can get your hands on. Heck, last year’s Sony Xperia Z5 Compact houses a slightly faster processor and is now the cheaper, waterproof option that the X Compact isn’t. Once outside of the Sony realm, you’ll find much even more deals on an unlocked Android phone that can run laps around it.

Sony Xperia X Compact

So, what do we make of the X Compact? If you can overlook the high asking price of $ 499 (£359, not currently available in the AU) there’s a good phone waiting for you on the other end.

For everyone else, the X Compact requires too much sacrifice. It’s a refreshing take on the modern smartphone, but serves as a reminder that size, whether big or small, isn’t everything.

Sony Xperia X Compact price and release date

Sony’s smaller device has launched unlocked for GSM networks in the US and UK for $ 499 and £359, respectively. That’s $ 100 more than the baseline iPhone SE and the same price as the larger, FHD screen-packed Nexus 6P.

Previously, Sony’s smartphone offering was more ingrained in the carrier market, though it has quickly transitioned to the unlocked side of things. You can purchase the phone through Amazon in the US, and in the UK, you can buy one on contract at O2, EE, giffgaff, Mobiles.co.uk, and SIM-free at Carphone Warehouse.

This has enabled the company to more swiftly enter new regions, but it has led to an unexpected downside for those living in the US.


  • Dazzling design impresses, but comes at the price of waterproofing
  • For US readers, there’s no fingerprint sensor
  • The ceramic-mimicking plastic scratches easily under normal use

The naming convention might lead you to believe that the X Compact is just a smaller version of the Sony Xperia X, but that’s not totally the case. Aside from some similarities with the rest of the line, the X Compact is unique with its flat front glass panel, rounded sides and a completely flat top and bottom.

Sony sent along the Universe Black color (that looks more like blue in the sunlight) of the X Compact, which measures in at 129 x 65 x 9.5mm and weighs 135 grams. One of the biggest design feats here is that it feels like a unibody design, though it’s constructed with a mix of Gorilla Glass 4, glossy plastic on its sides, and an oleophobic (oil resistant) plastic on the back that’s influenced by the look and feel of ceramic. While it does give off the high-end look it aims for, it collects small scratches and fingerprint smudges a little too easily.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Sony Xperia X Compact

Sony’s Xperia X Compact rocks two front-facing speakers, a selfie camera and a slim bezel. Taking a tour around the phone, the top is where you’ll find the 3.5mm jack. On its other flat end, Sony has opted for USB-C, which has resulted in a thicker chin bezel due to the longer internal section of the port.

Like the Sony Xperia X Performance, and other X-series phones, this one has a microSD and SIM card slot on the left side. It also has the same lineup of buttons on its right side, including the power button, volume rocker and camera capture button. Compared to other phones that usually place the most frequently used buttons near where the index finger rests, Sony has placed them awkwardly near the bottom. Even on a small phone like this one, you’ll likely fumble to make what should be a simple adjustment.

Sony Xperia X Compact

If you buy one of these outside of the US, the power button will double as a fingerprint sensor. However, Sony has decided to, once again, strip this feature from the US release. If you’re curious why the company made this choice, check out this piece and let us know if the fingerprint sensor (or a lack thereof) influences your purchase decision.

Sony Xperia X Compact

As you can see, the Sony Xperia X Compact has a lot in common with other Sony phones. It only makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense is that it lacks another signature feature: waterproofing. According to Sony, this phone isn’t even water resistant. It’s a strange turn for Sony’s compact line, which just last generation was fully resistant to dust and water.

What’s it like to use?

Interface and reliability

Sony’s twist on Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 is in full effect here. If you’ve used an Xperia phone before, you know the deal. But if not, here’s what you need to know: it’s gorgeous and outright helpful sometimes, with the Xperia Lounge offering tips and exclusive wallpapers, among other goodies.

It offers up its take on the familiar stock apps, like messaging, music player, and a calendar, but those who already have an allegiance to a set of trusty apps are likely not to find reasons convincing enough to switch away from them.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Looking forward, Sony has confirmed to TechRadar that the Xperia X Compact will receive the update to Android Nougat in the near future, which will yield multi-window support, enhanced Doze mode and that cute, weird Nougat easter egg game.

Music, movies and gaming

  • Screen resolution is on the low side, but looks vibrant and sharp
  • MicroSD and 3.5mm jack means that your entertainment knows no limits

Sony’s smartphones are usually equipped to deliver a superb multimedia experience, and the Xperia X Compact doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Starting with the screen, Sony has injected its 720p screen – which looks totally fine because of its small, 4.6-inch size – with the company’s own Triluminos and X-Reality tech, resulting in balanced color and contrast, and a picture that’s surprisingly sharp.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Listening to music through the X Compact is a relatively standard experience, unless you’re used to the 3.5mm-less iPhone 7, and if you’re an audiophile, you’ll like that Sony’s custom music app allows you to listen to high-resolution music files, such as FLAC and LPCM. The front-facing speakers sound decent, though their tinny output will have you reaching for headphones in no time.

The Xperia X Compact comes with 32GB of onboard storage by default, and lets you increase the capacity by way of its microSD card slot. Downloading extra games, music and movies won’t be an issue.

Sony Xperia X Compact

As this small phone is stocked with a decent amount of power and the full suite of expected sensors, it can handle gaming easily. Whether you play a game that requires tilt, or one that demands power, the X Compact doesn’t break a sweat – even when we thought it would.

Specs and benchmark performance explained

  • This year’s Compact has more RAM, but a toned-down chipset
  • Even so, the performance defies its small size and can stand up to demanding tasks

The Sony Xperia X Compact’s specs are somehow a little better and a little worse than Sony Xperia Z5 Compact.

Worse in the sense that the chipset has received a core-count downgrade, down from the octa-core Snapdragon 810 to a hexa-core Snapdragon 650. But it’s not all bad.

After a little digging, we discovered that the 650 actually houses two ARM Cortex-A72 cores, which promise double the performance and better efficiency than what’s delivered by four of the mid-range-targeted A57 cores used in the 810 architecture. All told, the 810 still achieves better numbers due to the sheer number of cores, but the 650 accomplishes a heck of a lot with less. Point being, the drop of two cores won’t impact many.

Sony Xperia X Compact

As stated earlier, playing our favorite games is something that the X Compact can do well, and Sony has boosted the RAM count up from 2GB to 3GB to keep things smooth into 2017. This is where things are looking better.

We put the Sony Xperia X Compact through GeekBench 4 to see how it performs compared to some of today’s top contenders. It put up an average multi-core score of 3,331, which puts it – not too surprisingly given the research detailed above – not too far back from the Snapdragon 810-toting Nexus 6P that scored 3,445. Of course, the Samsung Galaxy S7 spanked them both with its Snapdragon 820 and a score of 3,880.

Despite our initial worry, we aren’t left with performance that suffers greatly because of the chipset downgrade, but we’re still puzzled why the substitution was made. Maybe we’ll find out in the upcoming battery section.

Battery life and camera

  • 2,700mAh battery lasts longer than ever thanks to efficient Snapdragon 650
  • Camera hardware produces mostly sharp results and the software is intuitive

Like the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact, the X Compact features a 2,700mAh battery. For a phone its size, it’s a good amount of juice and can keep the phone going with very minimal use for well over two days.

Sony Xperia X Compact

If you’re a moderate to heavy user, as most people are these days, the X Compact will likely last you through the day. We found that on a day spent gaming, hopping on a few video calls and using Google Allo frequently, battery carried on into the next day, but barely. You’ll probably still just want to fill it up at night.

Compared to previous Sony phones, the X Compact shows superb battery retention, even after viewing an HD movie for 90 minutes. It only dropped down to 84%, which is a testament to the more efficient ARM Cortex-A72 cores used here.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Moving onto the camera, what we have here also isn’t changed all that much from what was packed into the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact – not that it’s a bad thing. The main camera shoots 23MP photos with 5x optical zoom, but it has been switched from the Exmor RS to the Exmor R, which is more skilled at low-light shooting.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Other notable differences over the last iteration is the added 5-axis image stabilization and HDR photo mode. Unfortunately, 4K video recording has gotten the axe in favor of 1080p (FHD) video at 60 frames per second (FPS).

In our time with the phone, we found that the photos shot with the auto mode came out highly detailed with accurate colors and contrast. A few examples that you’ll see on the next page are over-exposed in auto mode, but that is easily remedied by the manual mode – that is, if you have the patience to adjust the settings for each photo.

The front-facing camera runs on an Exmor R sensor as well and can shoot 5MP pictures with its 25mm lens that has an aperture of f/2.4. You won’t see the low-light prowess coming through on this selfie cam, but it’s still a pretty serviceable camera when you need it.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Touching lightly on the camera software, it’s intuitive and fun to use. Switching between the front and rear cameras is as simple as swiping across the screen, and Sony’s well-placed shutter button loads the camera app in a snap. It even lets you do a half-press to get things in focus before committing to a shot. Sony’s camera app is on par with Samsung and LG’s in terms of its ease of use and feature list.

Camera samples

Sony Xperia X Compact

Click here for the full resolution image.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Click here for the full resolution image.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Click here for the full resolution image.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Click here for the full resolution image.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Click here for the full resolution image.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Click here for the full resolution image.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Click here for the full resolution image.


By using the success of the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact as a blueprint, Sony has gone surprisingly far off-course. It had a tough, waterproof build and turned it into a more premium body that looks swell, but scratches easily and, well, isn’t waterproof. The ever-so-slight downgrade in chipset is a bit confusing, too.

As with the entire X-series of Xperia phones so far, we’re mystified by some of these changes. On top of that, the X Compact is priced high at $ 499 (£359, not currently available in the AU). This begs the question: who exactly is this phone for?

Who’s this for?

For those with small hands or a longing for a device that can easily fit in one hand and comfortably into a pocket.

Should you buy it?

If you have money to burn, then perhaps. However there are many, many Android smartphones available for less cash that do a better job at balancing the value factors, like build quality, features and specs.

By no means is the Sony Xperia X Compact a bad phone. It got a boost of RAM and a slightly more efficient chipset over last year’s model, and USB-C support. But these enhancements, while nice, have come at the expense of what made us love the excellent Z5 Compact so much. Sony’s hoping you won’t notice, but it’s hard not to.

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Hands-on review: Updated: Sony Xperia XZ

Hands-on review: Updated: Sony Xperia XZ

The debate over whether the Sony Xperia X, which launched in February this year, was a flagship phone or not, has finally been settled – it wasn’t, but the Xperia XZ is.

This brand new flagship is the highest spec device in the growing Sony Xperia X range and it offers a lot of what we’ve seen before, but in brilliant new packaging.

  • Want to see a video of how good this phone is in action? We’ve got you covered:

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qVgfJyLs0w

Sony has been refining its iconic boxy phone design for seven generations now, ever since the Xperia Z back in 2013, and that process has led to the XZ, which whether you opt for it in deep blue, black or silver is by far one of the best looking phones the Japanese company has ever produced.

The sharp edges of the Xperia Z range have disappeared, replaced here by more rounded ones in a conscious change to help the Xperia XZ sit better in the hand.

It’s a reasonably minor change, but it makes the experience of holding an Xperia phone much more comfortable. This is a problem Sony should have solved long ago and is a big improvement for the company’s latest handset.

Sony Xperia XZ

Not only is the look refined, but also the feel, as the back of the Xperia XZ is made of a new metal material from Sony called ALKALEIDO, which doesn’t feel slippery in the hand. It gives the phone a premium finish and is a big step up from the glass-backed Sony Xperia Z5, although the new material does still pick up fingerprints quite easily.

The top and bottom edges of the Xperia XZ are completely flat, which is another design change and allows you to stand the phone up on its end. The flat design is reminiscent of the top edge of the Obi MV1, but executed much better.

Sony Xperia XZ

There’s a fingerprint sensor hidden away in the power key on the side of the phone. This positioning makes the sensor easy to hit when the XZ is in your hand, but the button can be a bit of a pain to reach when the phone is sat on a flat surface.

Sony Xperia XZ

Perhaps the biggest design change is the inclusion of IP68 waterproofing – that’s the same rating given to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Sony Xperia Z5. This means you can dunk your Sony phone once again without having to worry about it breaking – a feature many missed in the original members of the Xperia X series.

Screen and camera

You may be disappointed to learn Sony has stuck with a Full HD display for the Xperia XZ, especially as this is the firm’s most premium handset – but it’s still a great screen. Some were expecting the Xperia XZ to come with a 4K display like the Xperia Z5 Premium did, but that was mostly a gimmick and your battery will thank you for sticking to 1080p.

Sony Xperia XZ

The screen is 5.2 inches and 424 pixels per inch, and, while sharp, doesn’t touch the likes of the QHD Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge or HTC 10, so while 4K would have been unnecessary a 2K resolution would have been nice to see.

Sony Xperia XZ

On paper the Xperia XZ’s main camera looks quite similar to previous iterations, but minor improvements should make the XZ’s snapper much more enjoyable to use.

The camera uses the same 23MP Sony sensor as the Xperia X, with all the tech you’ve seen in the past, but it now includes a laser autofocus.

Working alongside the predictive hybrid autofocus technology this should make it even easier for the phone camera to focus your shots – though how well it works remains to be seen.

The 23MP sensor also comes with new white balance technology to help enhance the color of your photographs and improve fine detail (a common problem with Sony’s sensors). In a smartphone first the XZ also uses 5-axis stabilization tech to ensure your video doesn’t come out blurry.

Sony Xperia XZ

Flip around to the front and you’ll be greeted by a 13MP sensor, allowing for detailed selfies. It looks to be the same camera as the selfie shooter on the Xperia X, which worked well.

Performance and battery

Under the hood the Xperia XZ sounds suspiciously like the Xperia X Performance. The XZ boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor along with 3GB of RAM, and in our hands on time the phone felt as speedy as you’d expect a flagship to be. If you’re looking to run Pokémon Go or any other mobile game, you’ll be able to with this phone.

Storage-wise you have 32GB of internal space and 256GB microSD storage to play with. There’s no word on microSD support yet, but Sony usually includes a card slot, so we’d expect to see one in the XZ.

On the battery front there’s still no sign of wireless charging – but Sony has improved the juice pack in other ways, as the 2900mAh cell will recharge at different speeds depending on your charging habits.

