HTC One A9 review: An awesome mid-range phone (in the US)

Specs at a glance: HTC One A9
Screen5-inch, 1080p AMOLED, Gorilla Glass 4
OSAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow
CPUSnapdragon 617, 64-bit octa-core Cortex A53: 4 cores @ 1.5GHz; 4 cores @ 1.2GHz
RAM2GB (3GB in 32GB storage model)
GPUQualcomm Adreno 405 GPU
Storage16GB or 32GB, plus micro SD expansion
Networking802.11 Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
PortsMicro USB, headphone jack
Camera12MP rear camera, 4MP HTC ultrapixel selfie camera
Size145.75mm length, 70.8mm width, 7.26mm depth
Network Bands2G: 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 perksQuick Charge 3.0 support, 24-bit DSP and DAC, RAW image support
Price$399 direct from (introductory period only; $400 thereafter) / £430

Oh, HTC: you got so very, very close with this one. In some ways, the HTC One A9 is an excellent mid-range phone. It sports a 5-inch screen, a size many—myself included—consider an ideal balance between screen size and practicality. It’s plenty fast, if not outrageously so, thanks to its Snapdragon 617 SoC and 2GB (or 3GB if you’re in the US) of memory, while its camera is capable of taking some great photos—it even has a micro SD card slot for cheap storage expansion. And yes, while there’s no question that the A9’s design is derivative of a certain fruit-based company’s leading smartphone, it is still a gorgeous thing to look at. Like all phones in the HTC One lineup, it’s well-built too.

But man, the battery life is a killer. After years of poor battery life on Android, I finally thought we were past the point of phones dying during your evening commute. There’s also the small matter of price. In the US, at $399 for an unlocked edition of the phone—complete with 32GB of storage, 3GB of RAM, an unlocked bootloader, less pre-installed software, six-months of free Google Play Music, and 12-months of HTC’s Uh Oh protection—the A9 and its classy, all-metal body is definitely worth a look, despite the poor battery life. However, at £430 ($660!) in the UK—that’s more than the faster M9, and just £30 less than an iPhone 6—for a 16GB version with 2GB of memory and none of the extra goodies, it’s unquestionably awful. Don’t buy this phone if you live in the UK.


The UK price is such a shame, because I do really like this thing. A lot of it is down to the design, and HTC’s build quality. The A9 is as close as you’re going to get to owning a phone with the looks of an iPhone—with similar colour choices, too: Carbon Grey and Deep Garnet (red) with black fascias, and Opal Silver (pictured) and Topaz Gold with white fascias—and the flexibility of Android. Side-by-side with Apple’s phone, the resemblance is uncanny, and as I put it through its paces during testing, lots of people said they thought I was using an iPhone until they caught a glimpse of the HTC logo. It even feels the same when you use it, thanks its smooth curved corners, and glass that tapers in at the edges. It weighs exactly the same as an iPhone 6S at 143g.

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