I know a lot of people who say that they love Apple’s iPhone hardware. They love the build quality and they love the way that they look, but they absolutely hate the software. They don’t like Apple’s “walled garden” and they hate how you can’t really customize the look and feel of iOS. For this reason, they choose to go with Android. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard someone say that they’d buy an iPhone if it came with Android. Well, now you can. Sort of. A few months ago, HTC released the HTC One A9, a mid-range Android phone that looks remarkably like the iPhone 6/6s. It caught my attention when it was first announced and now that I’m finally getting a chance to play with.
This version of the HTC One A9 I’m checking out is an unlocked 32GB unit with 3GB of RAM in Topaz Gold. It was provided by HTC for evaluation purposes and is being used with an at&t sim card.
It Looks So Much Like an iPhone 6/6s.
Despite what HTC wants you to believe, there’s no denying that the HTC One A9 bears a striking resemblance to the iPhone 6/6s. HTC says they came up with this design after years of evolution, which could be the case, but the general public isn’t going to know this. Instead they’re just going to see a phone that resembles one of the most popular phones in the market right now and make that comparison on their own. It’s unavoidable and honestly, not entirely a bad thing in my opinion.
Like the iPhone 6/6s, the HTC One A9 features an aluminum back that is curved at the edges and smooth all around. It even has those plastic antenna separators, though in HTC’s defense, they’ve had those on their phones for several years already. The rear is very clean on this unlocked version with only some tiny type at the bottom that is barely noticeable and the HTC logo etched in the middle. Like the iPhone 6/6s, the camera protrudes a bit past the body but is centered up top instead of off to the side.
The front of the HTC One A9 also looks similar to the iPhone 6/6s to the casual observer, but those who notice details will see he differences. The screen features curved edges much like the iPhone, making the edges very smooth . It doesn’t flow quite as smoothly into the metal edges like the iPhone 6/6s does however, but it’s close enough. Unlike previous HTC devices, the One A9 does not feature front facing speakers. Instead, the speaker has been moved to the bottom edge of the phone where the charging port and audio jack it. In its place up front now is large earpiece, camera, and fingerprint scanner that can also function as a home button.
On the right side of the HTC One A9 sits the volume button and just below that is the power button. The power button here is textured, which is a nice touch so you can tell the difference between the two. On the left side is the sim and microSD tray. The inclusion of the microSD tray is very welcomed here as it allows you to expand memory up to 2TB, something I wish the iPhone could do.
All of this makes for a rather clean and smooth looking phone that is very comfortable to hold and doesn’t cut into your palms like some of HTC’s previous designs. The only problem I have with the design is with the all aluminum back. Much like the iPhone 6/6s, it can easily slip out of your hands so if you aren’t running a case with it, be mindful of that. Last thing you want to do is drop it.
It Can Run With the Pack, But Won’t Win Any Races.
Some of you may be interested to know that the HTC One A9 actually runs Android Marshmallow 6.0 from the factory. Unless you’re running a Google Nexus devices, not many devices out there yet run Android OS 6.0. Not only that, as soon as you turn it on, you’ll be able to update it to OS 6.0.1. Not sure if this makes a difference much on speed, but the One A9 is pretty peppy for a device that doesn’t have the latest top of the line internals.
The HTC One A9 runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 and a Adreno 405 GPU. This particular version is has 3GB of RAM. Despite it not having flagship specs, swiping through the menus feels speedy and precise with no noticeable lag at all. Same goes for using many of the stock apps and popular social media apps.The only time it really struggles is if you’re playing a CPU intensive game, but if you’re only a casual gamer, it won’t affect you much.
While the phone has mid-range specs, the average user will be quite happy with the HTC One A9 in my opinion. It might not be a speed demon on paper, but it can keep up with day to day use just like the flagships.
Always Buy An Unlocked Phone.
A lot of my Android experiences thus far have been with carrier branded devices. That means that when they arrive to me, they are often filled with the carrier’s own branded apps and crapware. For example, with at&t, that usually includes as much as 10 at&t apps and then a handful of partner apps, none of which can be uninstalled. That’s not the kind of experience users coming from an iPhone want to have.
