I've always been a fan of what HTC has done: tried to make Android into a workable thing in a shell that doesn't look horrible.

The Desire, Hero, Legend, One S and then the 'proper' One line all have that heritage, and people shouldn't care who much this looks like an iPhone - more how well it works in the hand.

One A9

HTC's got very confused with how much the phone is and how powerful it should be, which is an indication of how little sway it has in the markets around the world - it's a shame that it needs to kowtow to the desires of retailers who dictate how this phone should sit on shop shelves, as it's actually a very decent smartphone.

We liked

Similarities aside, the design of the One A9 is the thing that marks it out so well. It's well made, uses strong materials to create an excellent build quality and offers a delightful look and feel in the hand.


If you want to be blunt about it, you could say it's the perfect phone for those that want the iPhone 6S look but prefer Android.

One A9

The camera is upgraded and takes decent stills when your work with the Pro mode to get the snap you want, and there are some cool other features on there to make it worth playing with. It's certainly a step up from the One M9, which is the key thing here as that camera simply didn't impress at all.

The audio capabilities are also strong and above expectations here - the amplifier that HTC has employed in the past has been upgraded to improve things sonically and it really shows, bringing an even further dimension to songs (and reiterating that it's a really sad thing that the Boomsound speakers aren't being used here).

Closer-to-native Android Marshmallow is also a great addition to the mix, and it's nice to see how well it improves things. I'm not a massive fan of stock Android, but it does allow you to customise it as you see fit. And being able to still use things like the HTC Calendar is nice, given then offer genuine upgrades over the stock Google one.

We disliked

Sigh. Battery life again isn't brilliant - and the stupid thing is it's a decent performance. It's just not a big enough power pack to be able to keep this phone going all day long despite the higher efficiency.

Make the phone slightly thicker HTC. It surely wouldn't hurt that much. At least it means that when the One M10 appears, Android Marshmallow and the battery optimisations will have helped to the point of being able to last more than a day. Hopefully.

While the design is good, there are still some loose elements in the phone that shudder when you tap the screen - not what you'd expect even for a slightly cheaper phone.


The decision to split the spec of the One A9 across the globe really irks as well. Europe and parts of Asia just aren't getting a phone that's good enough really, where the more powerful model seems to be a much better performer.

While we're here, the price is too high as well, especially in Europe where the lower-spec model costs more than the higher-spec variant in the US. Go figure.

One A9

I still feel like media could be handled better here too. Letting Google have its way with apps is fine if they're brilliant (like Google Mail) but the movie and music experience is still sub par, and HTC could still have made a much better model.

Early verdict

I'm still not entirely sure what this phone is all about. It's a well-crafted device that's almost a flagship in many ways, and yet goes in a completely different design direction to the M line-up.

Yes, it looks like an iPhone, and HTC should have done more to avoid that if cries that it's a mere coincidence are to be believed. That said, there are those that want the iFrame and Android together at last - this is that phone.

It's a good tag that the One A9 is one of the first non-Nexus phones to come with Android Marshmallow, but that's a title that won't last very long and soon other brands will come with better variants.

The size of the phone is one of it's big selling points though. Combined with a decent finish, this is a very tactile and usable handset, and the lower-spec chipset doesn't really harm it most of the time.

The key question here: does the HTC One A9 warrant the cost? It's hard to say yes beyond the polish the fact that paying more for a phone made by a top brand usually removes some of the worry about whether you're getting a good one.

The One A9 works well, but there are many, many other more powerful and better specified phones out there, with equal effort put into design.

HTC screamingly needs a win, but despite trying to go back to basics here it hasn't quite managed it in a way that's going to make the One A9 stand out on the shop shelves.

First reviewed October 2015