It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that the HTC One M7 was being touted as the most beautiful and premium of Android devices, and was the first HTC device in a long time that could truly compete with the powerhouse that Samsung’s Galaxy S devices had become. Given that the two flagships were announced and released around the same time, they were in direct competition with one another. I myself debated for months over which device to get, eventually settling on the Samsung Galaxy S4, and then changing my mind and switched to the HTC One M7 – a decision that I was extremely happy with.
The same rivalry continued on into the next year with the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8, although once it was revealed that the M8 featured nearly the same “flawed” UltraPixel camera on the M7, it felt like enthusiasm for the M8 dropped. However, the rest of the device was certainly competitive enough, and the very fact that HTC didn’t use TouchWiz seemed to have been reason enough for some to choose it over a Samsung device. Although I never did get the chance to personally use the S5, I can say with certainty that the M8 was still a great device.
It was the release of the M9 last year that really seemed to tank HTC's newly prestigious image, despite its efforts. In a move that emulated Apple-like tactics, the M9 was nearly identical to the M8. In hindsight it wasn’t a terrible move, really, as the whole reason the revamped One line even took off was because people loved the premium aluminum unibody – why change that if that’s what people like? Also, Apple has been able to pull of identical designs two years in a row for a number of years now, so theoretically HTC should be able to pull off the same thing.
That just seemed to be part of the reason why the M9 was widely overlooked. Other reasons include a subpar camera “upgrade”. HTC ditched its hyped UltraPixel camera in favor of a more traditional 20-megapixel rear-facing camera, which sounds excellent on paper, but in reality ended up producing subpar results. Future software updates would eventually fix this issue, but the damage had already been done.
In short, we had just come to expect a lot from HTC at this point, and we ended up disappointed with what they provided last year. The M9 was disappointing all on its own, but when you throw in the “Samsung vs. HTC” comparisons that we had grown used to, things just got worse for HTC. When you compare the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the HTC One M9, it’s easy to see how Samsung managed to win people over. What’s worse (or better, I suppose) is that Samsung essentially did the same thing as HTC by reusing the same design from last year with the Galaxy S6 and S7 devices, albeit successfully.
The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are being touted as Samsung’s best phones ever, but it’s the spec updates of the Galaxy S7 that truly make this a phone of such high regard. If subpar updates had been made, same design or not, I think the Galaxy S7 would have been equally as disappointing as the M9 was.
HTC still has time to redeem themselves, and with all of the hype and rumors surrounding the HTC M10 – along with the newly realistic views that maybe LG’s innovative G5 isn’t as universally loved as many (myself included) may have initially predicted it to be – it is shaping up to be a year where Samsung and HTC's flagships are once again each other's biggest rivals. Either way, it won’t be long before we find out since the M10 is expected to make its debut during HTC’s event on April 12th.