HTC has ostensibly looked to take a mid-range route to recovery as it faces a shrinking smartphone business. The One A9 has thus been pitched as a relative of the One M9, being weaker but cheaper than the top-end handset was at launch.
That said, 'cheaper' is not the same as 'cheap', as the One A9 will launch with an RRP of £429.99, just £50 less than the Samsung Galaxy S6. We spent a few days with the One A9 to see whether this hefty price tag is justified.
The One A9's aesthetic similarities to the iPhone 6S are well documented, but familiarity doesn't necessarily breed contempt. This is still a classy looking handset with a strong, bend-resistant aluminium unibody and curved edges that make it a pleasure to hold.
Measuring 146x71x7.3mm and weighing 143g, the One A9 is also almost identically proportioned to the iPhone 6S. Again, this is no bad thing as HTC's effort is still wonderfully slim and light. Even so, it manages to squeeze in a microSD card slot as well as the standard microUSB port. It's hardly a wealth of connectivity options, but expandable storage is one thing the One A9 has over Apple's and Samsung's handsets.
Another boost for the One A9's premium credentials is the front-mounted fingerprint sensor. It's blazingly fast and, despite being quite small and thin, rarely requires more than one scan attempt per unlock. Also, while it didn't seem to work in our initial hands-on with the One A9, the sensor does indeed function as a secondary Home button, in addition to the digital Home, Back and Overview buttons that appear on-screen. Although it would have been even better if all three were physical, rather than infringing on screen space.
It may be lacking in originality, but the One A9 still boasts some top-notch design features. If we had to nit pick, we found that it can get toasty if used while charging, but that's a fairly common problem with smartphones.
The One A9 packs a 5in display at 1920x1080, or 441ppi. It's far from the largest screen around, but makes up for that with great sharpness and bright colours. 441ppi is pretty close to the 500+ppi offered by the best smartphones and phablets, and it can be difficult to perceive differences at such high densities anyway.
Other than some slightly dull whites, colour balance is spot on. Some displays that use the same AMOLED pixel-charging tech can create overly brilliant hues, but they appear vivid on the One A9 without looking sickly.
The Gorilla Glass 4 screen can prove reflective in most lighting, and indoor lighting gets particularly bothersome, but it does at least seem moderately resistant to fingerprints. We compared it with a Samsung Galaxy A5, and our thumbprints transferred much more fully onto the Galaxy A5's screen than they did onto the One A9's.
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