Interface and Functionality

Sense is sensible, backed by the power of Android 6.0 Marshmallow from the get-go.

Sense has always been one of the better looking custom Android skins. It’s never been overpowering, nor does it come off cartoony – so in a sense, Sense is sensible. For the HTC One A9, however, there’s nothing that points to any significant changes that we haven’t been exposed to already with the M9. So yeah, it’s essentially the same Sense 7.0 experience. Meaning, continued favorites like HTC BlinkFeed (aka Highlights), HTC Zoe, Sense Home, and those Motion Launch gestures make an appearance once again. And yes, it even offers a personalization element with its downloadable themes.

Upon further inspection, though, it’s just one apparent thing that jumps out at us the most – and that’s the fact it’s running on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Yup, it’s that fluffy new Android experience that’s front and center with this one, which is impressive considering it’s the only new Android phone besides the two new Nexus phones to have it. While it only adds some minor alterations to the UI, such as the switch to going with stock Android’s notifications panel and scrollable Recent Apps menu, it comes with all of the new features of the platform.

Out of the entire bunch, the most notable thing here is arguably the Now On Tap instant access feature – whereby holding down on the on-screen home button at any time launches the feature. Whatever we’re doing or looking at with the phone, it scans and delivers relevant information pertaining to it. Overall, the experience by and large is similar to that of the M9, but it doesn’t have the same side-by-side multi-tasking punch we get in other custom experiences. For what it’s worth, the straightforwardness of Sense is appreciable.

Considering that Sense takes pride in its modern-looking design language, it’s no surprise that Google’s Material Design is also validated in all of the built-in apps. Therefore, we get bright and bold color schemes to match their straightforward functions.

Stock Android arguably eliminates the need to have two different email clients, as most phones now automatically give the Gmail app the sole duty of handling all email accounts, but the A9 continues to offer a separate HTC Mail app for those who just prefer having things differentiated. That’s an option to the user, of course, but you can always choose to go all-Gmail for your emailing needs.

The Sense keyboard comes at us with the usual flair, dishing up the same amount of responsiveness as the M9. Partly attributed to its smaller screen size, typing up is a breeze knowing that we don’t have to do a whole lot of stretching with our thumbs. Alternatively, we still have the trace option to input text via one seamless swipe-like gesture with our finger.

Processor and Memory

The A9 features the new Snapdragon 617, which disappoints in the graphics processing department.

It’s a strange affair for the A9, more so when it’s being hailed as HTC’s new flagship phone in the US, effectively replacing the M9 in the process. What’s interesting is that the A9 doesn’t get greeted to what most people associate to be the most fearsome chipset from Qualcomm – the Snapdragon 810. As a matter of fact, it's not even the hexa-core Snapdragon 808. Rather, the A9 employs a very new, yet decidedly mid-range piece of silicon from Qualcomm – the 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 617 SoC.

This particular configuration breaks down to four Cortex-A53 cores that are running at 1.5GHz, and another four A53 cores that are at 1.2GHz. Accompanied with 2GB of RAM and the Adreno 405 GPU, this entire package isn't as ambitious as what most high-level offerings come with, but it should be enough to get the job done. Indeed, this new chipset delivers decent performance for base level tasks.

But even though it’s tough to differentiate its performance against the M9 when it pertains to trivial operations, the A9 just doesn’t have the same raw performance that gave the M9 incredible movements with graphics processing. Quite frankly, it suffers in the gaming department – where it fails to achieve the high frame rates of the M9, giving us a choppier performance.

Here in the US, HTC is only making available a single model for the A9 – one that comes with an acceptable 32GB of internal storage. Luckily, they’re including a microSD card slot as well for those who need more flexibility.

