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HTC One A9 review

Andy Vandervell



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Our Score:


User Score:


  • Rich and colourful screen
  • Fast fingerprint scanner
  • Runs latest Android


  • A blatant iPhone rip-off
  • Woeful battery life
  • Badly overpriced

Key Features

  • 5-inch, Full HD AMOLED screen
  • Snapdragon 617 processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • microSD
  • 13MP, f/2.0 camera with optical image stabilisation
  • 2,150mAh battery
  • Manufacturer: HTC
  • Review Price: £469.00

What is the HTC One A9?

Let's be fair, HTC didn't have the best year in 2015. It's HTC One M9 flagship was poor and things only went downhill from there. The One A9 didn't bring back any of that former glory. But 2016 has started off much better, with the brilliant HTC Vive headset and HTC 10 smartphone. Things are looking up for HTC.

But, back the One A9. It’s best described as a mid-range phone sporting a high-end design, with what on paper looks like an impressive camera. However, it was originally priced to compete with the likes of the Galaxy S6.

This isn't good news for HTC. The A9 is ludicrously overpriced, suffers poor battery life, and bizarrely, the version sold in the UK and Europe is hobbled with less memory and storage than its US counterpart. Oh, and it looks like an iPhone 6S – which is just downright funny.

(You can now get the HTC One A9 for £290 from Amazon, which is better than when it was first released but there are still better picks out there)

Related: HTC One M10 hands-on

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HTC One A9 – Design & Features

So, has HTC copied Apple – or, as HTC recently claimed, has Apple been copying HTC for years?

Well, there's no denying that how the One A9's black-glass front tapers into the curved, grey aluminium body is pure iPhone. Even the layout of ports and buttons references the iPhone.

You could argue that the two companies have reached the same point in an obvious design evolution – but I’m not convinced. Whether this is flattery or cynical opportunism on HTC's part, this is the closest to an iPhone I've seen Android phone get.

Related: Best Smartphones and Mobile Phones in 2015

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As imitations go, however, the One A9 is a fine example. It’s a beautifully made phone, and it’s only a shade taller and wider than the iPhone, so it can be used in one hand with reasonable comfort.

This makes the One A9 easy to handle – or at least it would be if it weren't so slippery. I've courted disaster several times, on one occasion only just catching the handset between my legs to avoid it smacking the ground. If there were a "Best Impression of a Bar of Soap" category in the upcoming TrustedReviews Awards, I'm certain that no-one would demand a recount.

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This is an exceptionally slim phone – too slender to accommodate HTC’s signature BoomSound speakers. Instead, the company has included a single, mono speaker on the bottom edge, which is way too easy to cover.

To HTC’s credit, however, it's still found space for a microSD slot – a handy addition now that Android M can treat microSD cards as native storage, enabling you to run apps from them.

The One A9 also features a fingerprint scanner, which is similar in shape and size to those found on Samsung’s phones. However, this one is a capacitive touch button rather than a mechanical one. It's largely reliable though, and incredibly fast – faster than even Touch ID on the iPhone 6S. That’s impressive.

Related: 10 Best Android Phones in 2015

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Not only is a fingerprint scanner more secure than a PIN or other locking mechanism, it means you'll be able to use Android Pay when it eventually launches. Finger scanners are this year's must-have feature, so it's great to see the One A9 include such a function.

HTC One A9 – Screen Quality

Speaking of great things, the A9's screen is... well it isn't quite great, but it is very good. Unusually for HTC, it's an AMOLED display. This means it produces rich, punchy colours and has outstanding contrast compared to an LCD. Blacks look truly black, something you'll enjoy most when watching videos.

Its 1080p resolution – which equates to 441 pixels per inch on this 5-inch display – isn't the sharpest around, but I didn't notice any jagged edges on text or icons. Samsung's phones, such as the S6 and Note 5, remain in a different class – but the A9 is no slouch.

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There are only a few issues holding it back. One is the brightness, which is good enough but not outstanding. I didn't have any problems using the screen outdoors – but then it's October, and I live in London, so the sun is a rare visitor.

The other is that whites can appear rather subdued and gloomy. The difference between the A9 and the iPhone 6S's dazzling whites is stark. Even the Nexus 5X looks better than the A9 in this respect. Nevertheless, it's a tolerable weakness.

HTC One A9 – Software & Performance

This is one of the first Android phones to ship with Android Marshmallow, which is great news. It’s one of the best Android updates ever released. Features such as Google Now on Tap and Doze, which significantly reduces battery drain on standby, are just two of the brilliant new additions.

