HTC: We want all One smartphones to look familiar

The One M9 looks just like the One M8 at first glance. Photo: HTC

The One M9 looks just like the One M8 at first glance. Photo: HTC

HTC’s decision not to make more significant design changes to its new One M9 has been met with criticism from fans and critics, but it wasn’t just a lazy move to cut costs.

The Taiwanese company has explained that it wants all One-series smartphones to look familiar so that consumers know exactly what they are from afar. HTC wants a smartphone as recognizable as the iPhone.

The One is “an icon that’s been established in the market, and we want to continue that,” explained HTC’s lead designed, Claude Zellweger, in an interview with The Verge. “You don’t overhaul the fundamental expression of the phone if you don’t have to.”

Both the original One M7 and last year’s One M8 won numerous awards for design, and rightly so; over the past two years, they’ve been some of the prettiest Android-powered smartphones money can buy.

So when HTC sat down to design the One M9, it didn’t want to change too much. Instead, the company had a plan to make subtle evolutions to its form factor, and to “keep refining the things that need to be refined.”

The One M9’s new “crisp edges,” for instance, are designed to make it easier to hold. Its predecessor was notoriously slippery and difficult to grip onto, so HTC tweaked the form factor ever so slightly to address that.

But many will argue its changes weren’t enough.

The One M9 is designed to be easier to hold. Photo: HTC

The One M9 is designed to be easier to hold. Photo: HTC

Other design complaints have been carried over from the original One M7 all the way to the One M9, such as the front-facing holes for its BoomSound speakers, and the large black bezel beneath the display that accommodates HTC’s logo.

The rumors promised us that black bar would be disappearing, and that the One M9 would have more subtle speaker grilles integrated into its bezels. And while many of us know better than to believe the speculation, many more don’t, and now they’re disappointed.

Personally, I think HTC chose a bad year to stick with a samey smartphone design. While I was a huge fan of the One M8, I can’t deny those speaker holes (which were constantly becoming filled with pocket fluff), the black bezel, and its thickness didn’t bother me.

What’s more, both Apple and Samsung — two of HTC’s biggest competitors — made major improvements to their own smartphone designs this year.

The iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus have become the fastest-selling Apple smartphones as a result, and consumers already seem much more excited for the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge than they have been for any other Samsung smartphone in recent years.

With the One M9 not generating the same enthusiasm, HTC’s smartphone sales could take a hit in 2015– unless that rumored One M9 Plus materializes and makes a big impact.