A powerful mid-tier smartphone, for the wrong price.
AT A GLANCE
Display 5-inch 1,920 x 1,080 pixels IPS
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 octa-core
Dimensions 45.75 x 70.8 x 7.26mm
Price $798 (32GB)
HTC One A9
The HTC One A9 looks and feels promising for a mid-tier device; it rides on the reputation built around the flagship HTC One M series that helped define Android smartphones back in its time. Physically, the One A9 is quite blatant in adopting the iPhone 6design language. The rounded corners, the flat metallic rear cover with curving edges and that fingerprint sensor at the bottom bunk are all elements that resemble Apple’s device.
Still, we’re glad HTC kept the full-metal rear chassis. Adding to its use of premium materials, HTC uses a ‘metalmorphics’ approach to evoke a natural look and feel to the phone’s finish. Its 5-inch size makes it a very comfortable fit in hand, since you get a display large enough for small on-screen text, yet small enough to fit in one hand. Wielding the One A9 feels like holding a good knife – powerful, sleek and balanced.
The 5-inch, Full HD display (1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution) gives it a pixel density of 441ppi. It has a warm color temperature profile, which feels easy on the eyes even at higher screen brightness settings. Text displayed on the phone via text-based apps like social media and browsers are clear and sharp too.
It comes preinstalled with Android 6.0 OS Marshmallow out of the box,
and it’s one of the first few phones to do so after the official Nexus
devices. On top of that, the One A9 comes with HTC Sense 7 out of the
box - the same version seen on the One M9. We choose to look at it as a
positive that HTC loads all the software bells and whistles as their
flagship devices. It has the same Sense Home display, BlinkFeed screen
for social media, and HTC Themes for skinning your phone with.
Functionality-wise, the Fingerprint Sensor is more of a panel that’s
touch-sensitive, instead of the clickable home button like on the iPhone. It doubles as a screen wake-up button and a shortcut to the home screen though.
You’ll notice that the One A9 features an octa-core Snapdragon 617 - that’s a new Qualcomm mid-tierprocessor that was announced in the second half of 2015 that succeeds the Snapdragon 615. The 617 comes packed with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, although it’s crucial to note that the HTC says that the One A9 will only support Quick Charge 3.0 “in the coming months”. While its benchmark score is impressive enough to beat even the One M9 in some areas, the One A9 runs at the fluidity that’s closer to mid-range quality.
The front camera on the One A9 uses HTC’s proprietary UltraPixel camera, while the rear camera has 13-megapixels, an f/2.0 aperture lens that comes with a sapphire cover, plus optical image stabilization. Despite its mid-range tier, the One A9 won’t shortchange you in camera features. Beyond your typical Selfie, Panorama, and Default capturing options, the phone also has a manual mode called Pro that also enables RAW capture. Photos taken appear fine when viewed through the smartphone, but upon closer inspection, it shows how the camera can lack attention to detail.
The One A9 has a battery capacity of 2,150mAh, with support for Quick Charge 2.0 at present (with compatibility for Quick Charge 3.0 in the future as mentioned previously). HTC also claims that the battery can give a 3G talk-time of up to 16 hours. That said, the resulting 7 hour 20 minute battery life derived from our test showed that HTC hasn’t really addressed how power-hungry their phones can be. Against the rest of the Snapdragon 615 smartphones, the One A9 sits somewhere in the middle of the chart. To us, it feels like there’s no real battery advantage to bee seen yet from its supposed newer hardware.
As a whole, the smartphone is a good enough mid-tier device. Due diligence was paid to ensure that it has good performance, despite only minor gains over other mid-range smartphones with older hardware. Its greatest fl aw is still the mediocre battery life, but the same can be said for other mid-range phones with similar battery capacity sizes. The HTC One A9 also has a very high asking price among mid-range phones of the same caliber, making it tough choice to go for, especially when you’re already going for a mainstream device.