Phones

HTC One A9: The One that stands out from the pack

HTC has taken a page from Apple's design manual with the HTC One A9. Gone are the previous ungainly designs, resulting in a sleek, polished device.
HTC has taken a page from Apple's design manual with the HTC One A9. Gone are the previous ungainly designs, resulting in a sleek, polished device.PHOTO: HTC

There was a time when HTC made some pretty incredible Android smartphones. Then, for some reason, the Taiwanese company veered off course and started adding novel features that did not quite take off.

So, while some companies started off with a flagship line that got better year after year, HTC's flagship One series regressed. Last year's model failed to impress.

The HTC One A9 might share the One branding, but this is not the One that failed to gain traction. HTC now seems to have junked the previous ungainly design and taken a page from Apple's design manual, because this shares plenty in common with Apple's iPhone models.

Aside from being flat, it has the rounded edges of the iPhone. Like the iPhone, its antennas stretch across the back.

The camera also projects from the rear panel.

The major difference is that the Home button is oval, not round.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $798

    PROCESSOR: Octa core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 (Quad core 1.5 GHz and quad core 1.2 GHz)

    DISPLAY: 5-inch Amoled, 1,080x 1,920 pixels (441 ppi pixel density)

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android OS, v6.0 (Marshmallow)

    CAMERA: (Rear) 13 MP, f/2.0, autofocus, OIS, dual-LED (dual tone) flash; (Front) 4 MP, f/2.0

    MEMORY: 32GB (microSD expandable up to 200GB), 3GB RAM

    BATTERY: 2,150 mAh

  • RATING

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    FEATURES: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

The volume controls sit on the right edge, with the SIM and microSD trays on the left.

Despite the sleek, iPhone-like design, however, this is not a flagship device. For one thing, it uses the slower Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor. The screen is full HD, and the 5-inch display makes this one of the smaller phones released in the market.

On the other hand, it does offer optical image stabilisation for the camera and an efficient fingerprint scanner.

Overall, it is a polished device, and the latest Android 6 operating system powering it performs admirably. I am not sure what HTC has planned for this device, or any future One branded phones, but this is the design and production language that HTC should have adopted two years ago.

Mediocre cameras have been among HTC's biggest drawbacks. This seems to have been remedied here, with a responsive 13MP shooter. It is great on close-up details. Even if the colours are a tad over- enhanced, this is the best camera HTC has delivered in recent years.

It uses some of the latest HTC camera software, including a Pro mode that shoots in RAW format.

The one thing holding this device back is pricing. Most phones using Qualcomm 600 series processors do not come with such a high price tag. HTC is not doing itself any favours by limiting access this way.

This model also comes when the annual Mobile World Congress is about to take place, along with the inevitable announcement of new smartphone devices.

So, in a matter of weeks, the One A9 will be overshadowed.

Sherwin Loh

•The HTC One A9 is a slick Android phone that is feature packed, but comes with a hefty price tag.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2016, with the headline 'The One that stands out from the pack'. Print Edition | Subscribe