If you often take your phone to bed at midnight and unplug it at 7am, the Xperia XZ will charge to 90% as quickly as possible but then pause the charge until just before you wake up.

The idea here is that leaving your phone on charge can damage the battery over time – so by predicting when you’ll need the XZ charged up, Sony should be able to preserve your battery for longer.

Sony Xperia XZ

Since there’s no wireless charging you’ll be using the USB-C port on the bottom edge of the phone. This is the first time Sony has embraced USB-C, and although the change may mean updating a few of your accessories USB-C is a lot more convenient, as you can plug your charger in either way around.

This charging tech is sure to become the industry standard soon, so it’s great to see Sony preparing for that, rather than getting left behind.

Sadly, the Xperia XZ runs Android 6 Marshmallow, but a Sony representative assured TechRadar that the company would be working hard to bring Android Nougat to the phone as soon as possible.

Early verdict

The Sony Xperia XZ feels a little lost in the mix, with a very similar spec list to the Xperia X Performance and Xperia Z5 series, but the design tweaks have made a major difference to the appearance of the phone, making the Xperia XZ one of the best looking handsets of 2016.

Sony Xperia XZ

New camera technology shows the company is trying to improve its 23MP sensor too, while extra innovations such as the USB-C tech feel like a step forward, but a small step and not a reason to buy a brand new Sony phone.

If you own a Sony handset from the last year there’s no key reason to update to the Xperia XZ, but if you’re after a top of the line device and like the look of the XZ’s refined design, this is going to be a great choice for you.

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Hands-on review: Moto G4 Play

Hands-on review: Moto G4 Play

Moto G4 Play

The Moto G4 Play just wants to have some fun. It isn’t necessarily the most skilled at any one thing, but it’s hard to look away from a deal this good.

Sitting at the bottom of the G4 totem pole in terms of specs, the G4 Play is generally lacking in marquee features compared to the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus.

But does that make it a bad phone? Nope, just one that’s definitely not for everyone. Still, going for as low as $ 99 price point, everyone can afford this unlocked smartphone. At that, it sits at the top of the G-series in terms of value.

Moto G4 Play price and release date

Months after the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus hit shelves across the globe, it’s now time for the G4 Play.

This budget smartphone will be available online at Best Buy, B&H, and on Motorola’s own site for $ 149 (£129, AU$ 249). It can also be purchased through Amazon for the same price, or a discounted rate of $ 99 in the US, which will come pre-loaded with ads on the lockscreen.

Moto G4 Play

Verizon will be offering the Moto G4 Play on a prepaid plan, but regardless of where you buy it, it will work with all major US carriers.

Design and display

Although this phone is targeted towards those on a budget, you wouldn’t guess it just by looks alone. The Moto G4 Play looks a lot like the Moto G4, even down to the ruggedized plastic back and rounded edges. But it also takes design cues from high-end phones in the Moto family.

A few examples are the silver trimmed speaker, the deep grey trim and textured power button that are found on higher-end models like the Moto Z. Obviously, cheaper build materials are used here, but the effect is in full-force.

Moto G4 Play

In terms of features, you’ll find your usual suspects on the G4 Play, like a 3.5mm headphone jack, front and rear-facing cameras, and a microUSB port for charging. What you won’t find are some slightly more big-ticket inclusions, like Gorilla Glass, a fingerprint reader, or a charge input with any sort of quick-charging technology built-in.

The 720p display has a pixel density of 294ppi (pixels per inch). While that’s by no means impressive compared to many QHD (2,560 x 1,440) Android smartphones, it totally does the job for this smaller, much more affordable device.

Specs and performance

By the look of the Moto G4 Play, it strives to provide the essentials and not much more. And its specs tell a similar story.

Stocked with a Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor and the Adreno 306, it’s the same system on a chip (SoC) that can be found in modern Android Wear smartwatches. The Moto G4 Play also comes with 2GB RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, with the option for expansion available thanks to the microSD slot.

Moto G4 Play

Using the Moto G4 Play feels relatively snappy for a device at this price point, which is partially a testament to Moto’s only slight modification to the stock Android experience. There are a few touches inserted into the mix, but most of them are good, like the Moto Display function, which shows you pertinent notifications when your hand hovers over the phone.

It should be mentioned that the G4 Play isn’t a gaming powerhouse. One of our favorites games as of late, Giant Boulder of Death, runs smoothly, but the game more or less relies on a gyroscope, a part that this phone doesn’t have. Many smartphone games rely on tilt functionality, but you won’t be able to enjoy them on this phone unless they support alternate control schemes.

This aside, Moto’s G4 Play should provide a generally passable experience whether you’re watching a movie or playing the occasional game.

Moto G4 Play

Focusing on a few other features, the Moto G4 Play features a 2,800mAh removable battery, which rests under the plastic back. It shares the rear with an 8MP sensor that has an aperture of f/2.2. If you want to shoot video, this phone can record in 1080p at 30 frames per second (FPS). Over on the front, the selfie camera is 5MP and also has an aperture of f/2.2. Again, nothing too eye-opening here, but the essentials are on the table.

We look forward to digging into some deeper testing with the Moto G4 Play, including photo samples and battery impressions.

Early verdict

The Moto G4 Play, like the other G-series phones, operates with a value-first mindset. If you’re looking for the most phone for the least amount of money, you’ll have a hard time finding a better deal than this.

While it’s easy to think that this phone is missing some key features, it’s not. That’s why the Moto G4 Play is so cheap. The Moto G4 Plus, for an extra $ 100, packs in the fingerprint sensor, bump up in screen resolution and a Snapdragon 617. If those specs don’t matter much to you, Moto’s low-end G4 phone might be just what you need.

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Review: Updated: HTC One M9

Review: Updated: HTC One M9

Introduction, design and screen

The HTC One M9 is a phone built on precision. It’s a brand realising it made a pretty much perfect phone with the One M8 and doubling down on its greatest strength to try and win over more customers.

It’s dropped the maligned 4MP Ultrapixel sensor of its predecessor, bumping it up to a huge 20.7MP option in a bid to attract those that feel safer buying a phone with higher numbers on the spec sheet.

And it’s tied off the experience with a huge boost in the engine room and teamed up with Dolby to refine its already powerful BoomSound experience.

Even the battery capacity is improved, something HTC has struggled with in the past. It even beats the biggest rival of its time, the Samsung Galaxy S6, on that particular front. So has the Taiwanese brand managed to do the almost impossible and create yet another perfect device?

HTC One M9 review

It certainly charged for it at launch: In the UK the HTC One M9 came with an initial RRP of £580 SIM free for the handset, with a good £10 per month extra on contract. US pricing had it for $ 649 without subsidy. These days, of course, you can pick up the HTC One M9 for a lot less.

With its successor the HTC 10 now on the market, you can grab last year’s model for around £360/US$ 400. That’s still far from cheap, of course, but then the HTC One M9 is built from premium materials, and contains pricey components like a full 32GB of internal storage.

The internals remain potent: an octa-core Qualcomm 810 chipset, 3GB of RAM, 2840 mAh battery on top of a Super LCD3 screen. The latter component hasn’t got the cachet of Samsung’s Super AMOLED display, but it’s still color rich and seems close to the glass, which is important for image quality.

HTC One M9 review

There are some things that haven’t been improved over 2014’s HTC One M8 though: the screen is still "only" 5 inches, which could be too big or too small depending on your opinion on the subject. The resolution is "only" 1080p, but again, some still question whether the pin-sharp QHD resolution is needed unless you’re intent on using your phone in a VR headset, especially as it’s harder on battery life.

The metallic chassis is back and is bolder than ever. It’s a two tone design (well, the Silver/Gold and Gold/Pink versions have a contrasting band around the side, whereas the Gunmetal Grey and Gold on Gold versions don’t) that uses a single piece of metal for the entire phone – it really feels better packaged than previous HTC phones.

However, the key question remains: is this package still good enough to warrant the extra cash when you can get the likes of the OnePlus 3 for a similar price? Have the improvements added more to the mix or is the HTC One M9 a sign of the company treading water, adding nuance rather than innovation?


Let’s get this out the way at the start – the design is, by far, the most amazing part of the HTC One M9. HTC is calling it "jewellery-grade," with each one hand-finished by craftsmen, and it certainly shows.

The one-piece fascia is complemented beautifully by the two tone metallic rim (on my review unit, the silver and gold variant). The grey and gold versions will look less impressive, given they’ve lost the two-tone appeal, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be as nice to hold.

HTC One M9 review

Actually, I’m pretty sure they’ll be nicer than this model. There’s something about the design right now that I really don’t like, the rear edge proving to be quite sharp in the hand. It’s not going to draw blood, but when I used the gunmetal grey preview device in Barcelona back in early 2015 it definitely felt closer to the One M8 in style, with more of a comfortable curve.

The reason for this hasn’t been confirmed by HTC, but I get the feeling it’s something to do with the coloring process.

Whatever the case, it’s perhaps telling that HTC ditched this two-tone effect and the associated stepped-edge design for the HTC 10.

HTC One M9 review

The other thing that’s changed here since the HTC One M8 – and not for the better – is the power button transferring to the right-hand side of the phone.

This is a more natural place for it to live, making it easier to turn the screen on and off. However, HTC has inexplicably made it the same size and shape as the volume buttons above, so feeling for it without explicitly looking means I often hit the volume key instead.

Again, HTC altered this button balance in the HTC 10, which could be seen as another admission that the M9’s design isn’t quite optimal.

The microSD slot is right above the trio of buttons too, and as it’s slightly indented can cause confusion when trying to change volume in the pocket. It’s hard to tell which is which, even with the phone in your hand – the extra ridges on the power button don’t help enough.

HTC One M9 review

While the decisions HTC has made to improve the One M9’s design don’t seem to have hit the mark, there’s no doubt this is a finely crafted phone, and was probably the best on the market at launch in that respect.

The two-tone finish is superb and still quite distinctive more than a year on, the weight and balance is even better than before, and the precision I spoke of earlier is the overriding feeling.

The sharp edges of the BoomSound speakers are well-defined, and while it’s heavy at 157g, especially compared to contemporaries like the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6, Apple’s is the only device that can come close to beating the attractive packaging here – and I prefer the weight and balance HTC has created.

I’d definitely chuck it in a case though. After two days I’d already dented the bottom through it falling a foot onto the floor, and those nicks are really noticeable on the premium casing.

I also checked out an M9 handset more than a year on from launch and, while generally in decent condition, there were tiny stress cracks in three of the four corners where the display glass meets the metal.

Yet another M9 handset I tried recently didn’t have this latter problem, but there were visible scratches around the microUSB port where the metal edges of the charger connector had made their mark. It seems you pay a price for such a fine metal finish, then – though that’s hardly a unique criticism for a modern smartphone.


One thing HTC gets lambasted for is the extra space around the screen, with people saying the HTC logo doesn’t need to be on there, surrounded by a black bar that many think is there for show.

It isn’t. It’s packing screen components that have to go somewhere as HTC has extended the length of the One M9 through the need for decent audio chambers to pump out BoomSound – and I’d rather have the powerful speakers than an identikit smartphone.

HTC One M9 review

The M9 is actually a little smaller than before, despite having the same 5-inch screen as the previous year. In fact, it’s an identical screen to the HTC One M8’s, with a 1080p Super LCD display covered in Gorilla Glass.

There are undoubtedly performance improvements, but like the older model, HTC is being cagey about them. What is apparent is the screen’s colors are rich enough, the gap between glass and display is low and the response under the finger is noticeably sharper.

That said, in our testing the screen is too dark under auto conditions, the colors often appear washed out compared to the rest of the flagship phones of 2015, and it doesn’t pack the same ‘wallop’ as the iPhone 6 or LG G4, for instance. It’s not terrible at all, but it begs the question why HTC didn’t update this key component.

I don’t want to harp on about the HTC One M9’s successor too much here, but it’s difficult to argue that the HTC 10’s QHD Super LCD 5 display didn’t arrive a year too late.

Still, the M9 screen’s 441PPI is perfectly sharp and doesn’t really offer a lot less than the QHD screens that are starting to flood the market.

The only functional reason I can see to stick a super-sharp display into a screen below six inches in size is to allow for virtual reality headsets, which magnify the screen and can cause pixelation. However, HTC isn’t using the phone as the base of its VR Vive headset, so there’s not really any need here.

Google is set to launch an ambitious new universal VR headset in Daydream later in 2016, of course, but even that will require brand new smartphone hardware that isn’t on the market yet.

HTC One M9 review

The HTC One M9’s 5-inch screen is a fraction smaller than the competition on the market right now, with many other brands choosing to go 5.1-inch and above – but again, 5 inches seems like a fine choice here.

There’s a fair amount of bezel on the One M9 compared to other 2015 flagship phones like the LG G4 and the Galaxy S6, and that’s more pronounced due to the extra metallic lip that’s running around the edge of the phone.

But we don’t need edge to edge displays unless that’s what the phone is about – and HTC’s model is geared towards feeling more ergonomic in the hand, so it seems to suit the device.

What’s new?

Thinking about what’s changed with the One M9 is where you’ll realize that HTC really did hit a roadblock when it comes to innovation.

For a brand that’s been so heavily into bringing something extra to the smartphone table – think BoomSound speakers, the duo camera, finding a way to get phone signal through an all-metal body – there’s very little to shout about here.

It’s disappointing, given I’ve become used to HTC being the go-to brand for cool new ideas – making the same phone as the previous year with a little more polish leaves me a little deflated.

And yet the phone costed so much more than in previous years – it’s even more than an iPhone 6, initially. Of course, the market eventually corrected itself, but it’s left a nasty taste in the mouth that the brand was asking for more just to get a slightly more refined design.

Surround BoomSound

What’s better than hearing things? Hearing them in three dimensions of course! And that’s just what HTC says it’s done here, adding Dolby support to its BoomSound speakers (both with and without headphones connected) to create a virtual surround sound.

What this seems to mean in the real world is that the phone can now pump out sound for "theater" or "music" mode, and further improve the sound quality when you’re listening to tunes over headphones.

HTC One M9 review

HTC has also created its own range of earbuds to allow you to get the best out of this optimized sound too, taking advantage of the extra power for your ears. It even offers different sound profiles for each of these sets.

Happier snapping

HTC has gone bold and ditched the Ultrapixel camera for the new One M9 – well, ditched it from the rear anyway. Last year’s sensor is now used on the front of the phone; with the low light ability making selfies look much better.

