HTC at MWC 2015: smartphones, wearables, and a surprise

At Mobile World Congress 2015, HTC delivered on the promise of 2015’s flagship, with a few surprises: the company’s first wearable and a VR headset. Let’s break down what we saw at their press event earlier today.

HTC One M9

htc_m9_00

HTC’s newest flagship, the One M9, lead off the press event, “melding the best of the award-winning HTC One M7 and HTC One M8 into a stunning, iconic design.”

Cher Wang, HTC Chairwoman:

“HTC has built its reputation on challenging expectations in the mobile industry. The HTC One M9 accomplishes this once again with stunning elegance and design, combined with smart features that help bring your world to life, connecting you in a deeper way to the things you consider most important. So much more than just a phone, the HTC One M9 is an extension of who you are.”

The M9’s distinct metal edges combine with graceful curves for a “jewelery-grade look.” The crafted, all-metal unibody design is highlighted by a dual-tone silver and rose gold finish. Mirror-polished gold sides cascade into a hairline brushed silver back panel, encasing a five-inch 1080p display.

HTC Sense 7 allows for you to be “in control of everything.” Themes put you at the “center of the smartphone experience,” analyzing your photos to change the look and feel of your apps, color scheme and backgrounds.

Based on your location, the Sense 7 homescreen widget delivers the “most useful” apps. Whether you’re at home, work, or play, you’re never more than a tap away from the apps you need with this contextual, customizable widget.

A more intelligent HTC BlinkFeed recommends points of interest, news and information based on location data.

The One M9’s main camera features a 20MP sensor that “accentuate” every detail and a sapphire cover lens to protect from scratches. The camera also shoots 4K video. Moving on to the front, the HTC One M9 addresses low-light shots with a UltraPixel front-facing camera.

Sense 7 with HTC’s EYE Experience software features has a host of new editing effects including Shapes, Prismatic, Elements and Bokeh allow you to “add a little bit of individual artististry” into every shot, with the Zoe app editing them, setting them to your choice of music and letting friends remix the collection with their own shots to create a “shared celebration” of every moment.

Wherever you decide to store those images, the new One Gallery wants to be the first place you turn to view your photos, whether it’s on your phone, social media or on select cloud platforms. The gallery allows you to search by date, location, event, album or the images themselves with Image Match.

BoomSound is back in the M9, featuring the One family’s iconic dual front-facing speakers, combined with 5.1 channel Dolby Surround sound simulation. The phone also supports 24-bit high-definition sound that surpasses CD quality.

HTC Connect allows the multimedia experience to go beyond your phone. A three-finger swipe on the One M9 connects the phone to compatible TVs or external speakers. Connect’s integration with Qualcomm’s AllPlay smart media platform and the Blackfire Research wireless media technology allows you and your friends to stream content from your smartphones to multiple home entertainment devices around the house. The playlist feature allows multiple smartphones to share a speaker with AllPlay. The HTC One M9 comes exclusively with the Peel Smart Remote app, which learns from your viewing habits to transform your phone into a personal TV guide and remote control.

The M9 will be available with a range of accessories including the second generation HTC Dot View case, which adds more retro personalization with a host of new features and color options. A transparent back keeps your One M9 pristine without hiding it from the world with the case injecting fun by transforming into a mini games arcade. The new Dot View case won’t get in the way of apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Badoo with through-the-case notifications alerting you to the latest photos, messages and check-ins.

When your adventurous side gets out, an IP68 water resistant Active Case and Active Headset means that your phone can follow wherever the action takes you.

The HTC One M9 will be available in early spring on all four major carriers, HTC.com, Amazon, Best Buy, Best Buy Mobile, Costco and Target here in the US. Here is the spec sheet:

 

  • Dimensions: 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.61 mm, 157g
  • OS: Android 5.0.2 Lollipop
  • Processor: 2GHz quadcore Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, 1.5GHz quadcore 64-bit processing
  • Storage: 32GB internal, up to 128GB external (via microSD), 3GB RAM
  • Sensors: Ambient light, proximity, Accelerometer, Compass, Gyro, Magnetic, Sensor Hub
  • Connectivity: 3.5mm stereo audio jack, Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX, 802.11ac, HTC Connect, DLNA, HDMI, MHL 3.0, Infrared, microUSB 2.0, NFC
  • Battery: 2840mAh (up to 25.4 hours of 2G, 21.7 hours of 3G, 391 hours of standby time in 2G, 402 hours of standby time in 3G)

Wearables

HTC-Grip

The company’s first wearable is the GPS-enabled HTC Grip, which is powered by Under Armour’s UA Record health and fitness network.

