An In-depth Hands-On Review of the HTC One A9 At The New Price

Well it is good to experience the sensation of the first wave of smartphones doing nice to run Google’s software, but then the excitement was cut short with the HTC One A9. Despite the fact that it is part of HTC’s top-end One family, a little bit reduced specs and a varied (yet similar) design brings on the A9 as a cheaper alternative to the company’s One M9 series. Going past a full-HD 5-inch display, it brings with it an octa-core processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera, a physical home button that performs the double function of a fingerprint reader as well as an all-metal design brings memories of the iPhone 6, red option aside.


On an individual scale, it does well to be a midrange handset and the initial US price of $399 (about N80,000) is cool enough, but then that was short-lived as HTC has rather revealed confirmations that its lower US price is actually only a launch promotion and — as such consequent to November 7 — the phone will climb up sharply to $499 (N100k),


This price drags it up directly against elite phones like the LG G4, and surely even against the HTC One M9 flagship we know before, while the reality that its true competitor should be a phone like the Moto X Play. It is unfortunate that you may not realize the features and performance you could be anticipating when you spend so much, making this phone a almost big let-down all round.

On ground of its specs as well as performance, what I expect is the One A9 on sale for say £250 (around N75k) and if HTC noticeably reduces the price of the phone consequently, i will think about it again. But till then, this phone is almost too costly to be worth my time.

Design and display

5-inch full HD (1,920×1,080-pixel) display All-metal design Fingerprint sensor Let us go straight at this — the HTC One A9 shares very close resemblance to the iPhone 6. The first time I came across the A9 earlier in October, the evident resemblance really got to me. I have gotten used to it since then, though HTC would do better to be unique.


The all-metal body has a flat surface on the back (unlike the curved in the M9), but then similar inset lines run across the top and bottom (to put in here, it was first seen on the HTC One M7) and it has colour versions of silver, dark gray and gold colours.

Should you choose to be more adventurous, there’s also a dark-red version. Even the camera lens has a protrusion from the body just like the iPhone 6’s. As if that is not enough, it also has a physical home button that works both ways as a fingerprint scanner on the front, and the screen’s glass has this curve at the edges to touch the body, then there are the speaker holes drilled into the bottom edge in close identity to the iPhone.

The A9’s 5-inch screen is just where I like it between the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 (where a touch too small) and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus (where a touch too big). It has a good size to adequately display photos and games but then not so bulky as to be difficult to hold in one hand. Well the general feel is great but then its light weight and slightly hollow sound when you tap is indicative of its lacks of the confidence-brimming premium feel of the iPhone, or indeed its brother from the HTC family, the One M9.

MicroSD card slot

There is the unfortunate reality of seeing the “BoomSound” speakers go, these were quite louder than you will get your hands on most phones, pointing the sound rudely straight at you. The One M9 as much as the One M8 had the ability to bring out really powerful sound, this way listening to podcasts while doing other things was equally easy and fun. But then sadly, the A9’s small speaker grille which is only in the bottom edge will not really compete.

Should you want to get absorbed into your audio, you’ll need to hook the A9 up to a Bluetooth speaker. In place of the speaker on the front, we get the physical home button. It would not fully click in, but it responds well to touch so that it will bring you back to the homescreen with just a tap.

Rather strangely, HTC still is still faithful to the onscreen navigation buttons above, so there are actually two home buttons within a few millimetres of each other. To keep of the incidence of multiple controls (trying to overlook the resemblance to the iPhone) it would have been better if HTC had used a fingerprint scanner on the side of the phone, as Sony had on the Xperia Z5, or even kept with with the rear-mounted scanner from 2013’s One Max (well extensively employed on the Huawei-made Google Nexus 6P).

The scanner worked well commendably, doing well to keep up and identify with my prints quickly and really accurately. When you place your finger on the scanner, it will wake the phone from standby, such that you could, get to the phone in just one quick motion. The touch-sensitive button does the role of such functions for now, well I can still add here abilities such as a double tap to quick-launch into the camera, for example.

When you press and hold the home button, it launches Google Now (just as it does), but then quite differently, you could do that with the onscreen home button, and not the physical one beneath.


