HTC One A9 hands-on



Already quite a feverish first half for 2015, we’re well underway with the second half of the year – or as we like to call it, the crucial holiday season. HTC has been relatively quiet most of the year, arguably making headway around the virtual reality space with the HTC Vive, but its flagship smartphone in the HTC One M9 has been met with lukewarm success. Some would argue that the company is in a period of heavy restructuring, especially with new leadership at the helm. Yet, they’re moving forward with a surprising new ‘flagship’ phone in its portfolio – the HTC One A9.

Design


HTC’s designs have been undeniably iconic, always delivering quality stuff that are constantly regarded as being the most beautifully crafted phones. With the One A9, however, they’re rocking the boat quite a bit with a new design language – one that specifically aims for symmetry above everything else. Constructed out of metal once again, brandishing a dual-tone finish, where it’s a brushed aluminum casing with polished edges, the A9 is charming looking to say the least.

The metal chassis is uniformly flat on both the front and back, while also sporting a slim and lightweight figure. Its compact size and premium look are undoubtedly palpable, but in the process, some iconic things have been lost. Yes, there’s symmetry in the way that the camera lens in positioned dead center, but it’s a bit odd that the microUSB port is offset. What’s most apparent, though, is that the iconic dual front-firing speakers of flagships past are gone – replaced instead by a single earpiece on the front, with the speaker positioned to the bottom edge.

It’s been a long while since we’ve come across an HTC with a fingerprint sensor, specifically aimed for the US market, but HTC has fashioned a useful, recessed one right below its display. Not only is it responsive, but it also acts as a capacitive home button of sorts too. Many folks will instantly look at the design and draw direct comparisons to the iPhone3 6/6s, more so with those plastic bandings around the back, but HTC begs to differ. In fact, they make a point that they’re the first to follow this particular design, as the HTC Legend from a few years ago sported a metal body with those plastic bandings.

Display


In an age of Quad-HD screens for today’s myriad of ‘flagship’ phones, the HTC One A9 chooses instead to favor a 1080p one. To be more exact, a 5-incher with 1080p resolution, but more shocking is the decision to go with an AMOLED panel instead of the usual Super-LCD we’ve seen used by the previous HTC One flagships. This decision, like the one made to omit those dual front-firing speakers, might accrue some disdain from HTC faithfuls.

Despite that, it looks pretty good and sharp, exhibiting all of the qualities that scream AMOLED. Looking closely at it, we can tell that we’re dealing with a colder tone display – whereby the color white exhibits a hint of blue. Another reason why they chose AMOLED this time around, relates mostly to AMOLED’s power efficiency and thinness to produce the panel itself.

Interface


From the looks of it, there are some minor alterations to the Sense 7 experience it’s running. Visually, it still bears the same, lovable modern looking interface that we have come to love, complemented by its downloadable themes and a side panel for HTC BlinkFeed. Diving deeper into the interface, we begin to notice that some things are a little different – such as the arrangement of the notification panels and the recent apps menu. They’re different because right from the get-go, the HTC One A9 is running the most up-to-date version of the platform; Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

That’s pretty sweet, seeing that few non-Nexus phones are getting that treatment at the moment, so when it officially becomes available domestically, it’ll be up-to-date. Honestly, though, there’s nothing too out of the ordinary with the Sense 7.0 experience, especially when it boasts the same set of features and functionality we see in the One M9 already – like those various Motion Launch gestures and the Sense Home widget. All told, it’s a familiar experience, but we would’ve loved to see more emphasis on multi-tasking, since it still doesn’t have the same simultaneous operations we see in some other flagship phones.


Processor and Memory


HTC has endowed the One A9 with the latest chipset from Qualcomm’s camp, the 64-bit based hexa-core Snapdragon 617 SoC, coupled with 2GB of RAM. We know what you’re think. Why didn’t they go all out and go with the Snapdragon 810? Well, they opted to go with the latest advances, so the Snapdragon 617 was a logical decision, especially when Quick Charge 3.0 support will be available in the coming months.

Regardless of the chipset, the phone feels pretty responsive, which also can be attributed to the optimizations of Sense 7.0 running on top of Android 6.0. While we’re confident that it’s able to handle trivial tasks, we’re a bit concerned after running a few demanding gaming titles. It just lacks the finesse that’s achieved by other handsets.

There’s no need to make a decision on what storage capacity to use, that’s because there’s only a single option that’s going to be made available come launch – a sufficient 32GB one. No doubt, we like that storage capacity, but it’s made better knowing that there’s room for expansion courtesy of its microSD card slot.

