The HTC One M9 is a good phone, but kind of a lackluster update to last year's model. In particular, the new 20-megapixel rear camera is a bit disappointing. In my review, I noticed poor low-light performance, sharpness issues in bright light, and some nasty hot spots and flares on really bright reflective surfaces.
On the eve of the M9's arrival in stores on April 10, HTC has released a software update that includes "enhancements to the overall camera experience based on initial feedback from our trial and media users," though we don't have any specifics beyond that.
The update will roll out to T-Mobile and AT&T customers in the next week or so—it's still in final testing. Sprint customers should get it as an over-the-air update starting April 10. If you buy the phone on Verizon, the update will already be installed.
Does it help?
Here are a couple of photos I took before and after performing the software update on my review unit. The comparison shots are unlabeled; see which you think looks better, and then I'll tell you below which photo is which. Click the images to zoom.
In both comparison shots, the old software is on top and the new software below. The low-light shot of the Android figures and pins looks really similar. Dark and noisy.
In the bright outdoor shot, tone and contrast are improved. The buildings aren't as dark and under-exposed, and the skylights on the roof no longer produce blown-out hotspots.
The story behind the story: HTC's new flagship phone carries over a lot of what made the One M8 such a great phone last year, but comes with very few improvements. The new camera is supposed to be a big improvement over the M8's 4-megapixel rear camera, but we found it inconsistent and surprisingly bad in low light environments.
HTC's not a huge company, and it's going up against a juggernaut with the simultaneous release of Samsung's Galaxy S6. So, a last-ditch effort to shore up the M9's weak spot is necessary.