Drew Bamford, HTC Creative Labs corporate vice president:

“Our partnership with Under Armour has allowed us to direct our combined ambition, talent and passion towards developing new ways to empower athletes to make the most of their training every day. Grip is our first product to offer deep integration with UA Record, providing an experience that will surpass the high standards of even professional athletes.”

Grip is designed to “comfortably support” even the most extreme training regimes. The waterproof band conforms to your wrist “without pinching your skin or catching on clothing during workouts.

The curved 1.8-inch 160×32 PMOLED display allows you to read the time, distance and notifications while on the move. Grip is available in three sizes.

Robin Thurston, Under Armour SVP of connected fitness:

“HTC is an exciting partner for Under Armour and Grip, designed by HTC and powered exclusively by UA Record, is just a taste of what’s to come in the next year. Together we’re looking forward to exploring new ways to empower and inspire athletes of all levels and to rewrite the rulebook of performance tracking, training and improvement.”

Capable of tracking and recording a variety of workouts from running and cycling to time spent at the gym, Grip is also waterproof, allowing it to track every step, from the gym to the shower and beyond.

Its 100mAh battery lasts up five hours with the integrated GPS on, enabling Grip to capture route, distance, pace and calories burned which then syncs with UA Record in real-time. For everyday usage, Grip lasts up to 2.5 days on a single charge.

 

Grip also connects to an assortment of external heart rate monitors allowing athletes to track their heart rate.

 

Grip features auto sleep detection to record the total amount of time spent asleep. Periods of deep and light sleep are also recorded with a view to help you develop sleep patterns to help athletes “unlock peak fitness and peformance.”

 

When connected to an Android or iOS device, a glance at your wrist allows you to see incoming call and message notifications on the Grip, without missing a step or interrupting your flow. The PMOLED display shows your latest real-time stats and provides an easy way to remotely control your music playlist from your wrist.

The HTC Grip will be available in teal and lime this spring from HTC.com, Under Armour, Academy Sports, AT&T, Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, and Walmart. Here’s the spec sheet:

 

  • Dimensions: 51.9 x 68.2 x 22.5mm, 145.54mm (Small); 60.98 x 74.57 x 22.5mm, 169.76mm (Medium); 68.92 x 85.24 x 22.5mm, 199.51mm (Large)
  • Memory: 16MB Flash, 8MB SRAM
  • Sensors: Sensor Hub, G-sensor, Gyro, Compass, GPR, Light sensor
  • Connectivity: BLE (Bluetooth 3.0, 4.0), USB charging cable
  • Other: Vibration notifications, IP57 dust & water resistant, shock resistant

 

Virtual Reality

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Through a strategic partnership with Valve, HTC launched its first VR headset with the Vive.

Cher Wang, HTC chairwoman:

“It’s rare that a company has an opportunity to forever transform the ways in which people interact with the world and communicate with each other but that is exactly what we plan to do with Valve.”

Vive combines Valve’s Steam VR tracking and input technologies with HTC’s design, setting a “gold standard” in the industry, according to HTC.

Peter Chou, HTC CEO:

“We achieved this once before with our development of smartphone technology. And, though our partnership with Valve, we’ll now be doing this for a second time with VR technology of which consumers could only previously dream.”

HTC and Valve have introduced a Full Room Scale 360 Degree solution with tracked controllers, letting you get up, walk around and explore your virtual space, inspect objects from every angle and  interact with your surroundings. Setting a new benchmark for performance, the headset features 90 frames per second video.

HTC is also introducing new wireless VR controllers that will make you feel “one with your virtual environment.” The HTC VR Controllers come in a pair and are designed to be versatile that they will work with a variety of VR experiences.

Beta versions of the Vive developer edition have already generated content from game developers like the following:

  • Vertigo Games
  • Bossa
  • Barry-Fireproof
  • Dovetail Games
  • Wemo Labs
  • Google
  • Steel Wool Games
  • Owlchemy

Ken Birdwell of Valve:

“Our collaboration with HTC is driven by the companies’ shared desire to produce the most compelling and complete VR experience. Delivering content creators with the Vive Developer Edition is an incredibly importnat milestone in our efforts to achieve that goal.”

Wang:

“Vive creates an exciting opportunity for all developers and content creators, to help us bring virtual reality into the mainstream with an end-to-end solution that completely redefines how we entertain ourselves, communicate with each other, learn and, eventually, how we become more productive. HTC Vive is real, it’s here and it’ll be ready to go before the start of 2016.”

The Vive’s developer edition will launch this spring, with a consumer edition following by the end of 2015.

Source: HTC

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