The HTC One A9 is a smartphone that looks like a flagship but isn’t quite a flagship for HTC. It also looks tremendously similar to the iPhone 6S, however, some might argue that HTC has been doing the metal body with plastic strips since the original one, and similarly great looking designs since devices like the HTC Sensation.
So some could argue that the HTC One A9 and similar devices are simply an evolution of HTC’s design.
Because it isn’t a flagship the design of the One A9 is probably the most important feature, with a few features missing due to its lower price tag.
The A9 is extremely slim, at just 7.3mm with a nice looking flat body design that mixes rounded edges with a sleek and clean design. It also features a fingerprint sensor as part of the home button, which is again similar to the iPhone 6S, however, it is the best spot for a fingerprint sensor in our opinion, so why can’t other phones do it?
After that, the phone’s specs start to decline with only 16GB of storage and a total of 2GB of RAM.
Thankfully, HTC has opted for a slightly changed version of Android, with only a few of HTC’s ideas making their way to the OS.
You’ll still find things like the classic HTC weather and time widgets, as well as the inclusion of BlinkFeed, however, aside from that everything is very close to stock Android, which is nice to see in a phone.
On the side of the phone, we were very pleased to find a jagged power button, which is much nicer than a normal power button to hit, and enables you to easily use the phone without having to look where this button is, or where the volume buttons are above it.
HTC have also placed the headphone jack at the bottom of the phone, which makes it a lot easier to use when headphones are plugged in, no more do you have to fight the cable to use the touchscreen.
The phone itself is also really nice to hold, with rounded corners, and a sleek flat back, it just feels premium in the hand, which is nice.
The HTC One A9 has a 5-inch AMOLED display that has a Full HD 1080p display.
We would have to say that this display is perfect for this price point, it’s very sharp and thanks to OLED, you can defiantly notice the rich contrast ratio, and awesome colour reproduction levels, that make this display a joy to look at.
That said, looking at text on the phone isn’t as clear or crisp as you might expect, and sometimes you might notice a lower clarity in images in general.
It’s not the best display on the market, however, for the size of it, and the price range it is available for, it’s definitely a good display, if you want something better, then you might also have to increase your budget, and maybe lose out on both design and features.
Probably the biggest missing feature is the Boomsound speakers, which have been replaced in the A9 with a small mono speaker at the bottom of the device.
We used to love Boomsound in the HTC devices, in fact, we would say it’s probably one of the biggest differentiators between an HTC and a Samsung for example, it provides that kind of portability and usefulness that no other phone can meet, allowing you to just stick your phone on the side and listen to music, no syncing or plugging in cables needed, it was truly a fantastic feature, and we are very sad that it does not exist in the A9.
HTC has attempted to make this up by adding a DAC to the smartphone, allowing it to upscale all sound to the 24-bit, 192Khz quality, as well as adding support for Hi-Res audio files, and from Hi-Res sources like Spotify or Tidal, however, that doesn’t really solve the loss of Boomsound, it simply adds another option to the phone. That said, it is a very nice option for those who have good enough headphones.
As all smartphones have now, the A9 also comes with a front-facing fingerprint sensor, sitting neatly alongside the home button, it works extremely well, and because it is in the same place as the home button, it feels extremely natural to use, and isn’t too far from other phones that you might be used to.
We were very happy with the fingerprint scanner during our tests, it’s a great way to unlock the phone quickly, however, because this button doesn’t actually click, it can sometimes be strange to use, and sometimes you might find yourself hitting the button with your thumb a few times before the phone wakes up.
The camera on the One A9 is probably more than enough for most users, with a 13MP sensor it should be just what you need for the average day-to-day shooting, however, for some of the more seasoned photographers might find that the A9 is somewhat lacking in its ability to shoot photos.
That said, it does also feature optical image stabilisation, as well as an RAW shooting mode. On top of that, displaying pictures on the 5-inch Full HD screen is awesome, you can really see what your shots look like ahead of transferring them to your PC, and even zoom into them closely to view the closer details.
You will notice that the A9 will sometimes over-process images, and the speed of opening the app and shutter speed in extremely slow, so slow that it could mean you might miss some moments.
Here are some sample images:
At first look, you might think that the battery in the One A9 is severely lacking, at just 2,150mAh, it could be a worry to many, however, due to Android Marshmallow’s battery improvements, and a lower-res Full HD screen, the battery can easily last about half a day from what we would call normal use.
The phone also supports Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 2.0 standard, however, there’s no cable in the box so most will never experience that kind of charging.
The HTC One A9 features a Snapdragon 617 chipset inside with 2GB of RAM, which doesn’t make it a workhorse, far from it, and it underperforms most of the high-end phones on the market.
That said, there are reviews around the web that have said that the 3GB RAM version (only available in the US and Asia) is pretty snappy, I would have to say that’s quite the opposite for the UK version.
With only 2GB of RAM, you can definitely notice the difference, apps don’t really open fast, with a number of high-requirement apps taking far too many seconds to load up, such as the camera app.
Gaming is also difficult with the A9, framerate can be somewhat laggy, and you might find that some high-end games won’t play at all, that said, for the average game, you will probably be fine, this issue mostly resolves within the high-requirement games.
This performance is really shown in the following scores:
|App||Score 1||Score 2||Ranking|
|GeekBecnh||Single-Core score = 730||Multi-Core Score = 3037||Single-Core: Below S6, Nexus 6, S5 +more. Multi-Core: Below S6, Nexus 6 + more.|
|AnTuTu||66575||Below Galaxy S6, iPhone 6/ 6S, S7 Edge, Note5, Xperia Z5, Nexus 6 and a few more.|
|3DMark Sling Shot||386|
|3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited||9644|
That all said, the price for this smartphone is slightly high, priced at £429 you will really have to think about how much you value design over specifications if you want to pick up this smartphone.
But if you do want a great looking phone, with a similar design philosophy to the iPhone, but all running on Android, then the HTC One A9 might just be the option for you, of course, good looks is simply a matter of perception, however, we would definitely say that the HTC One A9 and other HTC devices like it are some of the best-looking smartphones on the market.
Not only does it look great, it also features a fantastic looking build that feels sturdy and is nice to hold in the hand.
Sadly that does come at some cost, the battery life isn’t great on the One A9, and we wouldn’t say the performance is either, we would have preferred to see 3GB of RAM on all models, not just ones in the US and Asia, and we think we could have lived with a slightly thicker body in favour of more battery life.
You can find out more about the HTC One A9 on Vodafone’s website.
Disclosure: Vodafone sent us a sample of the One A9 for review.