HTC One E9+ review: Brings a slice of premium to crowded middle market

With its recent flagship smartphone launches, such as the M9, HTC has focused squarely on the high-end market.

That means its smartphones with a premium design (and pricetag) are competing directly against the likes of Apple’s iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S range.

The new HTC One E9+ takes a slightly different approach, retailing at a lower price point (about Dh1,900) but still offering above average features and the same premium design. An appealing prospect on paper, so how does the new handset deliver?


Face on, the E9+ retains the premium, brushed metal design of the M9. Happily, it also retains the same front-facing stereo speakers, which make a real difference when watching videos.

Flipping the phone over reveals some cost cutting in the form of a smooth plastic back and an unusually large protruding camera lens. But although the E9+ naturally falls a little short of the M9’s premium pedigree, it’s still above average for a handset retailing at less than Dh2,000.

Also above average is the QHD 5.5 inch display, the same size as the much more expensive iPhone 6 Plus. Video is not quite as smooth, and colours could be deeper, but the display offers great value for money, with images and video rendering beautifully.

The E9+ comes installed with the same 20.7 MP rear camera and 4MP front-facing selfie camera set-up as the M9, although images taken on the E9+ are a touch warmer. Again, it’s not up there with the likes of the LG G4, but will work perfectly well for all but the most picky photographers.

As with most mid-range devices dipping their toes in premium territory, the E9+’s user interface doesn’t quite match that of its more expensive peers, with a small but noticeable lag.

All round, the E9+ offers a very decent set of features at a reasonable starting price point.

It does however face stiff competition from the Samsung Galaxy S6, selling at a similar price after a generous discount in stores such as Sharaf DG.

If HTC lowers the price a little, the E9+’s all round solid package coupled with high-quality design will make it an option well worth considering.

Q&A

HTC seems to place a lot of emphasis on its design pedigree these days.

Indeed. The company has more or less given up on the mass market, and is instead trying to attract a small but loyal following that appreciates good design and is willing to pay for it.

And how’s that going for them?

Not too well, unfortunately. While its handset designs always get good reviews, that hasn’t translated into big enough sales. This month the value of the company plunged to just $1.5 billion, slightly below the amount of cash it has on hand, meaning that investors don’t see its brand or design pedigree as particularly valuable.

So how is HTC responding?

The company is sticking to its guns so far, but has announced a layoff of about 15 per cent of its staff as part of a massive cost-cutting exercise. It has also branched out into other areas, notably virtual reality, with its Vive headset already receiving rave reviews before its commercial launch, expected before the end of the year.

Back to the E9+. What else do I need to know?

Pleasingly, it’s a dual SIM handset (nano SIMS in this case) that has a separate MicroSD slot, meaning you can expand the memory while using two numbers. It weighs 150 grams, the battery is non-removable, and it runs Android Lollipop out of the box, with HTC’s Sense skin overlaid as per usual.

Most important question: what colour is it?

You have a choice of Meteor Gray, Classic Rose Gold, and Gold Sepia.

jeverington@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Share This Post