The rear camera is now a 20.7MP affair, a very similar sensor to the one found in the Sony Xperia Z3 (although made by Toshiba).

HTC One M9 review

It’s been heavily revised, and now offers a much sharper image for those that like to zoom into photos. It’s lost a little of the low light ability, and colors are more muted, but overall is a much sharper and more competent sensor.

Four more cores

The HTC One M9 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 chipset, which was its top processor of 2015. This offers two sets of four cores (with only one set ever working at any one time), clocked at 1.5GHz and 2GHz.

That’s backed up by 3GB of RAM, and this combination results in a very fast experience under the finger. It’s not perfect still, as Android Marshmallow still seems to get in the way when doing things like pressing the multitasking button and letting the phone lag.

HTC One M9 review

Like a lot of things on this phone it seems that it’s fine when ‘warmed up’ – pressing the multitasking button will lead to a pause the first time, but press again and it’s instant – but the first load is slow.

And there’s the issue of heat. HTC and Qualcomm were subjected to some bad press in 2015, with the insane power of the 810 chipset meaning you can really run this phone hot through benchmarks and gaming, although not to the levels being described thanks to recent software updates.

In reality, the phone does get rather warm at times thanks to the metal body dispersing heat more evenly, and while it’s clear the Qualcomm chip is running to a higher temperature it’s nothing massive.

Go and go and go

The battery life on the HTC range has always been something to keep an eye on, as I’ve always found it rather ‘slippy’. That means that even doing general tasks like browsing the web or checking football scores will munch down battery life a little fast.

The One M9 has tried to eradicate that problem by using the Snapdragon 810 chip (which can use a lower power set of cores to get you through the less taxing tasks) as well as whacking in a relatively meaty 2840mAh battery, which is only fractionally smaller than the one used in the iPhone 6 Plus.

HTC One M9 review

It’s even bigger than the one used in the Samsung Galaxy S6, and combined with the lower pixel count should enable HTC to get a better battery life out of its flagship range.

Except, well, it doesn’t. You can read more about this in the Battery section of the review, but HTC still seems unable to build a light interface that doesn’t eat power when you don’t want it to.

Looking at the statistics it seems that Android updating certain Google services is the main culprit, which is something usually associated with early software, so future updates might solve this. It took a while, but Android Marshmallow has finally started rolling out in 2016. However, we’re only really noticing an improvement to the battery when not using the phone, and that’s thanks to Google’s new Doze feature.

So it’s an OK battery life for HTC, and one that might get you through the day – especially if you’re not a heavy user. But it will be close – and it’s worse than the battery life on the One M8.

Storage hunting

Here’s a big win for HTC: the base (and only) level of storage on the phone is 32GB, which means any apps that need to be kept on the phone’s internal memory can do so happily without leading to the dreaded ‘delete apps to free up space’ message when you need to take a picture or download new software.

There’s also a microSD slot on board to allow you to get more storage in there as well, with the upper limit of 128GB bringing the total available to 160GB for your One M9.

HTC One M9 review

It’s worth remembering that putting loads of extra info into the phone via memory card can have an impact on performance, so don’t chuck too much on there that you’ll need to use regularly as it will slow the phone down somewhat.

Sensing themes

HTC’s Sense UI was overhauled again for the HTC One M9. Sense 7.0 comes with a few little tweaks – although it really looks very similar to the one we got before.

The big changes are through themes and the gallery, with both having a marked effect on the way you personalize your phone. The theme generator is actually pretty cool: take a snap of anything, the phone will analyze the image and create a full palette of colors to use with icons and app headers – plus the font and icon shapes will be altered to match the overall ‘ethos’ too.

You can choose different styles if you’re not completely happy with the way the phone’s suggestions work – but it’s a very holistic way of making a picture work throughout the phone.

In keeping with HTC’s more recent policy of updating such components separately from the core Sense UI, you can also apply the freestyle layout themes introduced with the HTC 10. These let you use and freely position stickers in place of app icons, giving your home screens a more organic and artistic look.

HTC One M9 review

Practically speaking, I found this option a little awkward – I just wanted to be able to put my finger on the app icon I wanted at a glance – but I suspect that plenty of people will love the customization potential it offers.

Indeed, using the HTC One M9 at various points throughout 2015 and 2016 has shown that HTC is shaping and remoulding its Sense software experience on the fly, which can lead to some friction.

For example, the Cloudex service we mentioned in our original M9 review subsequently changed its name to the One Gallery app, before support was withdrawn altogether at the end of April.

This then left a useless shell of an app icon in the app tray where once there was an interesting new way to collate images from multiple sources. Now, after the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update, there’s no sign of the service at all

Healthy performance

One of the interesting things about phones from the last few years was their ability to track fitness, the idea being that they’ll always be in your pocket and therefore will give the best amount of info.

Despite partnering with Fitbit in 2014, HTC decided it needed its own version of a health tracker: HTC Fun Fit. You’ll need to download this though, which is a shame – especially when you see some of the pre-loaded apps on the One M9 that I could live without happily.

Then again, Fun Fit doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of point to it for a number of reasons. Firstly, the rise of the fitness tracker has shown us that the phone is only so good for tracking steps, as it’s not always in the pocket and therefore might not get all the data.

HTC One M9 review

Secondly Fun Fit seems very limited beyond giving you information on what you’ve done in terms of steps taken or time spent running / walking. It’s also a little useless, giving wildly incorrect results when working out how long you’ve been running for.

As part of a larger app, this stuff is great – and I love the cartoonish avatars, the ability to instantly sync up with friends using the app on Facebook and the different levels of activity on offer as you trot around through the day.

However, there’s no end game here with HTC’s option. No training plans or motivation to do more – so who’s this for? The average non-exerciser will idly look at it, intrigued by their stats at the start, but with no motivation to go further.

It’s a good app in that it’s well-designed, but that’s about it. If you’re after a fun, polished casual fitness app, you’re better off with Google Fit.

Interface and performance

The Sense interface on the HTC One M9 is still one of the most cultured and sophisticated around – far better than Samsung’s TouchWiz and far more powerful than iOS – and with either Android Lollipop or Marshmallow (most in the UK seem to have updated) currently powering things, it’s been given another boost forward in terms of functionality.

This includes the availability of Google Now on Tap. Press and hold the virtual home button, and Google’s assistant will scan all of the text on screen – whatever you’re doing – and provide contextual information.

For example, while reading a techradar article about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and Gear VR, Google Now on Tap provided links to Google searches on both devices, as well as on the security camera that was being advertised. Now on Tap still isn’t quite where it needs to be in terms of surfacing consistently useful information, but it has promise.

Still, most of the tweaks here take place as part of Sense and, increasingly, HTC Service Pack, so the actual Android version isn’t as important a consideration as it used to be.

In general, it’s Sense as usual. There are still a lot of swipes needed to get around, which may put some people off, but it’s simple to pick up and rewards you for playing with lots of subtle tricks.

The interface hasn’t really been overhauled that much in the last few years, and given most of the updates below will be coming to the HTC One M8 it seems like the reason to get them on the current model is slightly limited.

That said, they’re still great ways to drive through the phone, and the nimbleness of the Snapdragon 810 chip means most of the touches are buttery smooth and quick. There are still pauses, judders and stumbles though, which I don’t expect in a phone of this level.

In our testing, it’s not got the same speed at all when compared with the iPhone 6, LG G4, Samsung Galaxy S6 and Sony Xperia Z3. It’s very slow compared to the first three, taking an age to boot, to load apps and to generally keep things in the cache.

In a vacuum you probably won’t notice it too much, but in comparison it’s lagging.


That point I just made about HTC Service Pack making the question of which Android version the HTC One M9 is running less of an issue is perfectly illustrated with BlinkFeed. We’ve had two fresh test units in since our initial review – one still running on Android Lollipop and Sense 7.0, and the other running Android Marshmallow and Sense 7.0. In both cases, BlinkFeed has changed since our initial review.

HTC’s custom news feed is still located to the left of the main home screen, but now it’s a little different. I’ve noted before that there was something about BlinkFeed that hadn’t evolved in the way I wanted it to, even though I was promised three years ago it would become really intuitive. It seems HTC agreed, but it still hasn’t gone far enough.

HTC One M9 review

Towards the end of 2015, BlinkFeed changed into a service platform for aggregating content from partners. Right now, that mainly means News Republic.

Scroll left now and you’ll find the Highlights screen, providing a random selection of news stories from around the web, alongside any appointments for the day from the Calendar app. Once you’ve tapped to download the News Republic app, you’ll have more control over which of these stories are surfaced.

You also get Yelp recommendations for local lunch spots, which will occasionally show up on your lock screen. Ideally, this service should know the EXACT moments that I’ll be looking for a new place to eat (when calendar invites show lunch, for instance) rather than just generically. But at least it’s working in the UK now, which it wasn’t at the time of launch.

Is any of this an evolution of the original BlinkFeed concept? Not really, no. In fact, it’s pretty clunky that you have to download a whole third party app just to get the news portion to work properly now.

New notifications

This isn’t something that’s particularly new, but for those of you thinking about upgrading from the HTC One M7 or another phone from 2013, the improvements on Sense are really cool.

The lockscreen now shows information in strips which can be flipped away when not wanted, or double tapped to open in the relevant app. It’s a neat system, and shows Google and HTC have worked well together to integrate the option with Sense.

In the pull down bar, there’s often a lot going on though. With Google Now just chucking information at you (you’ll get the option if you search for anything in the dedicated bar on the home screen) as well as apps telling you information, music widgets popping up and more, it’s quite busy.

HTC One M9 review

Another pull down will show the quick settings and the integration of all this together makes a lot of sense to me. It’s one of those things to be experienced rather than read about, but with a few minutes of use it all makes sense.

Sense Home

Sense Home is one of the big things HTC is talking about with the One M9, a widget that lives on the home screen to show you the apps you use the most.

The clever trick is that the phone will work out where Home, Work and the more generic ‘Out’ zones are, and populate the apps accordingly – and you can set these locations yourself.

It generally works well too, although you can’t tell it to NOT put certain apps there – Tinder fans probably won’t want others to see that on the front screen.

HTC One M9 review

By default HTC has also lobbed ‘smart folders’ into the mix, showing suggested apps and those you’ve downloaded…. but these are really poor and should be switched off. The suggestions are random and the titles truncated – not what you’d expect from a flagship phone.

I like the idea of having different apps for different times, and generally they were pretty good. However, I still found that after a week the eight slots weren’t filled with my most-used apps, so I hope this gets more accurate over time.


Gestures are back from the HTC One M8, allowing you to wake the phone into certain modes when locked. The main gesture is double tapping the blank screen to unlock it, something Nokia invented and LG made popular. Given how hard it is to find the power button at times, this ability is useful – plus you can now double tap to turn the screen off too.

Flicking up from the bottom of the display bypasses the lock screen altogether if you’ve not got security on, and when I remembered to use it I found it quite a useful ability.

Plus you can drag down from the top or other side to open straight into voice dialing or Blinkfeed, although these are turned off by default.

HTC One M9 review

The main thing that’s annoyed me from before is still there though: if the phone is asleep on the desk, you can’t wake it without picking it up or knocking the One M9 first. I’m sure the screen doesn’t stay constantly waiting for a tap or swipe input when asleep to save battery, but the LG range seems to be able to do it with better power management.

But this gesture unlock is one of the bests thing HTC has added to its software in recent times, and it should be applauded for keeping it present.


While I don’t want it to sound like I’m bashing the One M9 too much in the interface section, the keyboard is another place where HTC has let a lead go.

The brand used to be synonymous with an excellent and accurate keyboard, but it’s so far behind the likes of SwiftKey that it’s hard not to recommend you don’t download a better option from the Play Store as soon as possible.

HTC One M9 review

The accuracy is OK, but the word predictions aren’t always correct. On top of that, the phone will only let you put in a word that’s not in the dictionary if you explicitly tell it to do so – and it won’t default to that the next time.

It’s not terrible, but HTC used to be the best default keyboard on any phone, where now it’s just OK.

Excellent contact integration

One thing HTC does do really well is make the phone section really easy to use, with the clever join between your contacts on handset and social networks almost seamless.

For instance the smart linking between your friends on the phone and the profiles on Facebook and Twitter is excellent. And on top of that, the One M9 can pull in HD pictures from Facebook profiles so when you get called it’s not from a blurry, pixelated mess.

HTC One M9 review

It can take a while for the app to overwrite the fuzzy pictures with the HD options, but it will shake itself out eventually. Given phones like the iPhone 6S still can’t get close to this kind of happy integration (nor do they have smart dialing, where you can easily tap out numbers to get to friends’ profiles) so HTC should be applauded for this effort.


The performance of the HTC One M9 is decent, as noted. There are still a few judders and delays around the Sense UI that I had hoped would have been ironed out by now, but when it’s opening apps or searching the web everything is reasonably crisp.

I wish I could it say it would stay that way for the next two years that you’ll own this phone, but when you start filling it with apps you’ll get an inevitable slowdown as they start doing things in the background.

Always keep things clean and safe, kids. A factory reset once in a while doesn’t hurt.

The Geekbench 3 results show a fairly impressive score, and remember this isn’t really the full performance of the phone as HTC has throttled it slightly so it doesn’t go burning hot.

HTC One M9 review

That points out something huge about today’s phones: they’re pointlessly powerful. The octa-core processor can be pushed to insane speeds if you don’t care too much about battery, but in day to day life it won’t hit anywhere close to that limit, meaning HTC can dial back the power without a worry.

With that in mind, why does it matter how powerful the phone is? It’s like buying a high performance sports car that will never see the track. It’s good to know you’ve got that headroom to put your foot down when you want it, and the acceleration is great, but push it too hard and you’ll be in trouble.

HTC One M9 review

Even with the lower power, the HTC One M9 is perfectly capable – though it’s right in the middle of the flagship pack for its generation. An average Geekbench 3 multi-core score of around 3700 puts it well behind the Samsung Galaxy S6 on 4900, only a little above the LG G4 (3500) with its supposedly inferior Snapdragon 808, and comfortably ahead of the iPhone 6 with 2905.

For gaming, flying through multiple apps and more it’s got the power – but then when you’re trying to browse high resolution pictures in the gallery and it takes a few noticeable fractions of a second to load the fully sharp image, that experience is tarnished somewhat.

