While most other smartphones are supersizing, the new HTC One M9, an update to one of our favorite phones of the past two years, takes the opposite tactic: Its overall footprint is actually one millimeter shorter and thinner than its predecessor, the M8, though the 5-inch screen remains the same. The scratch-resistant aluminum body is similar to last year’s model, too, but inside, the specs are far from the same: a 20-megapixel camera allows for a varied selection of built-in effects, including the portrait-optimized Bokeh mode – like a DSLR, it gives you a focused foreground with the blurry background effect. The front-facing camera is improved as well, featuring bigger ultrapixels that ensure clarity and color, even in low light situations – say, late-night group selfies in the back of a dark dive bar. Elsewhere, it has a new Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB of RAM that help speed through all tasks, an intelligent homescreen that adapts to where you are and what you're doing as well as a pair of front-facing speakers that provide big, clear sound. The M9 doesn't mark a major overhaul to the One line, but it does improve on an already-great phone. $659; htc.com
Supercharged optics and a slimmer body make the new HTC One M9 a serious competitor.