AnTuTu Higher is better
HTC One A9 40632
Apple iPhone 6s 59075
Google Nexus 5X 53178
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2015) 51822
Vellamo Metal Higher is better
HTC One A9 1078
Google Nexus 5X 2161
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2015) 2657
Vellamo Browser Higher is better
HTC One A9 2331
Google Nexus 5X 4220
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2015) 4424
Sunspider Lower is better
HTC One A9 1712
Apple iPhone 6s 217.7
Google Nexus 5X 650.5
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2015) 1529.1
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen Higher is better
HTC One A9 16
Apple iPhone 6s 59.1
Google Nexus 5X 38
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2015) 24
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
HTC One A9 6.6
Apple iPhone 6s 56.1
Google Nexus 5X 16
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2015) 9.3
Basemark OS II Higher is better
HTC One A9 957
Apple iPhone 6s 2139
Google Nexus 5X 1537
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2015) 1214
Geekbench 3 single-core Higher is better
HTC One A9 738
Apple iPhone 6s 2539
Google Nexus 5X 1179
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2015) 650
Geekbench 3 multi-core Higher is better
HTC One A9 3063
Apple iPhone 6s 4421
Google Nexus 5X 3379
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2015) 2075

Internet and Connectivity


There are no disappointments with the web surfing experience here with the A9. Google’s Chrome browser is given the sole duty of handling the task at hand, and of course, it suffices here with the A9 due to its speedy page loads, smooth navigational controls, and ample sized screen. Well, this shouldn’t be a surprise considering it’s pretty rare nowadays for a smartphone to falter in this category.

Although a bunch of the US carriers will be selling their particular variants, HTC will be selling an unlocked model directly through its site – where it’s enabled to work for the various GSM networks around the world. What’s especially astounding about this is that it’ll even work with Verizon’s LTE network for voice and data, despite it lacking any of the legacy CDMA technology needed to operate on Big Red’s older CDMA footprint in the US. Effectively, the HTC One A9 is the first phone to work on the carrier’s network without technically offering CDMA radios.

In addition to that exciting treat, the A9 comes with all the usual connectivity features – like aGPS with Glonass, Bluetooth 4.1, dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and NFC.

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53 Comments

1. Pattyface

Posts: 1658; Member since: Aug 20, 2014

There are so many things I dislike about this phone.. 1. Design is one of the most generic I've ever seen out of htc 2. Processor used 3. No second speaker on the front 4. Not a hero device 5. Don't love lcd 6. Not bright enough screen The list goes on and on.. HTC is done

8. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

How many nm is the 617

14. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Good question. It might be 14nm actually.....

19. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

14nm? No way. I was thinking still 28nm or down to 22 or 20nm.

34. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

It's 28nm. They won't start putting the 600 series on 20nm (if at all) until sometime in 2016. The 618 and 620 may go 20nm, but I suspect that they should go with a more mature process, like the high performance - low power material in 28nm. Overall, this thing is disappointing for something that'll cost $500 in the US really soon. I'll just wait for the Z7C, as it'll come with all the bells and whistles, will only improve further with photos/videos, and once again be a battery life champ. Sorry htc, you almost had a new customer...

13. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

It's oled not Lcd. I actually think that this might sell to all the closet iPhone fans. Lol

17. Konsento

Posts: 139; Member since: Apr 10, 2015

1. You do have a point there 2. It still flies. Get over it. 3. Yes, I'm genuinely sad about that too. But you probably do have earphones to take around as well, eh? Plus they'll sound even better. 4. Meh, give or take this is a well-designed midrange phone that'll not be worth buying after the price goes up 5. It's AMOLED, not LCD 6. Isn't that a problem with many other phones?

21. Acer_Predator unregistered

So when designis generic why everybody saying on iphone 6 like woow what a great design?

30. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Apparently Apple designs are immune to criticism when they run IOS and not when they run android. I mean they can reuse the exact same design for two years and still get a 9.3 when Android OEMs. You would figure that HTC could clone it and still get the same benefit of the doubt. I guess not. Lol

52. LionStone

Posts: 1048; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

Unfortunately not everybody has good foresight with modern tech. The premium metal build is the best there is...without the extra banding on the 6s and the centered camera lens, the A9 has a much cleaner design than apple or other Android oems. The processor is neglible, it handles all tasks with high performance and fluidity. No boomsound physical speakers but still has outstanding speaker quality for phone calls, speaker phone, headphones. All phones have trade-offs, as much as I'd love to have dual front speakers, it was not a deal breaker since it still brings great sound quality. Hero device? Whatever you what to call it, the A9 after using it for a month now absolutely performs as well as other flagships..in fact it has better specs than some flagships. It has an excellent display with Oled, screen is plenty bright. Kinda funny how people who don't use this device know all about it? And reading biased reviews don't count lol!