HTC’s Sense UI skin is less impressive. I can’t think of a single feature it adds that I’d miss if I were using vanilla Android – or another mobile OS for that matter. The smart homescreen folder, which switches automatically to display apps based on your location, is ruined by the non-removable "Suggestions" folder that shows apps that HTC thinks you'd like.

BlinkFeed – which combines social and news feeds into one stream – is the one redeeming feature. But it’s hardly essential and, to my mind, much of the design in Sense UI is starting to look tired. The Google Now Launcher is the way to go here.

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On the plus side, it doesn’t impact performance unduly. The Snapdragon 617 processor isn’t the fastest by any measure, but the One A9 runs smoothly in general use. Plus, Sense UI tends to use shorter animations than vanilla Android, which often enhances the sense of speed.

However, the One A9 is rather underpowered considering it's more expensive SIM-free than the Galaxy S6, Nexus 5X, OnePlus 2 and numerous other phones. It scores only 3,097 in Geekbench 3, compared to 3,952 from the S6 (27% faster) and 3,543 from the Nexus 5X (14% faster). It’s worse still in the 3DMark Ice Storm gaming test, where the S6 is 174% faster.

This is reflected in some games. I loaded up Asphalt Overdrive – a graphically demanding racing game – and it was almost unplayable. The graphics looked great, but the frame rate was too slow to enjoy it. Games such as Sonic Dash played fine, but this isn’t a phone on which you'll be able to enjoy the most demanding titles.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Dead Words

October 20, 2015, 8:06 pm

No front facing speakers: Disappointing but not life-ending.
Is that a fingerprint scanner on the bottom of the phone? I hope so.
I'm also disappointed to see the HTC logo make a comeback on the bottom bezel but it's still better than the black bar.
I'm happy to hear about the apparent camera improvements and microSD card support. All-in-all this is an exciting phone from HTC.


October 21, 2015, 11:12 am

I like the 24bit audio support, I wish more manufactures made effort in this area. So much focus is put on displays but no one cares about sound!
As you mention you need good headphones to get the benefit of the quality. Also its not as simple as just supporting 24bit, there are other factors but if they are making the effort to improve sound quality then that's a good thing.
I wish it didn't look so much like an iphone though.


October 28, 2015, 9:55 am

5" screen.
For me that's somewhere between great and perfect.


October 29, 2015, 3:51 pm

I think that this is going to be HTC's last smartphone!


October 29, 2015, 5:13 pm

I don't know if things are quite that dire, but it hasn't been a good year for HTC. Something needs to change.


October 29, 2015, 8:10 pm

The design is looks dispicably like an iphone. With all these talented designers in the world i can never understand how these big companies cannot do something more creative.


October 29, 2015, 8:12 pm

Was this review written by an Apple fan boy? It's reads like an incredibly biased review. How can it be overpriced for example when the iPhone 6 is over £200 more?? How can he say the screen PPI isn't particularly sharp, when the PPI is better than the iPhone?

Pure Apple FanBoyism.

The reviews from other well known tech websites rate it very highly (though they criticise the low light performance of the camera and the price).

Dead Words

October 29, 2015, 8:47 pm

Oh gosh just be QUIET about the design! I'm so tired of hearing this constant debate between HTC and Apple fanboys about who's copying who. Does it look nice? Yeah it's a decent looking phone. Not the best but decent. Does it feel nice? Yes. Is it built nice? Definitely. Than who cares? Gosh get over yourself guys, it's a phone.


October 29, 2015, 10:07 pm

Fair enough, but it's kind of hard to totally ignore the fact as well. I don't especially care, either, and it's certainly not why this phone doesn't review well.


October 29, 2015, 10:17 pm

I said it's not the sharpest, but I didn't say it wasn't sharp enough. I think 1080p is fine on any phone and this phone has a good screen.

The reason it's overpriced, though, is because of other Android phones. When you can buy a Galaxy S6 for less SIM-free, it's a total no-brainer. The LG G4 is also less and it's a much better phone, too.

Dead Words

October 30, 2015, 11:33 am

I understand that. Disappointing battery life and expensive price, etc. But I believe phones should be reviewed by their design alone. Sure, compare and say "This design is great, but at this price you get designs like this, which are more aesthetically pleasing." But saying "This phone isn't as good because it looks a bit like a nicely designed phone that came out earlier" is just detrimental to the review.


October 30, 2015, 11:47 pm

I agree that it's expensive, but I don't think you're comparing like for like. The S6 cost ~ £700 when it was released ie it was the 'hot off the production line, just released' price. The A9 'just released' price might be £450, but that will no doubt drop over the coming months. Also not everyone wants a doubled sided glass phone (S6). Might look nice but you just know it's going crack as soon as you drop it. Give me an aluminium phone any day.

