At MWC 2015 earlier this year, both Samsung and HTC put their best foot forward. The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge were major overhauls, while the HTC One M9 sang the same old song for the third consecutive time, and had many loyalist upset.

With the HTC One A9, HTC attempts a Samsung like stunt and delivers something which is different from any other HTC phone and has a fresh agenda. Let’s elaborate as we continue with our first impressions.

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Key Specifications and Features

Model HTC One A9
Display 5-Inch, FHD AMOLED display with 441 ppi and Corning Gorilla Glass 4
Processor 1.5 GHz Snapdragon 617 Octa-core with Adreno 405 GPU
RAM 3GB
Internal Storage 32GB, expandable up to 2TB
Software Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Primary Camera 13MP, F/2.0 aperture, autofocus, OIS, dual tone LED flash
Secondary Camera 4MP Ultraprix, F/2.0 Aperture, Fixed focus, 1080p videos
Dimensions and weight 145.8 x 70.8 x 7.26 mm and 143 grams
Battery 2150mAh with Quick Charge 2.0
Others Micro USB, Dual SIM, 4G LTE, Fingerprint sensor
Price 29,990 INR (Updated on 8 Dec, 2015)


No Boomsound Speakers OR SLCD display

HTC ditching Dual Frontal Boomsound speakers is analogous to Samsung moving away from removable battery and MicroSD storage with S6. Boomsound speakers were primary selling points for HTC devices, and their sacrifice at alter of design, won’t go well with many, but we understand and accept this evolutionary measure.

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Boomsound speakers occupied a significant chunk of space below the display and had to be accompanied by that notorious black strip, and thus HTC trying to break monotony and associated staleness with something fresh and new is understandable. HTC Boomsound can still be experienced with headphones, along with Dolby surround quality

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Instead, a fingerprint sensor has been mounted below the display, which is a OnePlus 2 like capacitive track-pad, and we would have liked it better flanked by other navigation keys for those who prefer off-screen buttons. OnePlus X demonstrated how this can be accomplished subtly.

Another deviation is the use of AMOLED panel instead of SLCD display. HTC is known to make some of the very best LCD displays and the choice for AMOLED panel must have been because of battery constraints. AMOLED panels are slimmer and consume relatively less power. It is not a bad AMOLED panel, by any margin, but didn’t match the splendor of flagship LCD displays that we have seen from the Taiwanese giant. A Xiaomi Mi4i like Sunlight boost mode is also present, but we didn’t get to test it at the event.

iPhone like?

Truth be told, whenever I hear ‘XYZ phone’ looks like ‘iPhone 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,…’ I feel like being hit square in the head by a pointed dart. The phrase has been used so many times and is used so often, and in my opinion is fallacious 9 out of 10 times. But, yes, HTC One A9 feels dangerously close to an iPhone 6.

HTC wasn’t helping its case either by comparing One A9 to iPhone 6 in several slides at yesterday’s event. HTC wants it to be perceived more as an evolution of its M series, which isn’t entirely unreasonable.

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Having said that, HTC One A9 is a beautiful metal unibody phone which is ultra-compact and easily manageable, thanks to 5 Inch display size. The display comes with a 2.5D gorilla glass on top, subtly curved around the edges. Ridges on the power key.

Performance and Hardware

The HTC One A9 is powered by Snapdragon 617 octa-core chipset which should help HTC restrict it to a mid-range price (Midrange however is a vague term and HTC was tight-lipped about final pricing). There is 3GB RAM and ample 32GB internal storage along with provision for MicroSD card.

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Since it is an Android Marshmallow driven device, you can also add more use SD card as system storage, though we would advise against it for performance reasons. In our initial time with the device, it felt snappy and didn’t get warm, but we would like to thoroughly test it in our own space before reaching any conclusion.

A mere 2150 mAh battery sounds scanty for millennial smartphone needs and global reviews that have started popping up confirm the same. Battery optimizations can only help you so much. This could be a deal breaker for a many.

Software

This is the first Android 6.0 Marshmallow device, other than the Nexus phones themselves. To be the first, HTC has to closely co-ordinate with Google and race to the finish line. HTC also mentioned, that starting with One A9, HTC Sense will get closer to Google’s Android vision or stock Android.

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Material design was visible in notification and though it was the familiar sense skin, customization options have been trimmed down. HTC assures this will help with faster updates.

Camera

India event was at night and the demo-zone was set out-doors, so, yes we couldn’t test camera performance to the fullest. Even in low lighting, images that we clicked looked assuring on the AMOLED screen. Shutter speed and focus is fast too. Besides there is second gen OIS, RAW capture, and some software tools (hyper lapse video, one button enhancement, etc) to look forward to.

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The Ultra-pixel selfie camera has a wide angle lens and our initial testing tells us that tall claims HTC is making are likely to hold water. This shall surely make selfie lovers quite happy.

Expectations

HTC One A9 really tries to cram best possible user experience at the lowest possible price. How ‘Low’ this actually might be is still a mystery. HTC didn’t reveal the price and frankly that put us off a bit. If HTC manages to muster something under 30K, and if the battery is good enough for average joe, this could be a success. At the very least, HTC One A9 is an experiment that clarifies what direction HTC wants to evolve in and what we should expect from upcoming One M series flagship.

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