Shout out for call quality though – the ability to grab signal is very good indeed, which is even more impressive when you think how much metal is in this phone.

Metal usually equals no phone signal at all, so it’s good to see that HTC has somehow managed to improve this area. I was a really big fan of using the One M9 to make something as old-fashioned as a phone call.


Battery life on the HTC One M9 should be brilliant in comparison to what’s been before. With the HTC One M8, the Snapdragon 801 chipset finally made an HTC phone decent at lasting throughout a day, and with a larger power pack and an improvement from Qualcomm things should have been awesome.

Sadly, they’re not. I’m not saying that it’s a problem and this phone won’t last long enough to tap out a couple of tweets, but the performance hasn’t been moved on much from previous efforts.

The issue is that the phone heats up really easily doing the most mundane of tasks. Anything that takes a little bit of wireless connection is a quick way to watch it drop, be it mobile data or listening to music over headphones.

Where most phones these days won’t have much of an issue losing no more than 10% on my morning commute, even with a bit of video action, the One M9 has dropped as much as 17% through Bluetooth music streaming and emails, which is odd as this doesn’t usually munch too much power.

The good news is Google’s Android 6.0 gives you a good way of checking the problems, letting you shut down (or get rid of) the apps which are misbehaving.

HTC One M9 review

However, in this case it’s ‘Google Services’ which is one of the core power munchers. This incorporates elements fundamental to the running of the phone, which means there’s not a lot to be done about it.

I usually see this in the first few days of reviewing, but the issue has pervaded. Hardcore testing – be it standby, heavy apps, web browsing and YouTube videos, for instance – has proven the HTC to be a poorer choice than the rest of the competition, with poorer background battery management.

This means you can’t lean on the One M9 too heavily for playing games or watching videos, which is irritating if you want to have a little bit of battery left at the end of the day.

Gaming is really heavy on the battery, with a quick 15 minute game sometimes sucking 10% juice – although the issue is often that mobile games these days are constantly communicating with servers for online play or in app purchases, which hurts the battery.

Running TechRadar’s standard battery test on the One M9, where we looped a 90 minute full HD video at maximum brightness showed that the M9 was one of the worst performers of recent times, with 24% of the battery disappearing – though I should note that this represents a 7% improvement on the same test we ran near the phone’s launch. HTC and Google appear to have improved matters.

Still, if you consider that the LG G Flex 2, another big phone on the market with the Snapdragon 810 chipset, only lost 13% in the same test, then you’ll see that there’s something fundamentally inefficient going on with the software here.

That seems to be borne out by running the same test on Lollipop-equipped HTC One M8 and HTC One M7 handsets, which managed 24% and 30% respectively – and the phone from 2013 had barely enough battery to make it through the day too. This shows that HTC effectively stood still in battery life terms from 2013 to 2015, even with the larger capacity and theoretically more efficient processor of the M9.

As I said, the One M9’s battery does appear to have improved since the early days, but that’s only resulted in parity with the One M8, which can be had for significantly less than its successor these days, and that’s just not good enough.

HTC One M9 review

The Android 6.0 update appears to have brought some benefits, but only really in terms of idle time. Leaving the phone more or less untouched, with only extremely limited usage (as in, not using it as my main phone for a time), I found that the phone could last through a good three days.

That’s doubtless thanks to Google’s Doze feature, which was introduced with Marshmallow. Doze minimizes power usage when the phone is still and in sleep mode, and it really works. Of course, this benefit is largely nullified if you use your phone with any kind of regularity.

The other big thing here is QuickCharge 2.0 – although this offers a pretty amazing 60% charge in just 30 mins, the charger in the box isn’t QuickCharge enabled to get the maximum speeds on offer.

This is just ludicrous – I thought by this point that they’d be standard as the tech began appearing in phones in 2014. It’s really frustrating that you’ll need to spend so much more given this is an already expensive phone relative to its specs.


HTC briefly gave up on the UltraPixel idea with the One M9, at least for its main camera. Instead it’s gone for the same 20.7MP sensor found in the Sony Xperia Z3, aiming to wow with the higher number of megapixels stuffed in.

HTC One M9 review

That temporary step away from UltraPixels (the HTC 10 brings the terminology back) is a big disappointment, as HTC was the one big Android brand striking out against the need for loads of pixels to take a good picture, instead going for the innovative combo of a 4MP sensor that could nab loads of light and a secondary sensor for clever effects.

HTC was evidently trying to stand shoulder to shoulder with similarly spec’d offerings from Samsung and Sony, but it’s only been partially successful. A good camera today needs to have a fast start up and shutter speed, excellent detail, accurate color reproduction and good low light performance, and it’s clear HTC has gone in hard for all of these.

The One M9 generally has a very good performance in most conditions, whether it’s low light, bright scenes or changeable conditions. The sharpness of the pictures is clear and the color tone, although a little more muted, looks more mature than the over-coloration of the One M8.

HTC One M9 review

What’s clear is there’s a lot of post-processing going on throughout the photography process, and it’s very good for the most part. It’s evident that HTC has tried to offset the loss of low-light performance by boosting the exposure after the shutter is pressed – but this results in a lot of noise.

The flash isn’t brilliant either, with the high power light taking over night pictures. The amber LED in there is designed to help improve skin tone, and while it does do that, the entire snap is a little over exposed.

The big annoyances here, though, are the shutter speed (and, to an extent, the start up time, which is far behind the iPhone 6 and the Galaxy S6) and the time taken to autofocus as well.

The biggest culprit was HDR mode, which forced the One M9 to pause for a while before even beginning to start processing the shot in darker conditions. Again, this isn’t the sort of thing I’d have expected from a recent flagship processor.

And the result, thanks to the lack of autofocus and the slow start to processing, is often muddy and lacks definition.

So while low light performance has dipped appreciably, the general performance has more than improved enough to take its place. In general daylight, I was really impressed with the performance of the One M9. OK, it’s nothing different to the rest of the market, but it gives you quality and sharpness time and again.

HTC One M9 review

The field of view is lowered though, thanks to the higher number of megapixels. This means you don’t get as much info into the sensor, and where Apple is improving this year on year, HTC just took a step backwards to get more pixels into the mix.

The front facing camera, now using the UltraPixel sensor from the rear of the One M8, is miles better.

It captures a huge amount of detail and really removes the need for a flash – something a lot of people have been calling for on other handsets.

HTC One M9 review

The beauty modes are still present, with the ability to smooth skin and increase the size of your eyes to a scary level. Face fusion, where you can work out what the demon spawn of you and your friend would look like, is also offered – and great fun down the bar.

The other area that HTC has traditionally been strong is the after effects party, with the Zoe ability to take short videos and mix them with pictures a really cool trick.

This year, Zoe has been moved to a separate app, been taken off as a camera option and been replaced in post processing with a lot of, well, useless effects.

HTC One M9 review

I don’t really get why HTC is making such a big deal about the ability to do things like double expose your photos – they just end up looking like you’ve messed up two snaps, unless they happen to perfectly complement one another.

Similarly the prism and stripe effects, allowing you to ‘remix’ your image – it just seems like a good way to create a Pink Floyd album cover. It doesn’t make them look any better, and it’s certainly not something I’d share on social media and be proud of.

Camera samples

HTC One M9 review

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HTC One M9 review

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HTC One M9 review

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HTC One M9 review

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HTC One M9 review

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HTC One M9 review

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HTC One M9 review

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HTC One M9 review

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HTC One M9 review

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HTC One M9 review

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HTC One M9 review

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HTC One M9 review

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Music, TV and movies

One area that HTC has firmly wedged itself into is entertainment: whether that’s using the phone for watching movies, listening to music, playing games or even letting it control your whole media system, the One M9 is really rather good for all of these things.

The BoomSound speakers should get the credit for a lot of things here, as they’re the reason that HTC has managed to bag the tag of being so good at audio.

When I first heard what HTC was doing with these in 2013, I thought it was a stupid idea – making a phone better at playing sounds out loud was just going to appeal to the juvenile delinquents who play tinny music on a bus, right?

But then I found that I would put music on when working at home, show YouTube video to friends and even use the handset without headphones when using guided exercise apps – things I’ve never done before with a standard phone.

HTC One M9 review

The sound is rich and loud, the extra space HTC allows meaning there’s a lot of room for the audio to echo and gain in timbre. In short, it worked – and even the internal BoomSound optimizations were smart. Using the technology again makes sense – I’m still not convinced that the speakers couldn’t have been made smaller in the same way as on other Desire devices in the HTC line.

It seems this is equal parts branding as it is technology holding back – HTC wants the speakers to be seen to give the impression of a flagship phone. I get that, but a slightly sleeker device would have felt like a step forward.

Still, in slimming down the HTC 10 for 2016, HTC has arguably made its BoomSound technology worse, meaning that the HTC One M9 remains the best-sounding smartphone around. They can’t win, can they?


Enough of the look of the speakers though – how impressive is the audio capability of this phone? Very good, putting it simply.

The HTC BoomSound integration with Dolby technology really does improve the quality of the music, whether with or without headphones.

When listening to music through the speakers, the One M9 will automatically add a notification at the top of the screen to let you know which ‘mode’ the BoomSound speakers are pumping audio out in, either theater or music.

HTC One M9 review

It’s irritating that the phone doesn’t switch this automatically, as it’s clear that if you’re using Netflix you’ll need to be in theater mode, and if Spotify is up, then it’s music.

Speaking of the streaming service, the music app on the One M9 is starting to feel a little redundant given the popularity of on-demand music, which explains why nothing has really changed of late with the app. At least Google has changed the Google Play icon, so now you won’t confuse the two previously similar logos.

If you do have a full audio arsenal of MP3s to throw onto your One M9, then you’ll be pleased with the experience, as it’s got downloadable lyrics, clever visualizations and a bright and clear interface.

There’s no hi-res audio on offer though, and this is starting to trickle through as something people are looking for in a phone. HTC finally jumped aboard with the HTC 10, but both LG and Sony were making a big deal of it around the time of the HTC One M9’s launch, so its lack of support is a shame.

I don’t think HTC has missed out too much by not including it here, as hi-res audio remains somewhat niche, but it would have been a nice improvement.


Watching video on the HTC One M9 is fine, although the automatic brightness settings are a little on the dim side. Even watching stuff in bed, where a low brightness is OK, I found that I wanted to keep pushing the clarity of the display up, which obviously affects battery life.

HTC still hasn’t got a dedicated video app, but tapping on a downloaded or sideloaded video will bring up a ‘View video’ option alongside Google Photos in the ‘Open with’ menu. You can also access your video content through the Gallery app.

HTC One M9 review

Whichever method you choose, the sharpness and contrast ratios are impressive, and if you’ve got the phone propped up somewhere then the BoomSound speakers make a nice addition.

I’ve yet to notice anything coming close to Dolby virtual surround sound coming out of them when it comes to watching video though. To me, surround sound is when you have moments where you’re not sure if there’s someone approaching to the side – all I felt here was that the dialogue was clearer.

That’s not a bad thing, but don’t get excited and think that buying this phone will replace a home cinema system. Then again if you did, I’d worry for your sanity.

Peel Smart Remote

HTC’s SenseTV app has disappeared, to be replaced by the Peel Smart Remote option. Given this was the power behind the app originally, it makes sense that HTC should cease bothering putting its own skin on and let the current app do the talking.

HTC One M9 review

It’s an odd app in terms of quality, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. When displaying what shows are on, or those you might like, the pictures look low res and stretched as it pulls them from the local channel servers.

HTC One M9 review

Given this is one of the first things you’ll see when turning on the app it won’t fill you with glee.

But go a little further and you’ll see that this is a very powerful app indeed. The set up for the main TVs couldn’t be easier, and by simply entering your post code the channels are almost always spot on.

In less than 30 seconds of powering up the app you can be browsing channels and watching a TV that you’ve not been able to use remotely for years (we’ve all got one where the remote has been missing for a while, right?) and setting up a TV from a big brand is speed personified.

The interface is slick and easy to use, and the ability to call up the EPG on the remote screen is really cool. Plus I can never tire of pressing a button for a channel and watching the phone press all the buttons in the right order to make sure that the right pictures pop up.

Who doesn’t like automation like that?

One annoying thing that kept happening was the fact programs I’d just watched and decided not to continue with remained in the notification bar, even if the app was closed down.

I’d wager that HTC’s biggest problem here is letting people know that their phone is such a powerful remote. Given so many people asked me what the top section of dark plastic was for on the phone, it’s clear not many know that this is a device with an infrared blaster packed in.

But if that’s HTC’s hardest problem to solve then it’s not a bad thing at all.


The Adreno 430 GPU in the HTC One M9 is definitely strong enough to be one of the better options on the market for general gaming – in fact, there’s very little that can be thrown at it that will cause the phone to crash or stutter.

That means you can play something like Vainglory or Dead Trigger 2 and combine it with the rich sound from the BoomSound speakers to get a really decent experience, and the sensitivity of the touchscreen is something that makes it a real joy to use.

Sadly I’m still yet to find a phone that really does let me use it as a console, with an easy connection to the TV with a Bluetooth controller attached.

HTC One M9 review

What fails to work here is the latency: connecting the phone wirelessly or through a MHL lead (which is supported) still results a slightly laggy experience if you’ve got a controller attached through Bluetooth on the phone, so all that raw power can’t be exploited.

As a mobile gaming unit it’s pretty good – as long as you can handle the dramatic loss in battery power – and I’ve not found much incompatibility for titles on the One M9.

The competition

The HTC One M9 is a very good phone, mostly let down by the fact the one from last year was brilliant. The only reason it’s judged so harshly is the fact that it’s got so many other brilliant phones to steal its thunder – so if you’re looking for an alternative, these are the ones to look at.

Samsung Galaxy S6

HTC One M9 review

The Galaxy S6 is definitely the phone of this era that most HTC users will be thinking about instead, especially if they’re into the Android ecosystem.

While HTC managed to reboot its ailing flagship franchise three years ago, it took Samsung until 2015 to manage the same thing – and boy, has it done it. The Samsung Galaxy S7 represents a further refinement, but the Galaxy S6 can be picked up for around the same price as the HTC One M9, and it’s still a strong performer.

There’s nothing particularly outstanding about the S6, but it manages to do everything very well. The camera is feature-packed and offers up brilliant snaps, with a more-than-decent 16MP low-light sensor. The processor is an Exynos 7420, built in-house and hyper-powerful, and the QHD screen really adds clarity to the mix.

