Review by Sunetra Chakravati,11/18/2015 10:18:55 AM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Beautiful build | Android 6.0 | Good camera
Incredibly expensive | Tiny battery
There is a whiff of desperation from HTC’s mid-range offer. Squint a little and you will not be able to tell the difference between the phone HTC claim was inspired by their design ethos aka Apple’s iPhone and the One A9. But are looks enough to make it a hit?
The one thing HTC always deserves credit for is its beautiful forged premium devices. The phones that come off their flagship range are basically the supermodels of the smartphone world. It started with the One M7 continued with the jewel-like One M9 and the One A9 further solders their place as the manufacturer who know how to make a phone look premium.
Simple clear lines with a sophisticated undertone, the One A9 looks more like the iPhone 6 than it does itself. The simple grey on grey antenna lines across the back, the curved edges and the beautifully sophisticated range of colours are for those who like good things in life. The phone feels smooth, soft and has a reassuring weight in hand- almost exactly like the iPhone 6. HTC still maintain that they were the first manufacturer to have a unibody style on their phones and that Apple almost copied them. In this instance, we are almost inclined to believe them!
There are four colours available: the carbon grey is inspired by the colour of minerals, meteorites and rocks, there is also Opal silver, HTC's take on the classic silver that is now deemed unfashionable along with Deep Garnet and Topaz Gold.
The One A9 weighs the same as Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge+ at 143g and that's not too much. There is a fingerprint sensor atop the home button with the ability to store upto 5 prints.
The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 4 with speaker grills next to the microUSB charging point at the bottom and of course one next to the camera on the screen.
HTC told us they got rid of everything superfluous and made sure that the most important part of the phone pops- content and user experience.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon™ 617 powers the device and it is an octa-core 64-bit one with 4 x 1.5GHz taking care of the grunt work and 4 x 1.2GHz helping you with browsing and emails.
But if you think this doesn't look like the nippiest of processors, remember it is one of Qualcomm’s newest and in terms of grunt work, it ain’t no slouch because it has the new X8 LTE modem, featuring support for Cat 7 download speeds. Furthermore, it has Quick Charge 3.0 onboard and a dual-ISP configuration that is able to power up to 21-MP cameras.
This is one of the first devices to come packaged with Marshmallow & HTC's Sense overlay. Sense along with HTC Themes allows users to fully customise the look and feel of their device and there have been 7 million themes downloaded from the HTC store. A further 23,000 have been created so obviously it is a very popular part of the HTC ecosystem.
Google Now is on tap, ready to give users contextual information that is based on what they look for and how they interact with their phones. There is also Android Pay and because Marshmallow allows you to treat SD cards as internal memory, you can go cray-cray with a 2TB card.
HTC also have a device migration tool that auto backs up the user's app data and you will of course have longer battery life with the One A9 thanks to DOZE which is one of Marshmallow’s brilliant new features.
The main camera is a 13-MP one with a sapphire cover lens and during our tests, it proved its pedigree with crisp details.
For selfies, HTC have an aperture of f2.0 with the same ultra-pixel sensor as the One M9. They have enhanced the interface so it is simpler and promises a quicker capture rate than the phones in its peer group. All shortcuts have been placed on one screen and it also comes with Optical Image Stabilisation for dramatic low-light performance.
There is a Pro mode which takes pictures automatically in RAW format for easier post-processing and integrated hyperlapse is now available on existing videos too. So you can shoot or download videos on normal resolution then convert them to hyperlapse.
You get Dolby Audio and Hi-Res Audio via headphones because of 24-bit processing through hardware architecture. You are also able to upscale 16 to 24-bit audio so music sounds the same as with an external DAC, high power headset amplifier. This also applies to streaming audio, so you can be guaranteed a good listening experience on your personal headphones.
The battery didnt excite me much, it is a 2150mAH embedded one and even for a mid-range handset it seemed on the lower side. Android will of course help out with battery saving features but I would have loved to see something bigger. During my usual test, battery dropped from 64 percent to 60 percent when streaming video over wifi with brightness cranked up to 100 percent. With brightness at 50 percent however, juice fell just by 2 percent.
Even though it packs all the smarts of Marshmallow, the tiny battery will struggle to last the whole day for medium to heavy users as it did for me.
The mid-range market is a cluttered one with online brands making a bigger splash than some of the more established ones. The One A9 is a solid contender in the space but the £429 price tag is going to pull it down.
Read more: HTC One M9 in-depth review - Not just a pretty face
It is a great device with awesome features and build quality that lives upto HTC’s pedigree. But remember, the Google Nexus 6P is available for £20 more and would you seriously want to go for the One A9 with its tiny battery over that? Obviously not! However, lower the price down by £100 and throw in a pair of headphones and see the crowds stream through.
Price: From £429
OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow, HTC Sense UI
Dimension: 145.75 x 70.8 x 7.26 mmmm
Display: 5” Full HD Display
Resolution: 1920 x 1080 LCD at 441 ppi
Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 617 processor, 1.5 GHz octa-core 64-bit (Adreno 430 GPU)
Camera: 13 MP with f/2.2 aperture, UltraPixel selfie camera
Memory: 32GB ROM + 3GB RAM. MicroSD upto 128GB
Misc: Fast charging. Corning® Gorilla® Glass 4, fingerprint scanner, NFC