It’s not much of a secret at this point thanks to a whole heap of leaks, but HTC has officially revealed the HTC One A9, a mid-range addition to its flagship HTC One Android phones. And yes, there’s no getting away from it, the A9 looks a lot like an iPhone 6. Whether that’s by coincidence or by design is up for debate—naturally, HTC says it’s the former. In either case, the A9 is most definitely a looker.
|Specs at a glance: HTC One A9|
|Screen||5-inch, 1080p AMOLED, Gorilla Glass 4|
|OS||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
|CPU||Snapdragon 617, 64-bit octa-core Cortex A53: 4 cores @ 1.5GHz; 4 cores @ 1.2GHz|
|RAM||2GB (3GB in 32GB storage model)|
|GPU||Qualcomm Adreno 405 GPU|
|Storage||16GB or 32GB, plus microSD expansion|
|Networking||802.11 Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)|
|Ports||Micro USB, headphone jack|
|Camera||12MP rear camera, 4MP HTC ultrapixel selfie camera|
|Size||145.75mm length, 70.8mm width, 7.26mm depth|
|Network Bands||2G: 850/900/1800/1900MHz, 3G: 850/900/AWS/1900/2100MHz, 4G (EMEA/Asia): FDD bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, TDD bands 38, 40, 41, 4G (USA): FDD bands 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 29|
|Other perks||Quick Charge 3.0 support, 24-bit DSP and DAC, RAW image support|
|Price||$399 direct from HTC.com, UK pricing TBC|
The unibody metal chassis of the A9 (the company has been churning out unibody chassis since the original HTC One M7) is just 7.26mm thick, and houses a bright, colourful 5-inch 1080p AMOLED display. It’s as reassuringly solid as anything in the “M” range, plus it’ll come in four colours: Carbon Grey and Deep Garnet (red) with black fascias, and Opal Silver and Topaz Gold with white fascias. The chassis does, however, feel different to other HTC phones. Gone is the gently curved back, replaced instead by a flat back along with rounded metal sides. The Gorilla Glass 4 front is gently curved at the edges, to blend it into the body.
HTC’s signature Boomsound speakers have also disappeared, replaced instead with a single speaker on the bottom of the phone. Their absence has resulted in a couple of additions. At the bottom of the phone is a fingerprint scanner (and non-clicky home button) that was insanely quick at reading my fingerprints in testing. There’s also a renewed focus on headphone audio. As someone who’s suffered at the hands of underpowered headphone jacks on phones before, this is most certainly a good thing.
While the HTC One M9 has a pretty beefy headphone output already, the A9 goes further, upping it to 1V. Armed with some quad-driver Ultimate Ears headphones—which tend to need a little juice behind them to sound good—the A9 did a brilliant job of driving them during my brief hands-on. I didn’t need to push the volume up anywhere near the maximum, something which often results in amplifier-distortion, in order to get a great sound. Other smartphone makers would do well to follow HTC’s lead. There’s also a 24-bit DSP on-board, which upscales audio to 24-bit, as well as 24-bit DAC.
Under the hood is a snappy 64-bit Snapdragon 617 octa-core processor, with four Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.5GHz, and another four clocked at 1.2GHz. That’s paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage in the standard configuration, while some territories will also be able to purchase another configuration with 3GB of memory and 32GB of storage. Either way, there’s thankfully still a micro SD card slot for storage expansion. Connectivity is handled by Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi across 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, as well as the usual array of LTE/4G bands (see specs table above), depending on territory.
The A9 doesn’t sport a 20MP sensor like the M9, instead opting for a 13MP sensor with sapphire glass cover lens. Megapixel counts aren’t a measure of quality of course, and HTC is hoping that an f/2.0 aperture, backside-illuminated sensor, and optical image stabilisation will result in some great snaps. I managed to take a few shots at the hands-on event, and the results seemed good, but I’d need more time with the finished camera and software in different lighting situations to make a proper call on its quality.
HTC is certainly confident about the camera, though. A “pro” mode will let budding photographers snap in RAW, and the A9 will also be the first HTC phone to let them edit those RAW photos directly on the device. There’s built-in hyperlapse recording too, as well as the ability to hyperlapse previously recorded videos. It’s not clear yet whether these new features will be making their way over to the more powerful M9 in a software update, although HTC did say that it was being discussed.
If there’s one thing that’s disappointing about the A9 it’s the 2150mAh battery, which is puny compared to the 2840mAh of the M9. Hopefully, the less powerful SoC will mean that battery life isn’t affected too much. HTC promises up to 12 hours of video playback, up to 60 hours of audio playback, up to 9 hours of WiFi browsing, and 16 hours of talktime. There’s also support for Quick Charge 2.0, and for Qualcomm’s just-announced Quick Charge 3.0.
The A9 comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, making it one of the first non-Nexus phones to sport the new version of Android. HTC’s Sense UI is still there, however.
The A9 be sold alongside the M9, rather than as a replacement for it, with HTC hinting that there may be more phones coming under the “A” banner at a later date. Notably, US users will be able to buy an “Unlocked Edition” of the handset for $399 (UK pricing TBC) that’s not only sim unlocked, but also bootloader unlocked. HTC is also saying that the unlocked A9 will come with less pre-installed software, six-months of free Google Play Music, and be protected by the company’s Uh Oh protection, where the company will replace the phone “no questions asked” during the first year of ownership if something goes wrong, even for broken screens and water damage.
Even better, HTC promises that the unlocked version will receive every Android software update within 15 days of when Google first pushes it to the Nexus line. That’s a bold promise, but hopefully one that the company can live up to.
Ars will have a full review up of the A9 soon, but even in our brief hands-on, it was clear the HTC One A9 is a well-built phone. That full-metal chassis is going to be a winner, especially as it comes in at only $20 more than a Nexus 5X.
This post originated on Ars Technica UK