However, that’s likely more to do with the Super AMOLED technology underpinning than the crystal clear resolution on offer – after all, there’s only so much sharpness the human eye can discern. It doesn’t stop images looking amazing on it though.

The main issues you’ll have to deal with are poor battery life – with a smaller battery pack and higher res screen, it’s understandable that this would be slightly shorter in the power department.

OnePlus 3

OnePlus 3

All of the other alternative picks we discuss here are of a similar age or even older than the HTC One M9. The OnePlus 3 is a good year fresher, with a larger and more vibrant 5.5-inch AMOLED display and a significantly faster Snapdragon 820 CPU with an unusually high 6GB of RAM.

It also has a similarly accomplished – if not quite as flashy or refined – all-metal design, and the OnePlus 3 also has the advantage of a fingerprint sensor for speedy and secure access. Its camera is similarly competitive, too, whilst hardly being outstanding.

Despite all this, the OnePlus 3 costs £329/US$ 399 (around AU$ 450) brand new. It’s difficult to justify the purchase of a less current and generally inferior phone for similar money.

HTC One M8

HTC One M9 review

And we come to my biggest issue, that the predecessor to the One M9 is actually a little bit better.

While it does lack in terms of spec, it manages to more than make up for it in cost, coming in between half and two thirds the price of the One M9.

And I can’t really say what’s that much worse with it. The battery life is actually a touch better, the build quality not miles away and the camera not terrible in comparison. OK, the new 20.7MP camera on the One M9 is stronger, but it doesn’t have the innovative Duo Camera sensor for really cool effects.

The Sense experience from the One M9 has made its way to this device with Android 6.0 too – so really, with the same screen, a more palatable price and a little longer in the battery, is this actually the better phone?

HTC One A9

HTC One A9

HTC released another interesting phone in between the One M9 and the HTC 10, and it’s called the One A9. Many have criticized HTC for mimicking Apple on the design of this phone, but we still think it’s a great looking handset that stops people in their tracks.

It comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow on it, which the HTC One M9 has only belatedly caught up with. But the battery isn’t all that powerful on the HTC One A9 so it may be worth going for the One M9 if you’re a heavy user.

There’s also a great 13MP camera on the back of the HTC One A9 that takes just as good images as the HTC One M9, if not better. If you’re looking for something from HTC, it’s certainly worth checking out the One A9 before you just decide on the One M9 – though you may need to shop around online to find one.



The LG range is always going to be a thorn in HTC’s side, as it can offer a premium smartphone experience for a lower price, as it channels its marketing budget back into the phone’s cost.

The QHD screen is the real talking point here, but it doesn’t really offer that much more than HTC does, and the build quality of the M9 far outstrips the weird leather the G4 is packing.

For the price – you can grab the LG G4 for less than £300/US$ 300/AU$ 450 now – it’s a tough call. If you’re not fussed about design, the G4 is cheaper and faster with a better screen and camera (although not as much power) – but it does have a leather back, for some reason.

Sony Xperia Z5

Sony XPeria Z5

Sony’s Xperia Z5 is a big improvement upon the phones that have gone before. This time there’s a new luxurious design with frosted glass on the back and then there are metal edges for the first time.

There’s a new fingerprint sensor on the side and considering this is the first time Sony has managed to integrate one into the phone, it works surprisingly well.

There’s no wireless charging here, but the Xperia Z5 has some of the best battery life we’ve seen on an Android flagship phone for quite some time.

And then there’s the camera. It includes a 23MP sensor with a new autofocus mode that means you’re able to take snaps of fast moving objects and catch the action. It’s a big upgrade from Sony and is a serious competitor to the HTC One M9.


HTC One M9 review

For me, a flagship phone needs to hit a lot of marks to be considered impressive: it has to have cutting-edge performance, beautiful design, a powerful camera, long battery life and not be too hard on the pocket.

In 2014 HTC hit nearly all these marks, with the One M8 excelling in every area. OK, it wasn’t cheap, but nor was it the most expensive on the market. It didn’t have the best camera, but it was the most innovative.

One year on, HTC didn’t find itself at the top of any of those categories apart from design, where it still showed the rest of the market how it should be done. It raised the price by nearly 8% and yet didn’t deliver any discernible upgrades beyond a more mature camera and slightly more professional speakers. It’s all nuanced tweaks, not powerful improvements.

Of course, the HTC One M9 is no longer HTC’s flagship phone, so can’t be held to the same exacting standards. But it now finds itself competing against a new breed of capable mid-rangers with, in many ways, superior components.

I think I’m most disappointed by the camera used here. I was expected HTC to come out all guns blazing, showing us that it really did believe the megapixel myth was something to be fought, that lower MP counts really do count for something.

Instead of the next generation of duo camera, an 8MP UltraPixel sensor or similar, it seems to have thrown in the towel and decided to try and make more megapixels work… you know, just like everyone else.

We liked

This is a phone that has all the DNA of the HTC One M8 and polishes it well. Theme creator adds a lot of personalization to create an emotional attachment with the phone, and the Sense Home widget seems to be really useful too.

HTC One M9 review

I thought I’d be getting rid of it straight away as I’ve seen this tried over and over again by other brands, but it’s actually useful and surfaces the best stuff at the right time.

The main thing I liked is the design though. It was easily the best on the market at the time, feeling almost hand-crafted with a great aesthetic and great feeling in the hand, and it still feels great even now that the HTC 10 is on the market.

And while things like BoomSound, BlinkFeed and Sense haven’t necessarily been improved much, they’re still really great features that HTC is rightly proud of, showing it’s still a market leading brand.

We disliked

Sadly, there’s more to criticize in the HTC One M9 than there was in the previous couple of years. The first is the battery: I would expect strong power management from a 2015 flagship, as shown by most of the One M9’s contemporaries, and instead I got something that was a step backwards.

That’s a reduction in power with no discernible reason either – the full HD screen isn’t any different from last year, the battery is bigger and the software presumably stable – especially now that it’s on Android Marshmallow. So why on earth are we not seeing at least 36 hours of battery life where I’m not even getting a day?

HTC One M9 review

The camera is more powerful than I was expecting but I’m still disappointed in the loss of the UltraPixel and duo camera combo. I wanted to see an 8MP advance on the One M8, maintaining the strong snapping speed, and instead I got a sensor with the same specs as the one Sony had been pushing for over a year at launch – although it does take some great pics on occasion.

The biggest issue I have with the One M9 is that it doesn’t impress me as other models have. Good design is fine, but it seems like HTC’s just remade the phone from 2014 as it didn’t have anything new to add into the mix. Taking the DNA from the One M7 and One M8 doesn’t mean that’s fine for a new handset.


Let me make one thing clear: the HTC One M9 is an excellent phone, filled to the brim with good features, a clever interface and a design that it should rightly be proud of, once again showing every other brand how it should be done.

The issue is that it doesn’t improve enough. The One M8 was pretty much the perfect phone, and not much has changed year on year… in fact, HTC has gone backwards on battery life and hasn’t really done much more than polish throughout the phone.

HTC One M9 review

Except perhaps in the camera, where things are improved and needed to be given that was somewhere HTC was struggling to gain consumer support. It’s now just the same experience as on every other phone though, and I miss last year’s innovation.

HTC hasn’t been as arrogant as Apple by simply bringing out an S version of its phone though – there are some genuine upgrades, which are evident the second you put the One M9 in the hand. It makes the design of the M8 look sloppy in comparison, for instance.

This is a phone sold on precision, but comes with far too many ragged edges to be considered worthy of a perfect score again.

It’s all tweaks and polish, an admission that HTC managed to create something brilliant in the One M7 and M8 and was loathe to deviate too far from that formula. Which is a shame, as this is a brand I’ve almost come to rely upon to offer genuinely useful innovation time and again.

HTC might not have quite lived up to that ideal in 2016 with the HTC 10 either, but at least it created something new and consistently strong. In its predecessor we got a good phone – a pretty darn good one – but not brilliant.

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Apple confirms that its new iPhone will not feature a traditional headphone socket.
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Review: Updated: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Review: Updated: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Introduction, design, S Pen and iris scanner

Update: Samsung has officially halted sales of the Note 7 after multiple reports of some rather extreme battery malfunction. There’s also a global recall in effect starting in the US, so those who have already purchased the new phone are asked to send it back.

Original review follows below.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is the large-screen phone for 2016 that Android power users have been anxiously waiting to upgrade to, and it takes several cues from the Galaxy S7 Edge.

Sure, the S7 Edge already stretched our fingertips into near-phablet territory with a 5.5-inch display in March. But it didn’t have two Note-series staples: a 5.7-inch screen and the S Pen.

The Note 7 maximizes the screen space, while minimizing its body, and it includes a small stylus that slides right into the phone – no matter which way you put it in this time.

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npLLNX93S7Q&feature=youtu.be

All of this makes it larger and heavier than most of today’s phones. But it’s a worthy trade-off if you can wrap your meaty paws around its elegantly curved glass and aluminum frame.

Returning features include a microSD card slot for extra storage, absent from last year’s Galaxy Note 5, and an IP68 water-resistance rating, normally limited to the S range, which makes this first Note phone that’s both waterproof and dustproof to a point.

New in the Note 7 is an iris scanner, Samsung’s latest novelty act and your next party trick. You never knew you needed to unlock your phone with your eyes – and, truthfully, you really don’t. The fingerprint sensor is still here and works just fine.

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlGejJ0p6e8

This now-launching Android phablet is especially anticipated in the UK and Europe – the S Pen upgrade is long overdue there. Samsung made the bizarre decision not to launch the Note 5 outside of the US and a few other countries.

Skipping over the Samsung Galaxy Note 6 name, the Note 7 is meant to bring it into line with the Galaxy S7 series – and steal the thunder of Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

It’s certainly among the best phones available right now, big or small. Let’s take a look to see if the sizable Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is the right fit for you.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Release date and price

  • August 19 in the US for about $ 33 a month
  • August 19 in Australia for AU$ 1,349
  • September 2 in the UK for £749

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 release date is August 19 in the US and Australia, and September 2 in the UK. Don’t worry, it’s coming this time. Pre-orders In the UK launch earlier last week, August 16.

Note 7 review

In the US, it costs between $ 33 and $ 36.67 a month on device payment plans with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. That’s basically the full price spread out over 24 months. Without a contract, it’s anywhere from $ 850 (T-Mobile and Sprint) to $ 880 (AT&T). Sprint is the only one offering old two-year contracts in exchange for $ 350 upfront. Samsung is likely to wait four months for a SIM-free unlocked Note 7, just like it did with the S7 Edge.

The Note 7 UK price is simpler, but still expensive at £749. In Australia, it’s pricey, too, at AU$ 1,349. But if you pre-ordered in certain stores, you’d receive a bonus: either a Samsung Gear Fit 2 fitness tracker or a Samsung 256GB microSD card, your choice. Shop around to see if that’s still available.


  • Stylish curved glass design with Gorilla Glass 5
  • Hot new Coral Blue shade is one of four colors
  • USB Type-C, microSD card slot and IP68 waterproof

You best like futuristic-looking edge-to-edge displays, because this screen wraps around the left and right sides of the handset with space-age curved glass. No, there’s no flat Note 7, grandpa.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

It’s a lot like the equally-stylish S7 Edge, only this phone has a slightly bigger 5.7-inch display. It comes together in a rich-looking, glass-and-metal-fused design that’s going to really wow people who are upgrading from those old, plastic-clad Note 4 and Note 3 handsets. Next to the similarly designed Note 5, it’s less breakable, too, thanks to an upgrade to Gorilla Glass 5. It’s still heavy compared to Samsung’s flagship S series, but it’s a tad lighter and noticeably slimmer than the Note 5.

What really makes the Note 7 superior is its gentler dual curved sides. Both the front and the back of the phone slope inward toward its frame, meeting at its metal band apex. The curves aren’t as pronounced as the S7 Edge’s one big curve, which boldly slopes the front glass all the way to its nearly flat back. But with a more dramatic curve comes more drama in the way of more false touches.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Thankfully, falses touches haven’t been as much of a problem on the Note 7, despite its larger size. It usually worked the opposite way in the past – bigger phones made our hands creep up on the non-existent bezels and we used to hit all sorts of crazy keyboard interference. If you’re still having issues touching the side, we recommend searching for a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 case.

We did still run into the issue of accidentally hitting the very sensitive capacitive buttons that no case can fix. The back and recent buttons flank the physical home button, and pretty much everyone we hand this phone to touches them only to immediately exit the screen we were trying to show off. It’s rather annoying, but present on all Samsung Galaxy phones except for the S6 Active and S7 Active, which use physical soft buttons.

Note 7 review

There are four Note 7 colors that vary by region: Black Onyx, Titanium Silver, Gold Platinum and the hot new color, Coral Blue. The UK, for example, is only getting Black and Blue initially. Samsung made a point that every phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a not-so-subtle jab at Apple, as the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus might not have the ubiquitous audio port.

Samsung did make one important switch at the bottom of the Note 7, however: it’s using the reversible USB Type-C connection instead of the insufferable, non-reversible micro USB port. This makes life easier when plugging in the phone, except you’re going to have to carry around a micro USB cable for many gadgets that won’t upgrade to the new standard for years. GoPro is the best example, as they only recently made the switch from USB mini in the GoPro Hero4 Session variant. Even Samsung’s own fast wireless charging pad sent to us along with the Note 7 uses micro USB. It’s going to be a while for USB-C to fully to kick in.


  • Spacious 5.7-inch AMOLED screen is the world’s best on a phone
  • Mobile HDR future-proofs the display with expanded contrast ratio
  • Fewer false touches, but sensitive capacitive buttons are annoying

The Note 7 has a larger screen as the S7 Edge to go along with that same color-rich Super AMOLED panel and pixel-dense 2K resolution. It’s perfect for the new Samsung Gear VR and also supports Mobile HDR.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review

Let’s be honest, 0.2 inches of additional screen space doesn’t make a tremendous difference in a world where the 5.5-inch S7 Edge exists. It’s just a hair better for reading a few more words without scrolling, gaming with a smidge more room for on-screen controls without dying, and watching a 12-hour Netflix binge without feeling as badly for not stopping. It’s not your fault, it’s the immersive screen!