LG G4? Again, I don't think you're comparing like for like. It's a big old phone and not everyone wants something that size and thickness. The prices on these have been dropping like a stone since release, presumably because it hasn't been selling that well. The iPhone 6 form factor is ideal for most people (I own a G3 which is a bit too chunky for my liking). The Nexus 5X would have been a better comparison even if it's nowhere near as pretty.

The point remains though that you seem to have set out reviewing the phone with the intention of sticking the knife into it. How about reviewing it objectively, then point out the price/competitors and let the buyer decide? I for one, would love an 'Android iPhone' (though not necessarily at this price) as that iPhone 6 form factor is lovely to hold - something that Android manufacturers have struggled to replicate.


November 2, 2015, 1:21 pm

I don't hold any ill will to HTC and you're right that the LG and Samsung have dropped in price, but the point remains that if you wanted to buy a new phone a current prices then they would be the ones to buy.

I did also mention the Nexus 5X several times, though I agree it isn't as pretty. I'd add the Huawei P8 isn't a bad option, either, though its software is pretty horrible.

We'll certainly revisit the A9 if and when the price drops, which it surely will. If it were £350 it would be a solid 7 and maybe even an 8 at £300 SIM-free, though the battery life remains rather troublesome.


November 3, 2015, 12:03 pm

I don't think the overall score should take into account the price or at least it should have less of a weighting that currently appears to be the case. If price is one of the metrics, then the iPhone 6 Plus should have got a 1/10. Also it makes the reviews somewhat misleading as prices change all the time and gives the impression that low end but cheaper phones eg. Moto G are better than high end / more expensive ones eg. A9 (when they're not). Let the buyer decide what constitutes value for money.

Finally, "a blatant iPhone rip off" is not a con. Nobody cares whether one manufacturer copies another one or not. The key thing is how well it works. If we were getting precious about copying, Apple copied Xerox and a million other patents. Does make Apple a blatant rip off of everything else?


November 4, 2015, 11:09 pm

That's telling someone that their wife looks despicably like Claudia Schiffer.


January 6, 2016, 7:36 pm

Sorry for putting in a point, but you do, a lot of tech websites do have the knives out for certain manufacturers, HTC, Sony to name but two. When you review you show complete bias towards Apple, Samsung, LG, and now new kid on the block Huawei, & One Plus. You have to remember that you help some people in their purchase of a new phone, & these days they are expensive. You all cue behind one another to "slaver" praise on these certain manufacturers that you pander to. Then comes the suspicion, do these manufacturers pay you, or come bearing gifts. These are just my opinions, but I do feel that there are others like me from reading thousands of comments all over the internet. I'm just glad that I can make up my own mind.


January 9, 2016, 8:44 pm

Extremely well said, it seems there are people with common sense.


January 9, 2016, 8:46 pm

Couldn't have put it better, another person with common sense. Nice one.


January 29, 2016, 7:14 pm

What's funny is every single site says same on this phone and every one is attacked as Apple fan boys.
Do these muppets questioning these tech sites think they know better?
It's a blatant rip off, but the big thing is it's a massive let down.
Want an iPhone, get an iPhone.
Jobless but want to pretend, get this junk.

Semper Saratoga

May 13, 2016, 11:32 am

Yes you do brother..reading through your "review" clearly indicates your bias

Mer Anonuevo

May 20, 2016, 9:25 am

let me quote from a reliable source.

"Let's just get to the elephant in the room immediately: yes, the HTC One A9
bears a strong resemblance to the iPhone 6s. The flat metal back, thickness, unibody design, curved corners, antenna lines, protruding camera, and speaker grille at the bottom are all similar to design cues on Apple's flagship. However, the One A9 is larger than the 6s, has prominent HTC logos at the back and in front, and has its rear camera positioned at the centre instead of in the upper left corner.

It's also important to note that the some of these design elements such as the antenna lines, metallic unibody and curved corners were used by HTC long before the iPhone 6 and 6s launched. Additionally, the front is patently different from the iPhone and borrows cues from the HTC One M9+ (such as the fingerprint sensor). While there are certainly similarities, we are of the opinion that it is unfair to say that HTC has blatantly copied the iPhone, or designed the A9 with the sole intention of piggybacking on the success of Apple's design."

so seeing your "A blatant iPhone rip-off" under CONS made me quote this from a more reliable review to point out that you need to do your homework and research first before making your final review - to avoid future embarrassment on your part.

thank you.


September 6, 2016, 2:42 pm

HTC phones are now on sale only at AndroidSmartphoneDeals;com

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