HTC’s new flagship, the One A9, is here and we recently had a chance to check it out in person. In the U.S., the One A9 will replace the One M9 as the flagship smartphone sold by HTC. It has some big shoes to fill. The One M9 was beautifully built and featured some of the latest flagship hardware when it launched, but it also fell short in a lot of areas, specifically with the camera.
The One A9 might look like other phones on the market — the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s to be more specific — but we do need to remember that HTC was first to the market with the exposed antenna bands on the One M7. As for the rounded edges and speaker grill on the bottom that replaces BoomSound speakers? Well, we agree, those features do make it look more akin to a phone shipped from Cupertino. But it’s not an iPhone, so let’s get past that.
Under the hood you’re looking at mostly mid-range hardware, but it’s at least very new hardware. The Snapdragon 617 chip is one of Qualcomm’s freshest processors. Paired with 3GB of RAM, the CPU was able to hand up to most of our tasks while we played with the phone, but we’ll need to see how it holds up with more intensive tasks, like gaming, in our review.
HTC said it went to great lengths to improve the camera experience. It ditched the 20.7MP Toshiba camera module on the One M9 for a 13MP Sony sensor on the One A9, and it hopes it’ll make a big difference. It also cut one beloved feature. As we noted above, the BoomSound speakers gone. That’s kind of a bummer, since HTC has built that into a recognizable staple of its smartphones over the past several years.
Android 6.0 Marshmallow is preloaded, making it one of the first smartphones to launch with Google’s new operating system. You’ll get native support for the new fingerprint reader, which worked really well in our initial tests, and support for Marshmallow Flex Storage, which treats a microSD card as internal storage. Sense is also still here, though HTC says it’s trying to cut back as much of the extra bloatware as possible. The “duplicate apps” are kept for a purpose. HTC’s gallery app remains because it supports RAW images, for example.
Finally, let’s talk briefly about NFC. The One A9 supports NFC in the United States and in other regions where Android Pay is available, but it’s only for Android Pay. NFC doesn’t have access to read/write to the phone’s storage, which means you can’t use it to initiate a file transfer.
We’ll be taking a deeper dive into the One A9 over the next week or so as we proceed with our review. Check out our gallery below and video to get a closer look.