With an unlocked device free from carrier shenanigans, the HTC One A9 only comes with some stock HTC apps and Google’s own apps. There are no extra carrier apps or partner apps. That means you don’t have apps like Uber on your device unless you really want Uber on it. That’s refreshing and probably something most Android users aren’t accustomed too. While an unlocked device will cost you a bit more than a carrier locked device, you’ll be free to swap sims whenever you want, install and uninstall any app you want, and you’ll more than likely get an official update before the carrier devices do.
On a completely silly side of things, if you buy an unlocked device, you also get a much nicer looking box. I received another HTC phone a while back that was carrier locked to at&t and it came in a really ugly orange at&t box. A lot of the times, Android devices will come like this if you buy them from the carrier, but if you buy them unlocked, they usually come with the much nicer manufacturer packaging.
An Almost Stock Android Experience.
It wasn’t too long ago that device manufacturers would try to differentiate their devices by applying a heavily modified skin over vanilla Android. Some of the skins were very well done while other were not. Over the past couple years though, manufacturers have been dialing it back a bit to let more of vanilla Android shine and that’s exactly what’s happened here with the HTC One A9. While it still includes HTC’s well known Sense software, it doesn’t intrude as much a before.
If you’ve used vanilla Android, you can still tell where the bits and pieces of Sense are. Blinkfeed is there, though it can be disabled. The app tray scrolls up and down instead of side to side and also features a way to arrange icons in there into folders. The keyboard is also different. Yet none of that gets in the way at all and you’re left with a clean, almost stock experience which is refreshing compared to many of the past manufacturer skins I’ve seen in the past.
The Much Improved Camera
I’m actually not going to talk much about the camera right now as I haven’t had time to really shoot anything worthwhile. Instead, I’ll mention the rear camera is now a 13 MP unit with a f/2.0 lens. There’s also on board OIS with a dual-LED (dual tone) flash. The front facing cam utilizes HTC’s Ultrapixel technology with a 4 MP sensor and f/2.0 lens. On paper, this is much improved from HTC’s past camera specs, even on their flagship devices. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to shoot some sample images this weekend and get a post up on the quality of the photos soon.
While the HTC One A9 has much to like about it, it’s not exactly perfect. For starters, there will be some who complain about its mediocre specs. Casual users won’t really be affected by this, but power users will probably notice its weaker specs. The HTC One A9 has the makings of a flagship phone, if it had better internals.
Second, I’m not entirely sure why HTC got rid of front facing “Boomsound” speakers here in favor of a downward facing one. I’ve always loved the fact that HTC had front facing speakers and I know many others did too, so it was a bit of a shock to learn that the HTC One A9 doesn’t have them.
Lastly, I didn’t really mention this earlier, but the battery on the HTC One A9 is a 2150 mAh unit, which is larger than the current iPhone 6s, but smaller than the last gen Galaxy S6. With normal usage, you may get a full work day’s worth of usage, but don’t expect that if you play a lot of games. Anyways, most people have chargers at work or in their car now to offset the smaller battery, right?
The HTC One A9 is very interesting device. It’s a mix between mid-range and flagship and despite it not being a top tier smartphone, this is one of the best looking HTC phones I’ve seen in while. It’s true that many of the design elements here are an evolution of past designs, but there’s no denying that the HTC One A9 looks unmistakably like an iPhone 6/6s. No matter what HTC says, that comparison will be there.
With that said, if you love the design of the iPhone 6/6s but hate iOS and would prefer using Android instead, consider the HTC One A9. Like the title says, it’s got the looks of an iPhone but the brains of Android. It might not be the fastest thing out there right now, but for the average user who only uses social media apps, occasional photo editing apps, and plays a casual game here and there, the HTC One A9 just might be the perfect phone for you.
Lastly, if you have a choice, definitely pick up the unlocked version of the HTC One A9. You’ll be free of annoying carrier installed apps, crapware, and long delays with updates. The unlocked HTC One A9 gives you the freedom of being able to use it on any carrier domestically and internationally meaning no crazy roaming charges if you travel a lot.