If imitation is the best form of flattery then HTC is courting Apple in a big way. To call the One A9 an iPhone clone is stating the obvious. Save for a slightly larger footprint and centered camera lens, the device closely rivals its would-be nemisis even down to a comically tiny battery. Even the lauded doze feature – which sends your phone into a chomatose state after lenghty periods of neglect – baked into Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) couldn’t get this device’s 2 150 mAh battery to last a full day.
Now that the terrible is out of the way, let’s focus on the good. First off, this is the greatest camera HTC has ever used in a smartphone. It isn’t as good as the iPhone and doesn’t hold a candle to the Samsungs bobaas Galaxy Note 5, but it’s in the top 10 of smartphone cameras at the moment. The One A9 may lose the dual front-firing stereo speaker setup from the rest of the One product family, but the sound from the downward facing solo driver is loud and clear.
On screen duty is a great 5-inch AMOLED panel which can get pretty bright if you aren’t too phased by the effect it has on your rapidly depleting power cell and it retains the double-tap to wake functionality which HTC were first to our market with and which should be standard on any large screen (looking at you, Samsung).
It’s a great phone to handle and I could even get my fingers to touch while wrapping my hand around the rounded edges, but the all-aluminium back and glass front can get slippery when not gripped tightly.
My list of “bads” starts with the two start processes that you have to negotiate if starting from an off device. First you need to decrypt the phone which then grants you the privilege of actually booting up your device. This is a great idea for security reasons, but you’ll run the phone down often and then have to do the two-step with the boot process more times than is comfortable.
Then there’s the Snapdragon 617 silicon. While the chipset is more than capable of keeping the One A9 ticking over steadily, it does trip itself up and do some uncomfortable things like force quit apps unexpectedly. I don’t know if there are less hiccups on the 3 GB RAM version (32 GB internal storage), but the 16 GB internal storage review unit sports 2 GB of RAM and it doesn’t make for amazing multi-tasking.
I wanted to love this device. I wanted this review to be an ode to a great company that recaptured the magic of making great smartphones. In many cases this is a great phone that borrows, what is to me, class-leading design and adds thoughtful touches to what is already a brilliant Android build. But then it falls done by employing the fingerprint sensor as a home key while still retaining the software home button on the screen.
It feels rushed as a concept when evaluated among its peers, but this is a good departure for someone looking to break free of the herd and try something new. There’s also the price to consider, which is cheap for the premium materials.
R6 155, store.orange.com