Camera


Criticized in the past for its camera performances, the HTC One A9 comes packing with a 13-megapixel rear camera, which features an f/2.0 aperture lens, sapphire lens cover, BSI, and yes, even optical image stabilization. The latter is especially inviting, seeing that we haven’t seen OIS in an HTC flagship since the M7. However, we have to point out that the phone tops out at 1080p video recording. We know, it’s a shame considering what we have here. Around the front, it’s blessed with a 4-megapixel ‘UltraPixel’ camera, which has proven quite useful with the One M9.

As for the camera experience, the interface is a very familiar one. It comes at us with the usual set of modes, including a new Hyperlapse editing tool that speeds up videos 12 times as fast for that cool time-lapse look. For the enthusiast, there’s also its Pro mode to tinker around with – where various parameters can be adjusted to get the optimum quality from its camera. We will say, however, that we wish it offered a shutter speed longer than 2 seconds.

Only time will tell whether or not this new camera set up can finally elevate HTC’s reputation in the camera space.

Expectations


HTC is making bold claims by saying that the One A9 is its flagship smartphone in the US for the holiday season, replacing the One M9. From a specs sheet level, it’s hard to give that statement validation because the M9, despite its shortcomings, still looks like a formidable phone on paper. Interesting enough, HTC is taking on a whole new different direction with the A9 – arguably made most poignant by its radical design language.

Here in the US, you can snag a pre-order through HTC’s website for the “limited time promotional price” of $399.99 for an unlocked model. Later on, carriers will announce their own pricing and release dates. Don’t get us wrong, we’re liking this new design, but from a pricing level, it’s going to be tough trying to make for a compelling offering knowing what other phones are in the same price range (think Moto X Pure Edition). And if this particular price is for a limited time, eventually going away and possibly raised later on, it’s only going to be tougher getting any sort of headway.

Consumers have lots of option to choose from, so the amount of value a phone can offer is crucial – not only from a specs point, but also in its set of features and overall performance. The HTC One A9 is undeniably radical in every way we can imagine. Let’s just hope it’s all for the best.



Related phones

One A9
  • Display 5.0 inches
    1920 x 1080 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP (Single camera)
    4 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 617, 3GB RAM
  • Storage 32GB, microSDXC
  • Battery 2150 mAh
  • OS Android 7.0 Nougat
    HTC Sense UI

FEATURED VIDEO

54 Comments

54. PhoneCritic

Posts: 1382; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

I think this is it for HTC. What seriously needed to happen was for the board to replace Cher Wang ( she was caught not to long ago using an iPhone in public< and she is the CEO of HTC>) and Peter Chou ( for his plain stubborn to get rid of that 4 meg pixel utra pix junk) a new management team is needed. HTC had the momentum with the release of the M7 and it was excusable to have a 4mp camera because the route HTC was taking in its' design philosophy was good thos front firing speakers were something that made up for the short coming of the 4mp camera. Never before had there been a device with such incredible sound. HTC should have capitalized ont his with giving the beautiful M8 the higher pixel count it needed (8MP, 12 MP with Sony sensors) but no the stubborn management decide to stay with the 4mp gimic and ad a dual depth sensor. Every HTC fan made it clear to HTC that the M9 had to be another M7 in essence (a redesign that would be sleeker with a high quality camera, fingerprint reader and QHD display in order to keep up) several mock beautiful renderings were made that in essence HTC could have contacted the creator and placed them on their staff and take that design and made it theirs. But no, and now this so call hero phone (With this whole cross licence deal with Apple) they decide to (Cher Wang of course) copy the iPhone to a TEE!!!! No Boom sound, No beautiful curve back, that sits perfectly in your hand, no SLCD3 or 4 Display, no just an iPhone look alike. BYE HTC it was nice knowing you. Cher Wang thought the M9 bomb wait till the results for the A9 ( even the name of the Apple SoC)

53. brianmokcy

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 21, 2015

How dare you say that htc a9 is a clone when iphone 6 series actually copied the htc one m7?

52. Moose

Posts: 418; Member since: Jan 05, 2015

Hate wasted real estate above and below display. Like the iPhone, it also has an ugly physical home button. Their One M9 is much better looking in my opinion. HTC must be getting desperate, copying the looks of the iPhone so blatantly. I love large displays with minimal bezels on the sides, top and bottom. This phone is a total turn off for me.

49. Classique

Posts: 73; Member since: Jan 10, 2014

Am I the only one that would actually consider getting this phone...

48. Konsento

Posts: 139; Member since: Apr 10, 2015

Bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels bezels

46. dazed1

Posts: 815; Member since: Jul 28, 2015

Even bigger bezels then before, and on top of that, no stereo speakers? https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/47/16/c4/4716c4aef92cb70e8f4a2cc40dfc7c38.gif

41. darkkjedii

Posts: 31797; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

That red one is Beyoncé hot.

