HTC introduces One A9 with Android Marshmallow and a tempting price tag
With the big iPhone, Nexus, and Windows 10 launches out of the way, the rest of October might have shaped up to be a bit of a snooze, smartphone-wise. At least, this isn’t always the most exciting time of the year for new hardware, as the looming holiday season pressures manufacturers to move existing handsets, and most of the big new launches hold back for the early year trade shows. But as if only to prove us wrong, this year we’ve got a few big launch events scheduled for the tail end of the month. Today we get those started with one that’s been teased for a few weeks now – and with rumors dating back a heck of a lot further. It’s time for HTC to introduce its fall hero phone, and today it does just that, welcoming the One A9 to its lineup.
Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room, and start right with the One A9’s design; nearly every early leak of the phone’s layout saw it drawing comparisons to the iPhone, some even accusing it of ripping off Apple’s look. HTC seems aware of such complaints and is quick to highlight the differences: it crafted the One A9’s antenna stripes to be thinner, simpler, and blend in better with the phone’s coloring than Apple’s design. HTC also draws attention to the A9’s symmetrical construction, with its camera along the handset’s center line.
Rather than an iPhone-inspired design, HTC points to the old Legend, as well as devices like the original One M7 and the Desire 816, as leading engineers to the look that ultimately became the One A9’s. That still may not be enough to convince some critics, but we’ll grant HTC that it’s used many of these design elements before.
The HTC One A9 offers a five-inch 1080p OLED display protected by Gorilla Glass 4. The phone’s powered by a Snapdragon 617, and we finally get an answer to our RAM question: there will indeed be both 3GB and 2GB versions of the One A9, with memory capacity tied to storage size. The US will get only a 3GB/32GB model, while HTC will also sell a 2GB/16GB in markets abroad. Both configurations will support microSD expansion.
We’re looking at a 13MP main camera with f/2.0 aperture and OIS – now upgraded to respond to motion in just one-eighth of a millisecond. Around front you’ll find a 4MP UltraPixel sensor. And while there’s no stereo BoomSound speakers, HTC does give the One A9 support for 24-bit output, automatically upsampling 16-bit recordings.
Fingerprint support returns, with HTC’s scanner again integrated with the phone’s home button.
While the phone will only pack a 2150mAh battery, HTC insists that users will still enjoy similar battery life to that offered by the One M9 with its 2840mAh cell. On the plus side, it supports new Quick Charge 3.0 high-speed charging, though you’ll need to pick up a compatible charger separately.
Just as promised, the HTC One A9 will arrive running Android 6.0 Marshmallow. And while Sense will be present, HTC is deemphasizing its role, simplifying the skinning while moving important features to independent apps.
All this adds up to a phone that HTC feels is worthy of the flagship label, and despite its more reserved specs in some areas, the manufacturer believes it can replace the One M9’s spot in the company’s lineup.
What about sales? HTC’s not wasting any time, opening One A9 pre-orders immediately. The unlocked handset will sell for just about $400, available in silver and gray (with garnet following later). Orders placed directly with HTC will come with Uh Oh protection, offering one free hardware replacement during the first year of ownership. Expect shipments to get underway next month.
As for carrier support, HTC has one version of the One A9 that will play nicely with AT&T and T-Mobile, and one built for Sprint. While there won’t be Verizon support directly from the carrier, HTC plans to deliver a software update that will allow previously-activated Verizon LTE SIMs to work with the AT&T/T-Mobile version of the phone – just don’t expect Verizon to help with that any. Carriers will be making their own statements regarding pricing, color options, and availability shortly.