Though HTC chose to do with the absence of the BoomSound speakers, it is well fortified the A9 with high-resolution audio capabilities, among which is support for 24-bit FLAC audio, which raises lower-resolution audio from streaming services, as well a more efficient headphones output, which will go on to allow it pull rich audio to the sort of large closed-back headphones audiophiles are in love with. HTC is of the strong opinion that it is “equivalent to the performance of a dedicated external DAC” although we wouldn’t believe that all in all.

The phone comes with 16GB of storage as standard, and there’s a microSD card slot if you need more space. Thanks to updates in Android Marshmallow, you can mount an external card as though it’s built-in storage, allowing you to store all apps, games and other system information. In other words, that will let you pop in a 200GB microSD card and (essentially) never worry about storage again.

It’s a very welcome feature, and the One A9 is among a dwindling number of Android phones to still come with expandable storage — Samsung’s Galaxy S6 family and Galaxy Note 5 no longer allow microSD cards to be used, in this instance The A9 has a Micro-USB port for charging, rather than the USB Type-C ports found on the new Nexus phones. Though it’s very early days for USB Type-C, support for the new standard is a major Marshmallow feature.

It’s a shame that HTC didn’t take full advantage of its fresh software. I hope that all phones — certainly high-end ones — released toward the end of this year and onward will pack USB Type-C charging ports.


The 5-inch display presents a complete-HD resolution, which is sure to be enough to make icons and text look crisp, though high-resolution photos still aren’t well equipped with the pin-sharp clarity we get on phones with ultra-high-res screens. Colours and contrast are pretty cool and while it is sufficiently bright enough for indoor use, it may not do best to compete with the sunlight when you take it from such domains outdoors.

In exception of Google’s own Nexus phones, the One A9 will be said to be one of the first phones operating Google’s Version 6.0 of Android, also known as Marshmallow. Marshmallow brings in a neat collection of features, such as Now on Tap, which combines well Google Now functions more intricately with the phone; Android Doze, which has the promise of improved battery life in standby mode; as well as Android Pay, the mobile payment system that is yet restricted to US for now.

HTC has impressed its Sense 7 interface over the top, however, so at first you won’t be able to decipher whether you are working with the most recent version of Android. By sight, it is identical to Sense 7 on the One M9, with the BlinkFeed news aggregator off to the left of the homescreens and a Themes tool that lets you heavily cut to taste, the look of the interface.

I fairly admire the Sense 7 as it is very neat and convenient to use, courtesy attributed partly to HTC not piling the phone up with much bloatware. The broad range of themes on availability — with the added option to design yours — helps you really slap your personal stamp on the phone.


Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 The phone operates a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor — an octa-core chip which is a kind of a drop down from the more efficient Snapdragon 810 processor in the higher-end M9. For overall navigation around the Sense interface, this chip does this reasonably, putting up smooth transitions as well as quick-opening of apps.

Yet any thing more demanding and tougher and it might not meet up, opening the camera app and shooting raw photos really was not encouraging, and then racing game GT Racing 2 was very open to the possibility of stutters as well as slowdowns, effectively introducing added difficulty to playing the game. I wouldn’t really be bothered if a lower-end phone lacked gaming prowess, but at this price, it is quite unforgiving.

Battery life

The A9 has a pretty small battery — just 2,150mAh if we bring this into comparison with the batteries in the Motorola Moto X Play (3,630mAh), and then the LG G4 (3,000mAh) or even the One M9 (2,840mAh).

That small size could prove to he a disadvantage. In mixed use, among which is listening to music in the morning, taking some pictures throughout the day, receiving messages and emails using push notifications and a spot of light gaming on the bus into work, you would barely get a full day of use from the phone.

If you boot up an exhausting interface game, the battery could fail you too soon. The phone will hold tight to its power quite well in standby mode and this may be owing to Android Marshmallow’s new Doze feature, which has the prospects to an improved management of background processes in standby mode so as to help add to battery life. What this tells us is that for the average One A9 owner, the battery life is wholly connected to how much you use the phone.


On the good side: it is safe to say the HTC One A9 is well included in the first smartphones to launch with the most recent Android Marshmallow operating system we have now, you can well build on the storage with microSD cards, its camera we will commend as it takes decent shots sporting a metal body.

On the bad: the price seems on a high side in comparison in specs as well as performance to midrange phones costing far less. Our effective resolution: HTC’s One A9 is fine for a midrange device, but for its intimidating high full retail price, you can surely afford much more efficient, generally more powerful overall phones.

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