HTC One A9 Review (In-Depth): We review HTC’s latest 5-inch phone, the One A9, in full, checking out the responsive fingerprint sensor, all-new 13-megapixel camera and an iPhone-esque design.
One of the problems with the HTC One M9 was its deja-vu quality, with the same (admittedly attractive) design as the previous year’s One M8 and 2013’s One M7. Thankfully HTC seemed to pay attention to its critics, with the One A9 sporting an all-new curvy appeal that’s dramatically different.
Of course, it’s hard not to immediately think ‘iPhone 6’ when you clutch the One A9, with the same funky rounded corners and edges, same sticky-out camera lens and those dual bands across the back.
I really like the design of the One A9 and the 143g chassis feels great, with that narrow build contributing to a comfortable grip and effortless one-handed use over extended periods. You’ll still struggle to reach the very top area of the screen with your thumb, but it’s nothing a little grip adjustment can’t solve. The only real drawback is the thick bezels below and above the screen, but it doesn’t ruin the overall aesthetics.
Screen and media
The One A9’s 5-inch screen is a Full HD panel and it’s perfectly crisp for enjoying high-def media, not to mention just the right level of vibrant. Colours aren’t as supremely punchy as they are on the Galaxy S6, but they’re still pleasingly rich. Tilt the screen and they don’t fade either, thanks to the comfortably wide viewing angles, while the powerful maximum brightness makes the display easy to read outdoors.
Compared with other flagship phone displays, the One A9 screen holds up well. Images are just as sharp as those on the Xperia Z5, with a warmer palette – greens and blues in particular stand out. The all-round excellent viewing experience means that HD movies look fantastic, although sadly they don’t sound quite as impressive.
That’s because one of HTC’s biggest trademark features, those stereo BoomSound speakers, aren’t present here. Instead you get a single speaker mounted on the bottom of the phone, which is a lot weaker than the One M9’s dual efforts that pointed at your face. The One A9 is still perfectly fine for listening to YouTube clips while lounging on your sofa, but for movies and music we’d recommend using earphones instead.
Don’t worry if you’ve got a huge media collection though, because the 32GB of built-in storage space can be expanded up to a whopping and slightly mental 2TB via the pin drawer microSD slot. Of course, good luck finding an actual 2TB card right now, but the One A9 is certainly future-proofed.
Switch the One A9 on and you’ll happily discover Android Marshmallow is pre-installed, although HTC’s Sense overlay means it looks very similar to the earlier versions of Android found on the One M8 and One M9.
HTC’s Blinkfeed widget is once again in place, providing a quick update from your social media, news feeds and so on. As usual you can also customise your desktops based on your location, so you have different apps available if you’re at home, stuck in the office or on the move.
One of the best features of the One A9 is the integrated fingerprint sensor, housed beneath the screen just like the iPhone and Galaxy S6’s sensors. Simply touch your chosen digit to the scanner when the phone is hibernating and you’ll be whisked straight into your desktops in under a second. Accuracy levels are impressive; the only time the scanner ever fails for me is when my thumb is oily, an unfortunate side-effect of cooking and trying to check messages at the same time.
Performance and battery life
HTC has stashed a Snapdragon 617 processor inside the One A9, and this 64-bit chip provides smooth performance for the most part. You can breeze through your desktops with zero stutter or lag and only very occasionally will the phone pause for a time when you’re trying to open an app. The latest games also run smoothly, including fast-paced action titles.
Sadly battery life is a bit of a sore point. The One A9 will barely make it through a full 24 hours, even with quite modest use. You’ll definitely have to charge up the 2150mAh battery every night, and if you want to stream media or play games then we recommend carrying a power pack just to be on the safe side. Our non-stop video streaming test gave just five hours of life from a full charge, which is just below average for a modern phone.
HTC has stuck a fresh new 13-megapixel camera on the rear of the One A9 which juts slightly from the surface. At first play it seems to be a strong snapper, quickly locking onto your chosen subject and taking a shot as soon as you tap the shutter button – no hanging around involved and you can shoot lots of photos back-to-back by rapidly tapping.
You get the usual HDR mode and optical image stabilisation for your 1080p movies, plus a HyperLapse and Slow Motion mode. But more interesting is the Pro mode, which can capture RAW images with full control over white balance, ISO levels and more.
Check out our thoughts on the HTC One A9 camera in our A9 camera review
The One A9 has plenty of appealing features including a very impressive fingerprint sensor, that vibrant, gorgeous screen and attractive iPhone-apeing design. Sadly it’s not all rainbows and glitter, with a camera that’s beaten by rivals and battery life that barely lasts the day. For £100 less we’d be tempted, but there are better phones available at this price point.