2. hafini_27

Posts: 949; Member since: Oct 31, 2013

I don't understand this phone from HTC at all.

51. LionStone

Posts: 1048; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

Do you understand having the latest software? Premium device with fingerprint tech and quick charge tech?

3. UglyFrank

Posts: 2194; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

This scores higher than better Chinese phones which have been given terrible scores?!?!

4. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

All I can say is...lol

5. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

I really hope this isn't HTC's last smartphone. I want to buy HTC's last smartphone, but I don't want to buy this...

6. JMartin22

Posts: 2370; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

What's wrong with that God-awful design? A Home key, logo and on-screen buttons eating into the screen estate and screen to body ratio? Not to mention the middling quality of the hardware as a whole.

50. LionStone

Posts: 1048; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

There's nothing wrong with an ultra premium device, just because it's not appealing to you doesn't make it any less premium. There is a fingerprint sensor on the front, like all the latest modern phones (or back or side), it CAN be enabled to act as a HOME key, it's silly but I think that's to pacify the Sammy users and Apple users. The latest software and hardware combination is a great, fast device but you wouldn't know about it since you don't use one.

7. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

"combines the ‘flatter’ characteristics from its Desire line with the smooth, all-metal design from its One line" Well, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flatter-y.

28. TezzaBP

Posts: 274; Member since: May 18, 2015

Nice pun there friend

9. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Wouldn't Make Sense For Anyone To Buy This. 5 Out Of 10 For Being A Stupid Phone.

10. JetMK

Posts: 97; Member since: Jan 31, 2015

From most of the reviews that I've seen, a lot are calling it a pretty great smartphone.. Phonearena seems to be the only one giving it an average, or low score. Or maybe I missed some things If it were lower than its $CAD 549 (499 $USD) price, I'd give it a try. But at that price range then nvm.

12. MaryPoopins

Posts: 324; Member since: Jan 15, 2015

Yes, you missed the reviewer's name, then it all becomes crystal clear.

29. TezzaBP

Posts: 274; Member since: May 18, 2015

Holy crap that explains everything

16. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

The reviews I've seen all tend to be in that average or low range area: Phonearena: 78 The Verge: 77 Engadget: 80 Digitaltrends: 7/10 Cnet: 3/5 I guess I'm curious as to which ones you're referring to?

27. Martin_Cooper

Posts: 1774; Member since: Jul 30, 2013

His nit picking 1-2 rare good reviews of this phone out of 20 that say its okeish phone and nothing more.

40. dazed1

Posts: 799; Member since: Jul 28, 2015

Some people are..... 1 is worst, 10 is best. 7.8 is good score!

11. JakeH

Posts: 89; Member since: May 01, 2014

I would take an older phone like the Galaxy S 5 instead of this. You could pick up an S5 for $300 on Ebay and it would have better battery life, better camera, microSD card slot, equal or better processor, and better camera too

38. almostdone

Posts: 448; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

or LG G4.

44. LionStone

Posts: 1048; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

Really? An S5 that is almost 2 years old, 2GB ram, not the latest update (Lollipop), worst UI Touchwiz (opinion), inferior low light performance, inferior front face cam, older processor, I mean, if you like all that. Instead of latest software and prompt updates, near stock UI, premium build, easily removable minute amount of bloat, 3GB ram, all-day battery life w/ 4-5 sot, fast fingerprint tech, fast all around...

15. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Lol this is awesome. I love troll devices. The N1 tablet and this are hilarious.
One A9
  • Display 5.0" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP / 4 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 617, Octa-core, 1500 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2150 mAh(16h 3G talk time)

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