We have been talking about the HTC One A9 for quite some time, so it’s only fitting that we finally got our hands on it for its first impressions and eventual review. HTC was talking this device up a good amount after the HTC One M9’s sales were less than stellar. We found in our review that it was just like the HTC One M8, just slightly updated. The next device was expected to make up for all of the blunders that came with the One M9, such as the overheating, software issues, and sub-par camera.
I didn’t know what to expect from the One A9, but my expectations were high, especially since they were claiming it was going to be their “hero” device. I immediately thought of the initial renders leaked by @evleaks; if the A9 looked anything like that, I’ll buy it right away. Coming up to the October 20th announcement, there were a multitude of leaks. The picture was painted well-before the device was officially announced. It turns out the HTC One A9 looks like, well, an iPhone. That isn’t a terrible thing, I actually don’t mind the iPhone designs, it’s just an interesting choice coming from HTC, someone who pioneered premium design.
HTC’s design is always something that I’ve been a fan of. The M7 was one of the first devices to come with a metal unibody design and other manufacturers are starting (or have started) to follow. Jack Tong, a company executive at HTC had the following to say (via MacRumors):
“We’re not copying. We made a uni-body metal-clad phone in 2013. It’s Apple that copies us in terms of the antenna design on the back, the A9 is made thinner and more lightweight than our previous metal-clad phones. This is a change and evolution, and we’re not copying”
They have a very valid point, but it still is very, very similar. As Jack said though, they’ve had the antenna design on the back for a while, so a natural evolution from the M7, M8, and M9, is to go thinner. When they went thinner, well you get the point… On to the actual impressions.
When I opened my package from FedEx, you are greeted by a box that we’ve seen in the past from HTC. It is just a rounded square (like the M9’s camera), with the text HTC One A9. There isn’t too much weight to the box, as all it contains are the phone, charger, and charging cable (microUSB). The inside of the box has the same vibe. You are greeted with the device, and that is it. No “Uh Oh” protection logo to the right of the device, just blank white space.
Taking the device out of the box, I was surprised how light it was. Maybe that’s because I’ve been using my Huawei Nexus 6P, but it is still very light. The A9 is only 143 grams compared to 160 grams of the M8 and 157 grams of the M9. It is a really compact package and feels very good in the hands.
If you’ve held an iPhone before, this is similar, but I prefer the HTC One A9 more. The edges are less rounded so they are very easy to get a firm grip. It is pretty slippery, just like its predecessors, but even more so. The finish is very smooth, but don’t worry; the device is small enough to grab comfortable without the worry of dropping it. If it was a larger device, like a 5.5 inch display, it would be a concern, but not on this.
The fingerprint on the One A9 is located right on the front of the device, and can actually double as a home button. Setting it up was easy as usual, but it took a lot longer to setup than Nexus Imprint. The sensor size is much smaller, so it needs to get the whole print. I’d say it took an overall 10-12 taps to complete the setup.
First takes: It reads my fingerprint nearly every time, very accurate. Unlocks the device very quickly.
One of the most intriguing things about the HTC One A9 is how they guarantee software updates to the unlocked United States model in at least 15 days from Nexus devices. That is quite the guarantee, but this is a much different HTC Sense.
It is running what HTC calls Sense 7.0_g, which stands for Google. With Sense 7.0_g, HTC worked very close with Google to minimize the impact Sense has on the operating system. It still has Sense’s feel, but it has more of Google’s influence than Sense found on previous HTC devices. We’ll see if the updates do happen within 15 days of Nexus devices, but so far so good.
First takes: It is very smooth and feels like stock Android with a couple of quirks. I am using the Google Now Launcher for the time-being, and it feels like a Google Play Edition almost.
One of HTC’s long standing strong points has always been sound. They pioneered dual front-facing speakers much like they did the metal unibody. While more and more phones are adding front-facing speakers, like Nexus devices, HTC didn’t include them on the One A9. Instead we get a single bottom facing speaker.
The speaker isn’t bad, it’s quite good actually. The issue is the placement. I seem to always place my pinky finger over the speaker to prop the device up in my hand, so it muffles the sound. It would have been a better design if they placed the speaker to the right instead of the left, but I’m right handed… so it would probably work out better for lefties.
The headphone jack provides ample sound quality, as expected from HTC. Their BoomSound adds fullness and depth to music (I listen to metal), but it isn’t really necessary, you could just create your own equalizer.
First takes: It performs like HTC’s previous models, just not as loud and in a smaller package.
Some other things I’d like to include is about cell reception. I am using this device on T-Mobile, and I seem to get a little less service every where I go. Where I would have full strength on my Nexus 6P or Note 5, I have one to two bars less on the A9. Now, that could be due to the fact that Band 12 is disabled. It does have VoLTE though, so that update could be coming in the future.
Battery life has been decent, somewhere in the area of my results with the Galaxy S6 edge. It does better than you’d think for only having 2,150 mAh battery. I’ve been averaging somewhere between 3-4.5% drain per hour. Yesterday was my first day with the device and I managed 2 1/2 hours of screen on time starting at around 80%.
So far the camera has performed better than I expected. I think the 13 megapixel rear-facing camera is better than the 21 megapixel camera found on the One M9. It could be a better overall camera, better image processing, or a combination of both. The front-facing 4 UltraPixel camera performs as expected and is great in low-light.
Lastly, the display is the best I’ve seen from HTC. They made the move from LCD to AMOLED and I am very happy about that. The display is very crisp and colors replicate very well and it isn’t too saturated as seen on other devices. Plus, I’m sure the AMOLED display helps out with battery, every little bit counts, right?
That’s it for now. I’ve only had the device up and running for just over a day, but I like it so far. I knew coming into this battery life wouldn’t be its highlight, but it is a solid device so far. I am excited for the future update to enable Qualcomm’s Quick-charge 3.0, it will definitely help things out. If you have any questions about the HTC One A9, feel free to ask them below. I should have the review up within a week.