Mobile HDR, on the the hand, allows for darker blacks and brighter whites, and it’s more meaningful than any size increase or jumping to a 4K resolution. It’ll be up to Netflix, Amazon Prime and other popular services to deliver more content with the expanded contrast ratio. Right now, movies and TV shows with HDR are extremely limited and hard to find (often without proper labels). In the case of Netflix, HDR costs $ 2 a month on top of your current subscription. So the screen isn’t just futuristic-looking, it’s future-proof.

The Galaxy Note 7 takes Samsung's best phone to date – the S7 Edge – and it stretches it with a 5.7-inch curved display and adds an S Pen stylus. It has the same top-of-the-line camera and specs, but it's meant for big hands with equally big wallets.Samsung Galaxy Note 7

What you can enjoy right now from the screen are off-screen memos using the S Pen and an always-on display that shows the time, date, battery life and notification icons, even when the rest of the screen is asleep. An always-on display is new to the Note series and was a big hit on the S7 and S7 Edge. A few improvements have been made in the past five months. There are more color options and background choices, and more notification icons are supported.

S Pen and GIF maker

  • Samsung’s stylus embeds right in the phone for easy carrying
  • Off-screen memos can capture thoughts, even if the display is unlit
  • Can create and edit animated GIFs from non-DRM videos

There’s another reason the Note 7 edges don’t slope so dramatically: this phone is designed to use the tiny Samsung’s S Pen stylus, which has always made the Note series business-friendly. On occasion, drawing on the sides did mess up our critical business memos (aka our Snapchat game), but those instances were few and far between. It’s a happy medium between fashion and functionality.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

We relish the fact that Samsung chose to roll all S Pen notes into one S Notes app, unlike the splintered apps on the Note 5, and that off-screen memos return for jotting down notes on the unlit screen as soon as the embedded pen is unshethed, just like the Note 5. That’s great for penciling in a quick groceries list without ever opening up an app or your phone.

And now the S Pen is for more than for taking quick memos. New to the stylus’ capabilities is a GIF maker. It allows you to record just about any moving image and turn it into an animated GIF. You can’t record copyright-protected footage from streaming services like Google Play or Netflix (we tried), just like you can’t take a mid-movie screenshot. But we were able to pull off an animated GIF of The Simpsons care of an episode uploaded to YouTube. We then edited the GIF frame by frame (to axe the frames that had the YouTube pause button overlaid on top of it in the beginning) and sent it to a TechRadar colleague. It elicited the intended hahahaha response. That’s four ha’s! Perfect.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Other S Pen capabilities include Screen Select for clipping portions of the screen with lasso tools, Screen Write for annotating screenshots, and newcomers Translate and Magnify. Hovering over foreign text word-by-word with the S Pen’s Translate is a letdown when the far more comprehensive Google Translate exists, though we did find uses Magnify when photos and text were too small. Old people who whip out a magnifying glass to look at receipts will love this on their phone.

Iris scanner

  • With your eyes, unlock your phone and specific apps, files and photos
  • Second security layer allows you to share lockscreen code with kids
  • Doesn’t replace the more reliable home button fingerprint sensor

The iris scanner won’t, or shouldn’t, sell you on the Note 7. It’s not the breakthrough eye scanning technology that replaces the fingerprint sensor home button like you may be thinking at first pass, and to be fair, Samsung isn’t marketing it as such.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Instead, it’s a supplemental way to unlock your phone or password protect folders, apps and photos behind a second layer of security. This is a great idea for parents who are forced (read: guilted and/or tortured) into giving their kids their password for playing game apps (read again: Pokemon Go). They won’t have full access to your Secure Folder.

Here are the rare, but actual uses of the iris scanner:

  • You often exit a swimming pool or shower with incredible pruny hands and desperately need to check your phone
  • Your fingers are grasping the middle of this really big phone, unable to make it down to the home button
  • You want a second biometrically controlled way of accessing certain files and folders, far from your phone prying, Pokemon Go-playing kids
  • Your friends want you to unlock the phone from the bar stool next to you
  • You want a new party trick because no one fancies your smartwatch

The iris scanner worked well enough for us and even worked in the dark. It’s not faster than putting your finger on the home button, but it’s close enough and it can be a neat party trick. Only, be warned, the scanner shows an unflattering, low-resolution sliver of your face in black-and-white when it tries to read your eyes. It can be (and was) a party trick gone wrong when we tried it the first time at a party. Phone number not acquired. The phone managed still to unlock our sad face, so that’s good news.

What’s it like to use?

The Galaxy Note 7 is a powerful performer with top-of-the line specs, and just as importantly, it’s software is easier to use than ever.

Interface, reliability and compatibility

  • Redesigned new TouchWiz menus are more seamless than you remember
  • Misses Android 7.0 Nougat by a month, but has many of its feature already
  • SMS and video calls are hobbled in the US, but Google Allo and Duo will help

Anyone who tells you Samsung’s TouchWiz interface (which is the software that sits on top of the Android operating system) is slow and messy has been using the Galaxy Note 4 or earlier. Samsung has cleaned up its act in the last two years, with the Note 7 benefiting the most from our years of complaints. It’s just that (most of) TouchWiz’s most ardent critics have abandoned ship to LG or another phone maker, or haven’t upgraded yet.

Gone is the bloatware like Smart Scroll and Smart Pause that never really worked well anyway. Yes, there are still carrier imposed apps in the US, but Samsung’s software suite has reduced dramatically. Even its Video Editor app has to be downloaded separately.

What’s left is an easier-to-navigate interface that makes finding apps, widgets and settings a breeze. It’s the little things, really. We can now move apps by piling them into a temporary dock at the top (we call it the app train), then slide them all along to our many home screen panes (all aboard). No one else is doing that. You always have to drag a misplaced app, one at a time, several panes (more like pains), accidentally dropping it along the way.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

The settings menu is streamlined, and in case you go looking for something like Smart Stay in the Display submenu, at the bottom it says "Are you looking for Smart Stay?" Clicking the link will whisk you away to the proper submenu (Advanced features).

What’s missing is a competent messaging app and a seamless video calling experience. That’s a universal problem among Android devices and a bigger deal in the US, where SMS is still a king, and WhatsApp and WeChat are not. Give someone your digits in the US and the texts will land in Samsung’s barebones SMS app or another app you installed that accepts SMS. But coaxing them to the non-SMS side of your chat client is difficult. The iPhone does it better with iMessages by overlaying an internet messages client on top of SMS. If both people have an iPhone, it’s sent as an iMessage. SMS is just a backup plan.

HD video calls are also troublesome in the US. You have to be on the same carrier and own a newer Android phone to make this happen (otherwise it’s greyed out). This is why iMessages and FaceTime are so powerful, and it’s really unfortunate. No one uses the same messaging app on Android, and there’s a power struggle that splinters everyone. Hangouts was little little too late. Our hope is that the forthcoming Google Allo and the new Duo app make this a problem of the past on Android phones and tablets.

Note 7 review

You aren’t getting Android Nougat out of the box. The Note 7 is missing Google’s big operating system refresh by mere weeks, with the debut said to be on the LG V20. But it really doesn’t matter, as far as we can see it. Samsung phones already contain many of the new Nougat features and have for years: split screen apps, a clear all button on the recent menu and movable quick settings. The only thing it’s missing out on are lockscreen quick replies and Doze Mode 2.0 battery enhancements.

Samsung actually goes beyond what Google is doing in some cases, adding a blue light filter to rival Apple’s Night Shift mode on iOS 9.3, and its keyboard is more customizable and resizable (but not necessarily smarter with predictions and autocorrect than Google’s keyboard). Its wallpaper even has a neat dynamically color mode depending on your viewing angle, taking parallax to a new level. The only thing sorely missing is the Mobile Hotspot from the quick settings notification shade. Don’t worry, it’s still buried within the regular settings menu.

Unique to Samsung’s curvy phones is the Edge UI that lets you reveal a hidden side panel that mostly act as shortcuts. People Edge gives you faster access to your most frequent contacts, Tasks Edge lets you jump into your favorite apps and new third-party options include a Facebook Messenger panel (created by someone outside of Facebook) that costs $ 1.99. Third-party developers are finally expanding on the idea.

Movies, music and gaming

  • Big, bright and colorful for watching movies and playing games
  • Gamers may run into occasional issues with the curved design
  • The single speaker is this phone’s multimedia weak point

Enjoying any sort of multimedia on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is fantastic with a side of caution. Samsung’s 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display provides a vibrant-looking picture that no other phone can match right now. Mobile HDR is only going to make that better when content players catch up with more movies and TV shows filmed with high-dynamic range imaging.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

However, its curved screen can be irksome, especially for gamers who make mistakes near the edge of the display. It’s not as frequent as it was on the S7 Edge, but it can still be an easy way for you to excuse yourself for dying in a game so stupidly. That said, being able to turn off the capacitive buttons while gaming is a huge win for gamers. No excuses there.

Music sounds fine (and by fine, we mean the passive aggressive fine: "Yeah, not great, but not horrible"). It pumped out Google Play Music tunes as a normal volume, but pales in comparison to the front-facing speakers we’ve been appreciating on other phones. The HTC 10, Moto Z and ZTE Axon 7 have gotten in right. It’s time for Samsung to catch up. It’s phone is so much better in every other area. We’re hoping that happens with the redesigned Samsung Galaxy S8 next March.

Specs and performance

  • The same fast chipset as the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge
  • 64GB of storage and microSD card slot give you ample space
  • Doesn’t support UFS cards for faster read and write speeds

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is the tale of two phones, all dependent on where you are in the world. Some regions (like the UK) have a faster phone than others (like the US).

We tested out both for our review. In the US, that means we used the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, while the UK team, benefited from Samsung’s own Exynos 8890 processor. Don’t worry too much. The differences on paper are greater than they are in real life.

Note 7 review

Neither configuration is slow. Each comes with 4GB of RAM, skipping out on the opportunity to give users 6GB of RAM and a little more overhead when it comes to running many apps at once. The OnePlus 3 and Asus Zenfone 3 have 6GB of RAM, but truthfully, the Note 7 is isn’t necessarily slower than either of its number-focused rivals.

It did come up short in our Geekbench 3 benchmark tests, trailing the top-performing Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge at times. In the US, this meant an average multi-core score of 4,635, and in the UK using the Exynos chip, it averaged 5863, once breaking the 6,000 multi-score ceiling.

Reflecting these scores in real life, we did experience rare slowdown when pushing the phone to the limit: re-downloaded all of our apps, using GPS and playing music at the same time. You’re probably not going to be juggling that much in everyday use.

The Note 7 isn’t any faster than the S7 and S7 Edge, but here’s how it is built for power: it includes more internal space than other entry-level Samsung phone. It has 64GB of internal storage instead of providing a cheaper 32GB model. That’s both good and bad when you think about it. In the long run, Samsung is betting you’ll be thankful in the long run.

If you do need more storage than that, the Note 7 supports microSD cards again, with a slot for the tiny memory card format tucked inside of the nanoSIM card tray. It’s good for holding photos, movies and music as a spill over space or for easy transferring. However, newly launched UFS microSD cards are not supported, which is a shame. Samsung’s memory card division touts the faster read and write speeds of UFS for things like 4K video recording, but it’s not on its top-billed phone.

The US also drew the short straw when it comes to getting an unlocked phone. It took the S7 and S7 Edge about four months before Samsung started selling the phone at full price without all of the carrier restrictions. Moving between networks on the Note 7 isn’t possible without paying a hefty early termination fee or a much higher full price.

Battery life and camera

Battery life

  • 3,500mAh battery capacity is 17% bigger vs Note 5
  • Lasted a day-and-a-half with normal use
  • The best battery life menu we’ve seen offers estimates, power saving tweaks

Samsung is really smart about the Galaxy Note 7 battery life, and that’s good news because the capacity is actually smaller than that S7 Edge. Fitting that stylus into the phone cost it 100mAh.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

But you won’t really notice the difference between the new Note’s 3,500mAh and S7 Edge’s 3,600mAh. In fact, you’re more than likely going to observe a big gain compared to the Note 5 and Note 4 if you’re upgrading within the Note series. This one doesn’t just go all day, it’s more like a day and a half. Welcome to 2016 on most Androids.

During our real-life battery life tests, we found that the Note 7 went just shy of a day and a half with steady, normal usage (reading and sending messages, browsing the web, playing music and a few uses of the GPS for Google Maps). The S7 Edge mustered about two hours more. The always-on display was on because it’s a great feature we don’t want to live without, but be warned, our phone lost 8% of a 100% battery overnight. That adds up in a 24-hour span.

TechRadar’s lab tests proved that Samsung’s 2016 smartphone batteries are about even in longevity. Running the same 90-minute video loop, the Note 7 lost 12% of a full battery, while the S7 and S7 Edge in the US dropped 14% and 16% respectively at launch in March (meaning when we had a fresh battery out of the box, not four months into a weaker battery).

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Helping the Note 7 eke out a win are really deep battery life settings. The new battery menu gives you an bold estimate of how much time is left before you scramble for a charger and offers ways to length than time. There’s a Power Saving mode that can be set to Off, Mid or Max, and, best of all, the menu reveals totals on how much extra time each mode will earn you. Tapping them also tells you the changes made to the phone (limiting the max brightness, changing the resolution to Full HD or HD).

The are a bunch of neat tricks that really make this battery life sustainable. Yes, the battery is nonremovable now, just like it was on the Note 5, but it’s a significant change from when the S6 and S6 Edge debuted with non-removable batteries and were dead before the day was through. It’s worth giving this one a chance if that’s your one and only gripe.


  • Same class-leading camera as the S7 and S7 Edge
  • You won’t find a better low-light performer on a phone
  • Selfie flip gesture makes front-to-back camera switching easy

Here’s the short of it: Samsung’s cameras are the best among mobile phones right now. You won’t find a better low-light performer, despite what a phone’s megapixel number may read.

The Galaxy Note 7 rear camera uses a 12MP sensor and a f/1.7 aperture that shows so much detail and picks up such vivid colors that we shocked people in side-by-side comparisons with the iPhone 6S Plus during our tests. It doesn’t hurt that the 5.7-inch Note 7 screen has double the pixel count and overall looks better than Apple’s 1080p display. But even when we got the photos on the same monitor, the results remained the same: the Note 7 is a true winner.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

What’s really amazing is how far Samsung has progressed in the last three years. Reading a lot of your comments, we saw that people were still holding onto the Note 4 and Note 3, bypassing (or unable to buy) the Note 5 and waiting for the Note 7. So, what did we do? Brought out all four Note phones (ridiculous!) to see how much it progressed in 36 months. It’s kind of amazing.