38. Andrewtst

Posts: 697; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

HTC One A9 - New Flagship from HTC... Really??? OMG! - Snapdragon 617 (middle range processor) - 5" FHD AMOLED screen (HTC ditch SLCD3 but no QHD) - 2150mAh battery (are you serious!!!) - 13MP f/2.0 Real Camera (not support 4K video record!) - Design... (iPhone 6s clone?!) - Android 6.0 with Sense 7.0 (the only part did it correct) R.I.P HTC

37. alumoyo

Posts: 392; Member since: Aug 26, 2013

So it looks like HTC is gonna beat Sony and Blackberry to the smartphone industry EXIT DOOR. GOODBYE!

36. BLSEOTB

Posts: 334; Member since: Mar 24, 2015

You think the company would atleast go down with a fight.

35. lukkiristi unregistered

So they even copied the bad about iPhone 6 design, namely the protruding lens... Also, if HTC is full on about "symmetry", why is the charging port still not in the middle? A small thing but so annoying.

31. true1984

Posts: 871; Member since: May 23, 2012

i might try this out for 30 days to see if i like it. it seems like a pretty good phone

28. cornerofthemoon

Posts: 620; Member since: Apr 20, 2010

The phone is doomed. Even if by small chance it becomes a hit in the marketplace, the Apple lawyers would quickly put the kibosh on it.

25. Lenny86

Posts: 301; Member since: Sep 20, 2012

250 bucks maximum,but ehh.They had time to make better,smaller bezel more compact,a bit stronger battery a real competitor.But this?????Hero?No,just no....rather an iphone 6.

24. roldefol

Posts: 4745; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

HTC can defend this design however they want, but that is an iPhone 6 clone. No question

30. cornerofthemoon

Posts: 620; Member since: Apr 20, 2010

Design wise it actually improves some of the shortcomings of the iPhone 6 but no spin by HTC will convince anyone that it's not a total Apple ripoff. Having said that, I personally kind of like the idea of an iPhone that runs Android.

22. HTC_ONE_MAX

Posts: 171; Member since: Feb 06, 2015

The phone is like a fusion between Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy devices, the front will be more beautiful if the sensor and camera placed like iPhone 4/4S.

19. mistercarter

Posts: 360; Member since: Sep 01, 2011

the red colored one looks good, everything else about this phone is lame

18. Guaire

Posts: 898; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

What's your next hero Cher Wang?

17. Marienx

Posts: 124; Member since: Aug 27, 2013

No that is it... I give up. I have an M7 waiting to be updated and i was waiting fir something new.... Good Bye HTC, Good bye. Now, what phone should I get, mind you I like to support one brand.. its just me. Btw, nooo Samsung. Maybe I can pick up a Nexus 6P or a Lumia 950 xl? hmm..

26. kkmkk

Posts: 699; Member since: May 06, 2013

if you want android and dont want samsung you should get nexus 6p or lg v10

39. An.Awesome.Guy

Posts: 636; Member since: Jan 12, 2015

As far as I remember from different news sites and rumors . This phone isn't the successor of HTC One M9 and the successor will be called HTC 2 or something like that and will be brought and announced next year on February. Think of it like the Sony Xperia M5 which is not the flagship but a great mid-range phone. However, in case you want a new big smartphone look at Priv, Z5 premium,Galaxy Note 5 , Nexus 6P , Lumia 950 XL and LG G4 All have their cons and pros.

14. Zylam

Posts: 1825; Member since: Oct 20, 2010

399 in the US when those guys have the Nexus 5X for 379? Is HTC crazy?

16. j2001m

Posts: 3061; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

Hm, the 32gb nexus is not 379

34. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

I'd get the 16gb version of most phones over the 32gb version of this phone though. And it's not like storage is the most expensive part of a phone or even expensive at all.

13. kamil

Posts: 118; Member since: Feb 07, 2012

But will it bend ? that is the question

12. kkmkk

Posts: 699; Member since: May 06, 2013

RIP HTC .... you will not be missed i never saw a company wanted so hard to f**ked out of the market

11. manojmcn

Posts: 634; Member since: Jul 16, 2015

Ladies & Gentlemen ...Here is our new HTC Galaxy iPhone A9 .....meh... Even HTC doesn't know why people should buy this, when S6 or 6S is available?

23. true1984

Posts: 871; Member since: May 23, 2012

its cheaper. thats about it

10. Zylam

Posts: 1825; Member since: Oct 20, 2010

Why are the bezels so huge?

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