Before we even breakdown HTC’s newest flagship phone, it’s only right to address the elephant in the room. Yes: the HTC One A9 looks exactly like an iPhone 6/6s clone. Yet in hindsight, this is actually what is drawing people to the Android-operated smartphone. If we’ve learned anything from some of the brand’s previous devices, it’s that looks can be deceiving. And while the One M series remains a mobile engineering masterpiece, it’s performance (primarily on the camera end) left much to be desired. Now backed by Android 6.0, some updated features, and a flattering design—the latest powerhouse from HTC is poised for stardom, even if it means sharing the spotlight with its iOS equivalent.
HTC Sense has always been the best-looking, most reliable UI for Android. Anyone who thinks differently is in denial. Much of the same look remains intact here, though there are some meaningful upgrades found in the camera app, multitasking menu, and notification drawer. It’s also a sigh of relief knowing the company removed many of its unnecessary preinstalled apps and widgets, though we’re still learning to part ways with its Calendar widget. However, the transitions were made for the sake of material design and it’s a message that translates accordingly to the One A9’s design.
The inclusion of Google’s latest mobile operating system, Marshmallow, is an incredible marriage that focuses primarily on delivering the significant features of the OS. Many of the new functions such as Now on Tap and Android Pay are present, enhancing the user experience with instant accessibility to numerous commands be it discovering your favorite music or providing mobile payment at the local department store. In terms of battery life, Android 6.0’s Doze option will help the One A9’s relatively small battery last longer than expected, while the phone’s compatibility with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge technology welcomes rapid recharging for those equipped with a QC charger.
It took a while for HTC to finally admit that it’s UltraPixel camera was a complete bust. Finally acknowledging the backlash of its patented shooter, the company chose to run with a 13MP sensor residing behind an f/2.0 lens, even bringing back optical image stabilization to produce super-sharp images. Despite 4K video recording being MIA, the ability to shoot 1080p from both the rear and front camera is a plus. This obviously makes taking selfies more enticing.
The internals are on-point delivering better results than the Galaxy S6 and uniquely comparable to that of the iPhone 6 when capturing in-door footage. That’s an impressive feat even for a phone being dubbed an iPhone knockoff. Some of the other notable features on the camera are the quick toggles for HDR, flash, and front camera switching that can be found on the viewfinder, alongside the Raw photo editor to snap RAW shots in Pro Mode—something that should appeal to professional photogs.
Going back to its Droid Incredible roots, HTC decided to plaster an AMOLED screen onto the front of the One A9, its first in ages. The 5-inch, 1080p display does a great job producing high-quality visuals with crisp results. Mobile photogs and Instagram mongers also have the luxury of utilizing the screen’s sRGB mode, which adds more depth and detail to images. Videos look just as good with HD Netflix content running smooth.
The Getting Used To
Yes, we get it! The One A9 looks like an iPhone. Get over it! The irony is that it still looks great and sustains the premium feel of holding any current iPhone model in-hand. It’s thinner than the Galaxy S6 and is about half a millimeter thicker. The premium metal finish gives the phone a sharp look that doesn’t deviant from the brand’s design pedigree, in some ways paying homage to the franchise starter: the One X.
Smaller, Yet Effective Battery
A few compromises were made in order to accommodate many of the One A9’s special attributes: one of them being the battery. Underneath its slim profile is a 2,150mAh, which is a smaller capacity than most of the cells found in most current smartphones. Not exactly something HTC fans want to hear considering the brand’s less-than-stellar reputation for battery management. Still, the One A9 holds up surprisingly well, generating close to 8-10 hours during heavy engagement and 12 hours of HD video playback on moderate use. The better news is that a future update will enable QuickCharge 3.0 for faster charging speeds. We just wish HTC bundled the phone with a QC charger.
The Fingerprint Scanner
The technology isn’t anything new. Though it’s only been until now that we’ve encountered a good-working fingerprint scanner. Sure, the ones found on the iPhone and Galaxy S series do a decent job, but the One A9 falls in the same territory as the new Nexus phones. The readings are faster and deliver more accurate results, leading to a better Android Pay experience when shopping on the go.
Absent Trademark Features
The one feature that always resonated with us was the BoomSound Stereo speakers. In a surprising move, HTC chose to remove the popular front-end sound blasters in favor of hi-res audio and Dolby Surround Sound. Audiophiles will enjoy the built-in DAC that bumps 16-bit audio to 24-bit, therefore supporting the sound quality of elite headphones. Another interesting twist is the inclusion of a capacitive home button, though it’s only utilized for fingerprint scanning. Some of the design elements were also tweaked with the sexy curve of the One M9 gone and replaced with a flat back to support the phone’s smaller frame.
The HTC One A9 introduces a variety of fresh multimedia features, along with the latest Android software and some novelty functions, while masking it behind some of the iPhone’s physical properties. Though if you ask HTC, Apple’s been the one to copy their immaculate designs over the years. No matter what you choose to believe—HTC’s new hero phone is still an incredibly sexy handset designed to draw attention the moment you expose it in public. Just so happens to be high-performance stunner with some cool multimedia powers as well.