HDR has really changed the game on the back camera, especially when we threw in really difficult backlit tests (difficult, but common among the photos normal people take). Without HDR, the Note 3 shows shadowy characters in backlit locations and pitch black results in darker rooms. The Note 4 has offers lighting, but the detail still suffers. There’s a tremendous jump in quality from the Note 5, but it’s not the star-performing that is today’s Note 7.

The Note 7 camera outshines the past Note phones by far

The same results were proven in front-facing photos thanks Samsung’s 5MP camera with the same f/1.7 aperture and HDR OIS. You can’t even make out the two shady characters in the Note 3 photo. It’s Note 3 people who are going to be most excited about the Note 7 upgrade.

The Note 7 camera isn’t perfect. It goes out of its way to be vibrant, which works to its benefit in nearly every situation – from stunning beach sunsets to in-focus group shots. But sometimes people look red-faced with embarrassment in what turns out to be awkward photos. That’s the camera really cranking up the saturation levels. It’s great for making skies look lush, but horrible for slightly sunburnt folks or radioactive-looking hot dogs. There’s also a bit of barrel distortion – on the front camera, especially – that can be frightening or flattering, depending on your face structure.

Here’s another way the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 camera is better than an iPhone or any Android phone: it provides way more modes, options and controls through its default camera.

New to the Note 7 is the handy camera selfie flip gesture. It lets you easily switch between the front and back camera with swipe up and down on the screen. It essentially turns the middle of the display into one giant, invisible button. You no longer have to hunt for the tiny, insufferable camera flip button when you find yourself in a fleeting Kodak moment. Selfie flip is an idea taken from the LG G5 (and several LG phones before that) that has the same gesture running side-to-side, and it works just as well here. It’s something we’ve complained about in the past, and Samsung finally listened.

Samsung’s camera interface is cleaner than ever, despite the assortment of options. This is because the company hid all but a few settings from the main viewfinder screen: the HDR, flash and (for some reason) camera flip toggles still remain at the top along with a fourth button to access the settings menu. We’d rather have seen the timer icon (now hidden deep within settings) in place of redundant camera flip, since the smarter selfie flip gesture exists.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Also in settings are options for shooting in RAW, enabling Motion Photos (like Apple’s Live Photos, but with more user-accessible short video clips), and weird adjustments like Shape correction. The beauty slider, for better or worse, appears on the both front and back cameras.

All of the camera modes and filters are hidden in another gesture, this time swiping left and right on the viewfinder. To the left we have stock photo modes: Auto, Pro (manual), Panorama, Selective focus, Food and Virtual shot (for 360 photos) are the stock photo modes. More can be downloaded from Samsung’s Galaxy Apps store.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

When it comes shooting video, the Note 7 can record 4K video at 30 frames per second and shoot slow motion video at 720p. Hyperlapse is here as Samsung’s time lapse mode and unlike on other phones, it has more than just an auto setting for speeding up the frame rate. Everything looks smooth thanks to OIS (better than an iPhone in our side-by-side comparisons) to reduce the amount of shake associated with walking and recording at the same time. Finally, in case you want to take your broadcasts public, YouTube Live mode returns after making its debut in the Note 5.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

What’s it missing? Now that we successfully asked for the camera flip gesture and got it, we’d like to see the Samsung Galaxy S8 be able to flip the camera mid-video. Facebook Live, Periscope other video streaming apps can do it (with a slight delay in video broadcasts, sure), so there’s no reason phones should be without this handy feature. Having to start, stop and start videos again when you’re narrating a vacation video is a pain during recording, and combining it all is just as annoying in post.

Camera samples

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

View original Note 7 photo

Verdict and Competition

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is the best big-screen phone with a stylus you can buy. It’s artfully designed dual curves make holding it manageable and just as stylish as the Galaxy S7 Edge. It has expanded S Pen functionality, a slick operating system (TouchWiz critics, go home) and a bigger battery than the Note 5.

It takes a lot from the S7 and S7 Edge, including the world’s best camera on a phone that will make you the go-to person for snapping photos (be warned, this is an annoying compliment). We also really like the smaller details, like the fast selfie camera flip gesture.

The potential of Mobile HDR has yet to be realized and the phone isn’t any more powerful than the S7 or S7 Edge. It’s missing the 6GB of RAM that is only making its way to a Note 7 variant in China, but the numbers game isn’t important as long as you can get over the one figure: its high price.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Who’s this for?

If you’re still clinging to your old Note stylus in 2016, this is your next smartphone upgrade. Business professionals and power users who want to be on the cutting edge will appreciate the added functionality of the S Pen. They’ll also have (or be more willing to spend) the extra money on the Note 7. It’s a serious investment meant for people who are serious about their phone.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Should you buy it?

Yes, in an ideal scenario in which money isn’t an issue, this is the feature-packed phone that is a top-performer. It won’t let you down in day-to-day use. However, if you don’t see yourself using the S Pen after the one month honeymoon phase or can’t handle a phone with a 5.7-inch display, then stick to the 5.5-inch S7 Edge or more hand-friendly 5.1-inch S7. They have the same bright, Super AMOLED displays, specs and camera that haven’t been beat so far in 2016.


Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

With a 5.5-inch display, Samsung’s other flagship phone makes the Note 7’s ability to stand out difficult. It too has a curved glass display, the same amazing camera and an identical chipset.

Besides the Note’s clear advantage with the 5.7-inch screen, Gorilla Glass 5 and S Pen, the only other difference comes down to the internal storage sizes: 64GB of the Note 7 and 32GB for the S7 Edge.

If you’re going to get out of the stylus, the Note 7 is an obvious choice. The iris scanner doesn’t make it a convincing enough buy on its own. Otherwise, save your money and stick with the S7 Edge.

Two words: removable battery


The LG G5 is the best alternative solution to what long-time Note users may be missing: namely the removable battery. LG really marketed this to its advantage, along with the microSD card support, when the LG G4 launched with those features last year and the Note 5 axed them. The Note 7 has a microSD card slot again, but the removable battery remains absent.

The LG G5 specs are the same and it comes with a modular twist, but its design isn’t nearly as stylish and the display is also smaller at 5.3 inches. The camera is great and takes convenient wide angle photos to capture vast landscapes and tall building – it’s just not as detailed as the one that Samsung uses. What may tempt you to the LG G5 in the end is its more wallet-friendly price.

Note 7 vs iPhone 6S Plus

iPhone 6S Plus

Apple doesn’t have the best phones in the world anymore, but it does have a user-friendly ecosystem and often gets apps and app updates before Android. iMessages, FaceTime and easy interoperability with Mac computers makes the 5.5-inch display of the iPhone 6S Plus a good choice for fans of Apple in place of the Note 7.

But, be warned, the camera isn’t as good and that iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus announcement is right around the corner. You’re best advised to wait to see what Apple unveils in September if you’re on the iOS and Android fence.

TechRadar: Mobile phone reviews

Mobile Phone Comments Off on Review: Updated: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Updated: IFA 2016: What to expect from Samsung, Sony and co at Germany’s big tech show

Updated: IFA 2016: What to expect from Samsung, Sony and co at Germany's big tech show

IFA 2016 latest news and rumors

Update: Sony has taken the wrappers off two brand-new phones. Its latest flagship, the Sony Xperia XZ and the smaller but just as premium Sony Xperia X Compact.

IFA 2016 is underway, and we’re more excited than ever to see what Berlin has in store.

The official IFA 2016 dates are September 2 to September 7, but lots of press conferences are taking place on Wednesday, August 31 and Thursday, September 1. Some of the biggest names in tech have descended on the Messe Berlin, and we’re on the ground to bring you the latest news and first-hand impressions of everything that’s announced.

Read on for a complete company-by-company breakdown of the news and rumors we’ve heard so far about IFA 2016, and head to Page 2 for some of our pre-show predictions.


Samsung Gear S3

It’s been quite a year for Samsung already, one that was recently punctuated by the debut of the Galaxy Note 7.

But Samsung isn’t done with 2016 yet. It has two IFA events planned – one of which has happened.

Before the press event, we knew the main draw of its August 31 mobile event and September 1 press conference would be the Gear S3 smartwatch. How did we know? Because Sammy gave it away with a number of teases, including on its very event invitations.

While the rumor was that it was going to reveal THREE smartwatches – the Gear S3 Classic, Gear S3 Explorer and Gear S3 Frontier – only two were actually released. Here’s everything you need to know about both.

Samsung Gear S3

In our hands on Samsung Gear S3 Frontier review, we call the smartwatch one of the most capable and attractive active-focused wearables we’ve seen yet. It is the active version of the Gear S3 – a rugged smartwatch with LTE connectivity, that’s slightly chunky, but a big upgrade on the Samsung Gear S2.

The second iteration of the S3 looks more like a watch you would wear everyday. In our hands on Samsung Gear S3 Classic review, we noted that it was near identical specs wise with the Frontier, but just had a fancy new look.

Both watches measure 46 x 49 x 12.9mm, but the Frontier is a little heavier, at 62g, compared to the Classic’s svelte 57g.

But watches aren’t all that’s buzzing about Samsung. Thanks to a posting on the company’s Colombian website, we know the Galaxy Tab S3 tablet is very real. It’ll have similar qualities to the Galaxy Tab S2, yet outshine it "with some innovations", the website notes.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

While the post doesn’t specifically mention an IFA unveiling, it does say the tablet will launch to support the Galaxy Note 7 release in September. Though the Note 7 landed in the US in mid-August, it’s coming to other regions, including the UK, once September strikes.

All of this is to say that it makes perfect sense for Samsung to unveil the Galaxy Tab S3 at its IFA press event. The Tab S2 earned good marks in our review, though it stood to improve in a few areas, including battery life.

Other Samsung innovations planned for IFA include stuff on the home goods front, including its two-door Family Hub refrigerator for the European market. The firm also announced new curved Quantum Dot displays will be on hand, which we can’t wait to get our eyes on.


Sony Xperia XZ

Sony always comes to IFA packing goodies, so we were hoping this year the PS4 maker wouldn’t disappoint. It sent out a tweet on August 25 asking whether the world is "Ready to be inspired?".

The Sony press conference has happened and as you would expect, there were a wide range of gadgets showcased, from brand-new noise-cancelling headphones to some Xperia phones to the PlayStation VR to cameras to already-announced television sets.

When it comes to new kit, Sony unveiled two new phones…

The first is the Sony Xperia XZ – it’s brand new X flagship. Naturally, we have already a hands on: Sony Xperia XZ review where we noted that the new phone is "a great premium handset, but not enough has changed here for phone fans to rush out and buy it on day one."

What you do get is a new refined design, camera improvements and a return or waterproofing.

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qVgfJyLs0w

The second phone announced was a compact. In our hands on: Sony Xperia X Compact review. Sony has always been praised for its Compact line-up and this phone is no different. We reckon it looks great, and is as premium as Sony’s flagship.

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyDviHEW2Dc


TomTom Touch

TomTom released a bevy of new devices at IFA 2016, with the focus very much on wearables. The most exciting is the company’s first foray into fitness trackers.

The TomTom Touch is a rival to Fitbit’s oeuvre and while it might look like any standard fitness tracker, it also calculated body fat which is pretty cool.

And then there’s the TomTom Spark 3, this is a robust smartwatch for fitness gurus who want GPS, Bluetooth capabilities and on-board storage.

TomTom also launched the usual array of sat-navs, including a bike variant, and the TomTom Adventurer which is an event more robust version of the Spark 3.


Flipping back to the wearables theme, Fitbit is making the trek to Berlin this year, though what it’s packing is no longer a surprise.

Just days before IFA, Fitbit made the Fitbit Flex 2 and Fitbit Charge 2 official.

Fitbit Flex 2

Both bands house some exciting new features. The Flex 2, for one, can be worn while swimming. The Charge 2, meanwhile, is slimmer than its predecessor, though its screen has undergone a size upgrade.

This is the first major update for the Flex and Charge since 2013 and 2014, respectively. We’ll get our wrists on the new wearables – which cost $ 99 and $ 149, respectively – before long, so stay tuned.


With LG launching its V20 flagship phone on September 6 in San Francisco, it’s left many to wonder what exactly it will announce all the way in Berlin. Here’s what we’ve heard.


Word is LG will come to IFA with the third generation of its Flex line in tow, the LG G Flex 3. A PhoneArena report from way back in May suggests the LG G Flex 2 successor will feature a 5.5-inch 1440 x 2560 screen, a Snapdragon 820 chip, 4GB of RAM, 16MP camera and, most intriguingly, a modular design.

LG went modular with the LG G5, so it could carry that over to the G Flex 3 – and the V20, for that matter.

Prior to IFA, LG announced a new line of Bluetooth speakers that it will feature at its booth. The PH1, PH2, PH3 and PH4 models look to be stylish accents for any setting, though we’ll have to get our ears on them to see how they stack up.

LG speakers

We can always count on LG unveiling new TVs at IFA, and LG has said it will demonstrate three High Dynamic Range (HDR) technologies at the show, including Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) technology.

What’s more, the firm says it "will be the first to publicly demonstrate HDR technology combining High Frame Rate (HFR) with HLG content." Able to reach speeds of 100/120 frames per second, the HFR demonstration will go off with help from the BBC and European Broadcasting Union. It should be fascinating.

Finally, LG also pre-announced new 21:9 curved gaming displays. We’re sensing a theme with these curved monitors…



HTC unveiled the HTC One A9S at IFA 2016 and we are a little underwhelmed by it. It has taken Apple’s cue of adding an S to the end of its last product but instead of giving its latest phone a speed boost, HTC hasn’t changed much at all from the One A9 and has actually dialled down the specs in some areas.


Huawei Nova

Huawei came out swinging at IFA 2015 with the Mate S and G8 smartphones, plus pricing details for the Huawei Watch. This year it was a little more muted, but we still got a nice array of releases.

The first of which is the Huawei Nova. This is, according to Huawei, the ‘perfect Saturday night device’. That essentially means that it’s a mid-range phone that isn’t going to impress your mates but will last the night and it has a great 8MP snapper for selfies.

