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HTC One A9 vs One M9: Has HTC got its mojo back?

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HTC One A9 vs HTC One M9: Previously known under the codename Aero, is the A9 the phone to help HTC gain ground on the competition? We take a look at the specs.

HTC has finally taken the wraps off its much leaked iPhone 6, wait no, it’s the HTC One A9 (not the Aero). Though you’d be hard pressed to find a visual difference between it and Apple’s flagship.

The aluminium handset might not be unique, but it’s certainly a different direction for the Taiwanese company. Can it turn around HTC’s fortune after a bad year? How does it stack up against the slightly disappointing HTC One M9? Let’s have a look and see.

Watch our HTC One A9 hands-on video

Related: HTC One M10

It looks a lot different, yet familiar

The most obvious difference between the two HTC phones is the overall look. While the HTC One M9 looked almost indistinguishable from its M8 and M7 brothers, the One A9 goes on a different design route.

We mentioned the similarity to the iPhone 6 and 6S earlier, but it’s really hard to miss. From the rounded corners and sides, to the protruding camera lens and the three colours options of grey, silver and gold. It’s clear to see where the inspiration for the A9 comes from.

Saying that, it’s nice to see HTC move on – for now at least – from the tired looking One M9 design.

Both phones are still constructed from metal, though the One M9’s curvy back has been ditched, it’s now flat.

There’s not a lot separating the two phones in terms of measurements. The One M9 comes in at 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6 mm, while the A9 measures 145.75 x 70.8 x 7.26mm. As you can see, HTC’s newest device is slightly wider and taller than the M9, but the lack of a curved back helps it stay slimmer.

The One A9 tips the scales at 143g, making it 14g lighter than the One M9.

There’s been a slight reduction in screen size

At 5.2-inches, the display on the One M9 is already one of the smallest boasted by an Android flagship. You can even say it’s on the compact side. The A9 reduces it even further, taking it to a 5-inch panel.

There’s been no reduction in resolution though, as both packs FHD 1080p displays. Both panels are also covered by Gorilla Glass 4, for that added hit of protection.

HTC One M9

Boomsound has been ditched, but there’s a fancy new fingerprint scanner

The HTC One M9 wasn’t a complete success – and that’s being generous – but it did have every other phone beat in one area thanks to those kick-ass front-facing speakers. Boomsound is great for not only YouTube videos, it pumps out noise that’s better than some cheap Bluetooth speakers, but it means you certainly won’t be missing your alarm in the morning.

Sadly, they’re M.I.A on the A9, which we assume is to save money as this is a much cheaper handset. It could also be to make room for the new fingerprint scanner, which sits below the display on the One A9.

Fingerprint scanners are becoming more and more common on Android phones and it’s nice to see the tech not exclusive to the pricey flagships.

Related: Android 6.0 Marshmallow features

HTC One M9

The One A9 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box

It might have only been out in the wild a matter of weeks, but HTC’s One A9 will be the first (aside from Nexus devices) phone that you can buy running Google’s latest and tastiest version of Android. Of course, it’ll be covered up by HTC’s Sense UI.

Unlike Lollipop, Marshmallow isn’t a wholesale change in the way Android operates, but it adds in some handy new features and some great tweaks. A couple of which are pretty relevant to the One A9.

The first is full support for fingerprint sensors, so you’ll be able to unlock apps with a scan of your digit. It works in a similar way to TouchID on the iPhone, so third-party apps can utilise the function too.

Next is a complete rethink of how Android uses microSD cards. Before, the internal and expandable storage were considered separate. Yes, you could transfer apps over, but you had to choose where each individual thing was stored on a case by case basis. In Marshmallow, microSD cards are counted towards the overall amount of storage – bung in a 64GB card on top of the base 16GB boasted by the One A9 and you’ll have over 70GB to play with.

This means we’re not going to complain about the onboard storage of the A9 – it’s 16GB, and there’s no other options. As a comparison, the One M8 had 32GB plus a microSD slot too.

Other Marshmallow features include Google Now on Tap and plenty of battery and privacy optimisations. There's some big additions all of which should improve the already slick operating system.

HTC has already announced Marshmallow will be coming to the One M9 later this year, so all these features will trickle down eventually.

Related: Android Marshmallow - When will your phone get it?

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We’re hoping the One A9 has a better camera

Even though HTC ditched the UltraPixel rear camera on the One M9, the 20MP sensor that replaced it was still a big disappointment. Autofocus is slow, oversaturation is common and the results just don't look very good.

That sensor has been ditched from the A9, replaced by a 13MP version complete with a nice wide f/2.0 aperture, optical image stabilisation to reduce blur and a sapphire glass covering to ensure it doesn’t get scratched up in your pocket.

HTC One M9

Video recording is capped at 1080p, as opposed to 4K on the One M9, but both boast a 4MP UltraPixel selfie camera on the front.

How good will the camera on the A9 be? We’ll have to wait and see.

Internally the One A9 is certainly more ‘mid-range’

At launch, the One M9 had a spec-list plucked right from the top-drawer. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor paired with 3GB RAM and an Adreno 430 GPU. It’s a speedy phone, but it struggles with overheating caused by the less than impressive 810 CPU.

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There shouldn’t be any similar issues with the A9, but it won’t be quite the performer.

Powering the One A9 is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 64-bit 617 CPU – that’s a slightly faster version of the 615 used in the Moto X Play – combined with 2GB RAM.

The Moto X Play has stellar performance – albeit with some minor hiccups – so we’ve got high expectations for the A9.

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Early verdict

Let’s get this out of the way first, the HTC One A9 is not a follow-up to the One M9. It’s certainly more mid-range, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting. In many ways, it has more about it than the M9.

The lower-specced processor isn’t as snappy on paper, but it should hopefully avoid any heat problems and it’s nice to see HTC release a phone with Marshmallow so quickly after release.

Will it turn HTC's fortune around? We'll have to wait and see.

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