HTC’s new flagship (in the US, at least) is here and it’s interesting. The One M9 from earlier this year was plagued by problems and a heating scandal and soon after, it all but disappeared from the public eye. HTC is hoping to salvage 2015 with their latest, the HTC One A9.
And in trying, it’s heading in a completely new direction. As if to highlight that specs don’t matter (or perhaps just to stay away from the 800 series of processors – getting burned once was enough?), the HTC One A9 has a 64 bit octa core Snapdragon 617 under the hood. Specs might not matter, but whichever way you look at it, the Snapdragon is strictly a mid range processor. HTC is joining the new fad that is packing in different amounts of RAM based on the model of the phone. Opt for the 16 GB model and you get 2 GB of RAM but the 32 GB model comes with 3 GB of RAM. The phone does include a micro SD card slot with support for up to 2 TB of add on memory. The USA is getting only the 32 GB model as far as we can see.
The front of the phone has a 5 inch 1080p display and this time, HTC has gone with a Super AMOLED display. The HTC One A9 also has a fingerprint scanner in the same place as the One M9+ and it is just as senseless. The positioning just looks odd. It doubles as a home button, except you can’t actually click it. All rather confusing, especially since Sense comes with a virtual navigation bar. I’d have preferred the fingerprint scanner to be on the back of the phone, like on the new Nexus phones. HTC has also dropped its trademark Boomsound speakers, presumably to shorten the phone.
The back of the phone has a new camera module. It’s a 13 MP shooter with Optical Image Stabilization. On the front, the phone has an UltraPixel camera, though this time it’s paired with a wide angle lens.
Let’s talk about design. Arguably, HTC brought the oomph factor to Android phones with the original One M7. It had a sleek metal build and felt sturdy and overall, great. The design statement carried over to the One M8 and One M9. The design hasn’t really been criticized as such, but with dwindling sales HTC is taking a new approach. Yes, the iPhones came with the new design after HTC but there’s no doubt that the One A9 bears more than a passing resemblance to the iPhone 6 family of devices. And HTC is cheekily acknowledging it.
HTC is also launching the phone with Android Marshmallow on board and is also scaling back on the skin. Sense isn’t the heaviest of the lot but actually lightening it will only help HTC. Let’s face it, skins aren’t really that great. HTC is also promising that the HTC One A9 will receive any Android update within 15 days of the Nexus phones receiving it. It’s a bold promise and let’s see if HTC can keep it.
The One A9 is being launched with an introductory pricing of $399. It’ll probably go up and reports from the UK suggest that the phone will be priced at around $650 for the 16 GB model. This is firmly flagship territory, despite the rather mid range specs of the phone.
And that’s the problem. The phone is a contradiction. It has few of the features people liked on HTC devices like Boomsound and the trademark design. In trying to make a device to pull the company up from the depths, HTC has created a device that will forever be seen as an iPhone clone running Android. I could have forgiven HTC if they’d at least priced it right. With phones like the OnePlus Two, Moto X Pure, Moto X Play and the Nexus 5X priced lower, the HTC One A9 has a hefty battle on its hands. It’s as if HTC is depending on its reputation and brand value to sell the phone, without realizing that the brand value is currently almost zero.
Will the phone sell? I don’t know. I haven’t tested the device yet but I’m definitely not looking at it as a possible upgrade to my aging Nexus 5.
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