Apple’s iPhone is one of the best looking phones you can buy. But what do you do if you love the iPhone’s design, but also love Google’s Android? Well, you check out the HTC One A9.
The latest smartphone from the Taiwanese handset maker, the HTC One A9, which costs $399 unlocked, has an all-aluminum body with rounded edges and a machined finish. In other words, it looks like an iPhone.
But does the fact it can pass as an iPhone if you squint your eyes mean it’s as good as Apple’s handset? I spent a short time with HTC checking out the One A9, and it has promise.
Don’t call it an iPhone
So the One A9 looks like an iPhone, that much is clear. But don’t you dare say that to HTC. The company says that the design for its handset came from melding the look and feel of its two existing phones, the One M9 and the Desire 816.
But the average person doesn’t care why a phone looks a certain way, as long as it’s attractive. And the One A9 certainly is attractive. Its smooth glass-covered front panel and finished back feel wonderful, and HTC has machined the phone’s sides to help improve your grip on the handset.
HTC will sell the One A9 in dark gray, white, gold, and dark read, or as the company refers to them, carbon grey, opal silver, topaz gold, and deep garnet. Of the three, the deep garnet is easily the most appealing, mainly because it’s also the most unique.
In terms of size, the One A9 weighs 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.29 inches and weighs 5.04 ounces, which is a bit larger, but the same weight as the iPhone 6s, which measures 5.4 x 2.6 x 0.28 inches. That said, the One A9 does have a larger screen than the iPhone 6s, 5 inches to 4.7 inches.
Sweet, sweet Marshmallow
The HTC One A9 will be one of the first smartphones to launch with Google’s new Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system and all of its accompanying goodies.
We’re talking about things like Google’s Now on Tap, which uses Google Now to find and look up relevant information on whatever you happen to be viewing on your phone’s screen; and Doze, which determines when you aren’t using your phone and switches off some background processes to save battery life.
As with most smartphone makers, HTC puts its own skin, or theme, on top of Android 6.0, which includes changes to the look of icons and the inclusion of first-party apps. It’s essentially a way for companies that make Android smartphones to differentiate themselves from their competitors, and unfortunately it can bog down a handset and feel heavy handed.
Thankfully, HTC says it has actually cut back on how much it alters Google’s Android interface. I couldn’t tell how much the company scaled back on its changes, as I didn’t have much time to go through the phone’s operating system, but hopefully it means we’ll see fewer built-in third-party apps.
A beefed up camera
In recent years, HTC’s smartphones have struggled when it comes to camera quality. In fact, in my recent smartphone camera roundup, the HTC One M9 was the worst performer out of all of the current smartphones on the market. With the One A9, HTC went back to the drawing board.
The company scrapped the 20-megapixel camera found on its One M9 handset, and instead chose to go with a 13-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, which helps ensure your shots come out clear even if your phone shakes while you take them. Apple’s iPhone 6s comes with a 12-megapixel sensor, but doesn’t include optical image stabilization.
HTC says its new camera will capture better photos in low-light conditions, which is where the company’s previous handsets fell flat. I’ll have to spend more time with the One A9, however, to see if HTC actually delivers on its promise.
The One A9 comes equipped with an 8-core processor and 3GB of RAM. The processor HTC chose isn’t the most powerful on the market, but it should be plenty fast to handle almost anything you can throw at it. HTC says it will sell the One A9 with either 16GB or 32GB of built-in storage, though the handset will also include the ability to increase space up to 2GB via its microSD card slot.
The one area where the HTC One A9 is incredibly fast is its fingerprint recognition. The fingerprint reader, which is built into the phone’s home button, read my fingerprint and unlocked the phone almost instantly. Compared to the One A9, my Samsung Galaxy S6’s fingerprint reader felt like it took forever to read my print.
Uh Oh protection
Perhaps the most interesting thing about HTC’s new handset is that it comes with a 1-year replacement plan the company calls Uh Oh Protection. What that means is you can drop your phone, break the screen, submerge it in water, or generally just smash it and HTC will replace it for free.
HTC is a struggling company that needs its next handset to be an absolute hit. So far, the One A9 has the makings of a winner, but I’ll have to spend more time with it before I can say whether it can rival Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy S6.
From what I’ve seen, the phone has a lot of promise, but what it all comes down to is whether its camera is any good and, of course, how well it performs. Stay tuned for my full review in the near future.