The Huawei Nova + is, you’ve guessed it, a bigger variant of the Huawei Nova, offering up essentially the same phone as the Nova but the size is pushed up to a phablet-like 5.5 inches.

And then there was the Huawei MediaPad M3 8.0. We’ve already had this device for a while and gave it 3.5 stars. The reason: it looks good, has great speakers but it’s not got much processing power so gamers should stay away. But, it is a good-looking 8-inch tablet that’s also nice and light too.


Logitech Silent Mouse

Logitech has revealed what could be the most intriguing mouse ever. It’s the first-ever silent mouse. The new Logitech M330 Silent Plus and M220 Silent Mouse have made sure when you press down on the mouse, not a click is heard – even though the buttons still offer a ‘click feel’.

Mind. Blown.


Lenovo is starting to lift the lid on its IFA 2016 announcements, starting with a bevy of laptops.

The company kicked things off by staking another "world’s thinnest laptop" claim, this time for the Yoga 910, sequel to last year’s Yoga 900. At 0.56 inches (14.3mm) when closed, the Yoga 910 is technically the "world’s thinnest Intel Core i convertible", but don’t get too caught on semantics. In our hands-on review, we find this to be the most impressive model update this year.

Lenovo 910

The laptop has a 4K display option, 15.5-hour battery life (for the 1080p model), runs Windows 10, and weighs a reasonable 3.04 pounds (1.38kg). It goes on sale this October starting at $ 1,299 (about £991, AU$ 1,716).

Lenovo also unveiled the Yogo Book, a revolutionary laptop-tablet hybrid that shunts the keyboard. It can run either Android Marshmallow or Windows 10, but ask for physical keys, and you won’t find any. Instead, there’s a capactive touch surface called a Create Pad that materializes when you need it. Plus, it supports a stylus. This means the Yoga Book can switch between laptop, tablet and a digital art tool, and you never have to press a button.

Pretty wild, right?

Lenovo Yoga Book

There was another hybrid on show, too. The Lenovo Miix 510 will appeal to style-conscious hybrid fans as it’s yet another lightweight device by Lenovo that oozes class.

The Miix 510 is a 2-in-1 hybrid with a detachable display that also hits the shelves in October, starting at just $ 599 (about £457, AU$ 791). A new Yoga Tab 3 Plus, an affordable Android tablet with a 2K screen, is also hitting the scene with a $ 299 (about £230, AU$ 400).


Not to be outdone by its parent company Lenovo, Motorola has announced the Moto Z Play, its cheapest Moto Z phone to day.

Moto Z Play

Thick, long-lasting and affordable, the Moto Z Play doesn’t miss out on the modular accessory train – you can even attach a Hasselblad True Zoom camera mod to its back for ultra-pro pictures. The Moto Z Play hits the US on September 8 for $ 408 ($ 17/month over 24 months) at Verizon, or $ 449 unlocked.


You’re ready for a Zenvolution, aren’t you? Well, Asus sure is, as that was the theme of its press conference this year.

Asus Zen Watch 3

On August 17, Asus tweeted "The time for something incredible is now! #IFA16 #ASUS", indicating a new ZenWatch is indeed headed to the show.

And that’s exactly what we got. The Android Wear-toting Asus ZenWatch 3 is one of the first wearables to use the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 chipset. This means that it has a 25% boost in battery efficiency and some nifty HyperCharge technology, which means you will be able to juice up the watch in no time.

As you can see from the picture, Asus has discarded the lozenge-style fascia and has made its new watch round – coming with a fairly standard 1.39-inch OLED display with a 400 x 400 resolution.

Asus also announced a number of new monitors and this rather stylish Asus ZenBook 3. We have already seen the ZenBook 3 but this was one with an upgraded chipset – it’s got Core i7 Kaby Lake CPUs inside. There was also the ZenScreen MB16AC which weighs 800g and is 8mm thin – which makes it the world’s lightest and slimmest full HD portable monitor, according to the company.


Acer’s press conference has happened and it brought with it a number of laptop surprises.

Acer swift 7

Acer has announced what it is calling the ‘world’s thinnest laptop’. The Acer Swift 7 is the first laptop to duck in under the 1cm barrier – it’s just 9.98mm in height, comes encased in an all-aluminum chassis and has a 13.3-inch IPS screen.

Alongside the Acer Swift 7, the Acer Swift 5 was also announced, a 14-inch laptop with optional touchscreen. And there was the Acer Swift 3, the more budget offering that has an Intel Pentium or Celeron processor and 4GB of ram.

If convertibles are your thing, then Acer also announced the Acer Spin 7 (as well as the Spin 5 and 3). This laptop comes with a 360-degree hinge and can be used as a tablet.

Predator 21 X

If that wasn’t enough, Acer has also created a 21-inch gaming laptop with a curved screen. If that wasn’t enough, the gaming laptop also comes with a mechanical keyboard. The Acer Predator 21 X is one of the strangest, most wonderful laptops we have seen.

It’s equipped with five fans, Core i7, and dual Nvidia GTX graphics cards to make sure you get the best out of your gaming. It also has eye tracking, so it can watch you cry tears of joy while you are using it.

Bang and Olufsen


B&O has announced a brand-new patio heater, sorry, speaker. The BeoSound 1 is a premium portable wireless speaker that can be controlled with your smartphone and looks like a patio heater because it offers 360-degree of sound. It’s also got Google Cast, AirPlay and DLNA integration.

If you want a more sizeable speaker, then there’s also the BeoSound 2, which runs off the mains and contains three extra power amplifiers.

The firm also announced the BeoVision Horizon, a new 4K TV that’s a bit of a carry-over from the BeoVision 14. That’s not a bad thing – the Horizon will adjust to your room’s environment, for one, to ensure optimal viewing. It also comes with a cheaper price, starting at £2,495 (around $ 3,300, AU$ 4,355).

Unfortunately, it still lacks HDR support, and its stands are "minimalistic" (B&O’s words, not ours), but it should be an affordable option for those looking to get into 4K.

ZTE and Nubia

ZTE is set to host a press conference on September 1, and it’s *hear* the company will unveil a brand-new device.

That’s straight from ZTE’s mouth: the company tweeted a teaser for its September 1 press conference with the tagline "Right Hear Right Now." Sound waves rippling across the image further indicate ZTE is readying a product for our ears.

ZTE IFA 2016 press conference

While a speaker or other audio-only device could be in the cards, the safe money is on a new Axon phone with souped-up sound capabilities. LG is placing a premium on sound for the V20, so it could be that sonics are the new camera in terms of manufacture focus when it comes to the next batch of smartphones.

Before ZTE takes the stage though, Nubia, a sub-brand of the Chinese phone maker, had a reveal of its own.

Nubia hosted an August 31 gathering, where it unveiled the Nubia Z11. The device’s 16MP rear camera takes DSLR-quality snaps, which show up on its 5.5-inch full HD display. It’s backed by a Snapdragon 820 processor and has options for either 4GB or 6GB of RAM. There’s also a microSD card slot.

Nubia Z11

The Nubia Z11 will retail in the UK and US this September, and be available for €499 (around £420, $ 550, AU$ 740). Or, you can bump up to a black-gold, 6GB RAM variant for €599 (around £510, $ 660, AU$ 890).



Although its press conference at IFA 2016 was mainly focused around its work surrounding smart cities and the connected home, Panasonic did include a couple of details about its home electronics offerings.

As well as teasing a new OLED TV prototype, the company also announced a new Ultra HD Blu-ray player, the DMP-UB700, which will be significantly cheaper than the company’s first 4K player that launched last year.

We can’t wait to see whether the player earns a place on our list of the best Ultra HD Blu-ray players.


Philips OLED

Philips always loves to launch a brand-new toothbrush and other kitchen-based products but it did also wow the crowds with its very first OLED TV.

The 4K Philips 901F Ambilight set boasts HDR and an Android-fuelled quad core processor. Make no mistake, OLED is a big step for the TV brand and we can’t wait to see what Ambilight looks like on an OLED TV.


Toshiba is, like many of its cohorts, coming to IFA, but it’s not just new TVs and printers we’ll see from the company in Berlin.


The firm revealed prior to show that it’s announcing "a partnership that changes the consumer electronics landscape in Europe" during its September 1 press conference.

Who this mystery partner is, we don’t yet know, but it sounds like we could be in for some fairly significant news from Toshiba. With the company no longer making consumer laptops, we’re left to think the partnership could deal with the B2B or home entertainment space.

Stay tuned for more news from IFA 2016!

Pre-IFA 2016 predictions

With the IFA’s start now rapidly approaching, we’ve got a much better idea what we might have in store, so read on for our top 5 predictions for this year’s IFA.

Prediction 1: Ultra HD Blu-rays will be big

samsung ultra hd blu ray player

When it comes to TVs, IFA tends to play second fiddle to January’s CES in Vegas where the majority of new sets are announced, but we wouldn’t be surprised if one of the big TV manufacturers dropped a couple more 4K TVs.

We’d be surprised if Sony has more to show after having recently unveiled its line of Z series TVs not to mention the TVs that were shown off at CES earlier this year, but it’s likely that Samsung, Panasonic, Philips and LG will have more to show off.

But we’re more excited to see what happens in the world of Ultra HD Blu-ray players.

Last year at IFA we had Samsung unveil the world’s first UHD Blu-ray player, and Panasonic and Philips have also recently released their first players, the DMP-UB900 and BDP7501 respectively.

To be honest, it might even make more sense this year than it did last year, as most major studios including Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers’s first round of UHD Blu-ray releases are just now hitting store shelves. There’s plenty more of these expensive, high-capacity discs to come later this year and throughout 2017 so we’re going to need a lot more players to deal with all those movies.

So this year we’re betting that at the very least Sony and LG will enter the Ultra HD Blu-ray arena to satisfy those of us who want our movies completely unencumbered by the constraints of 4K streaming.

Prediction 2: Ultra HD Premium will become the industry standard

ultra hd premium

Ultra HD is still in its relative infancy, and much like the early days of HD saw enormous consumer between the ‘HD Ready’ and ‘Full HD’ specifications, the current 4K market is full of TVs that don’t make full use of the new format.

The situation is improving, however. A standard, called Ultra HD Premium, has been decided upon by the UHD Alliance, but it’s still so new that Samsung’s recent UBD-K8500 Blu-ray player had to wait until two weeks after its release to receive its certification.

It will still be early in UHD’s lifespan come September, but we’re hoping that television manufacturers fully get behind the new standard.

The two biggest culprits behind the lag in adoption are Sony and Philips, two of the largest TV manufacturers in the world. Sony currently isn’t using the branding, despite both its equipment meeting the required specification and literally a member of the alliance that defined it, while Philips is currently refusing even to produce sets that meet the specification in the first place.

We’d like to see all manufacturers fully embrace the Ultra HD Premium standard at IFA this year, partly because reducing consumer confusion is always a good thing but mostly because additional features like HDR make TVs look absolutely phenomenal. Plus, it would be a shame to see adoption suffer because of poor communication and branding.

Prediction 3: No to VR, it’s just not IFA’s way

htc vive

The whole of the tech world might currently be going mad for VR (did you see our coverage of GDC 2016?), but it’s unlikely that we’ll see it make much of an impact at IFA this year.

Most of that immersive gaming VR content is likely to come out during E3 2016 in June, Gamescom in August, or the Tokyo Game Show in September, almost any other convention coming up this year except IFA. Sony also has plans to run its own PlayStation Experience event later on in December where it’ll likely be talking more about its PlayStation VR headset.

That’s not to say that VR manufacturers such as Samsung and HTC won’t be present at the show, but their focus will almost certainly be on their smartphone offerings. (See: Prediction 6.)

Prediction 4: Home automation will cross the threshold

samsung smartthings

Last year Samsung announced its SmartThings Hub to connect our lighting, thermostat, security monitoring and other systems in our homes to our growing list of smart devices.

We’re not convinced that home automation technology is a worthwhile investment yet for anyone who isn’t a hardcore early-adopter (if you haven’t read it yet, check out this home automation technology is a mess piece), but there’s always hope that this will be the year that some of the more serious kinks get ironed out.

These kinks currently include a lack of interoperability between different home automation brands – Google’s Nest thermostat doesn’t work with Samsung’s SmartThings hub, for example – and a complete lack of any one single killer feature.

These products also continue to be horrendously expensive compared to the relatively cheap products they’re aiming to replace.

IFA probably won’t see any massive announcements in that regard (that will probably come at CES next January) but, after Samsung used it for their SmartThings announcement last year, others might see it as a useful event to make an announcement at without being drowned out by the scale of CES.

Nest has also recently announced that it has open-sourced the networking protocol (called Thread) it uses for communication between its devices. This should in theory make it much easier for other manufacturers to connect their products into the Nest ecosystem. Will we see a swell of companies announcing connectivity with Nest devices at this year’s IFA?

Prediction 5: Ring, ring! It’s a bevy of new phones

huawei mate s

And, of course, no IFA would be complete without a couple of phone announcements to round out the show. IFA is the time of year, traditionally, when Samsung launches its new phablet, and we expect 2016’s event to be no different.

Along with a new jumbo handheld, we also reckon there will be more S Pen functions, a bigger battery, more power and hopefully some sultry S7 stylings.

Sony could also be poised to make an announcement at the show, and given the recent Sony benchmark leaks we could have a Snapdragon 820-equipped Xperia X2 with a 5.1-inch 1080p screen on our hands.

Then again, given that the Z5 was announced last year at IFA 2015 it could be that we’re about to see the announcement of the Xperia Z6 but Sony remaining tight-lipped on the status of its ‘Z’ line of phones, we’re not sure what form the new handset is going to take.

IFA is not traditionally a massive show for phones (you’d need to look towards Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress in February for that), but last year saw a couple of announcements, and we’ve got our fingers crossed that this year we’ll see a couple more.

Honorable mention: The insanity of last year

anti-snoring wearable

3D printed pizza, virtual reality gloves and a speaker rug all made an appearance at last year’s IFA, and we’d by lying if we said that we weren’t hoping for more weird and wonderful products to inject some diversity into a show that’s overwhelmingly about the big shiny tellys.

Internet connected trainers? Hover trousers? 3D printed 2D printers? Virtual reality dogs? Show us what you’re made of IFA.

We’ll see you in September.

TechRadar: Phone and communications news

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