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Spoiling Google's party!

October 26, 2015 13:52 IST

With the release of HTC One A9, the company has brought forward a phone which has the capability to spoil Google Nexus 5X's party at the least. In fact, HTC CEO went ahead and even declared that HTC One A9 is a 'a good alternative to the iPhone', says Himanshu Juneja

HTC One A9

It is a well known fact that whenever latest of the Nexus mobile phones are released, the buzz created around the event eclipses other similar events. This year was no different, and HTC smartly decided to hold back the release of its latest till Google was done hogging the limelight.

In the hindsight, this was a good move.

With HTC One A9, it seems that we have now an option which provides the aesthetics of the iPhone, while the handset runs on the Android OS. But along with striking features, the phone also brings some caveats.

Let us take a look at the pros and cons of the latest from HTC.

Build and display

HTC One A9

The HTC One A9 features an all metal unibody design. While this means that users lose the swappable battery option, the premium build quality in itself should appeal to many. The premium looking phone has already been making news for its uncanny resemblance with the iPhone 6s.

The 5-inch full HD (1080 x 1920p) AMOLED display should bring cheers to many, as it promises not only more vibrant colours, the 5-inch display also means the mobile phone will be easily operable with a single hand. HTC has provided Gorilla Glass 4 protection to the display. The ~441 pixel density sounds pretty good too.

Right below the display is the physical button, styled much like Samsung's, and not to be left behind, HTC incorporated a finger print scanner in there as well. However, we think that the HTC logo on the front could have been removed to allow for better aesthetics.

HTC has included a Hi-Fi DAC, along with 24 bit digital signal processor for upscaling sound effects. A dedicated headphone amp, and Dolby Audio being onboard as well, the headphone output should compensate somewhat for the missing BoomSound system which caused much chagrin.

Hardware

The past two years have been harsh on HTC, and seems like it is trying its best to gain back some of the lost ground. As a result, the One A9 seems to be primarily targeted towards the budget conscious buyers, while providing a premium built. Something which has been severely lacking from the Android sphere.

Powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset, the handset boasts of a mid-range Octa Core set up, and has Adreno 405 GPU for company. According to HTC, there will be two variations of the phone, one carrying 32 GB of storage space and 3 GB of RAM, whereas the other model will be of 16 GB storage space and will come with 2 GB of RAM.

Thankfully, HTC has provided microSD card slot for both the models, with support for memory cards upto 2 TB. As for connectivity options, the phone supports 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (ver 4.1). There is AGPS and GLONASS as well for GPS assistance.

Camera and battery

HTC One A9

After burning its hands with the ultrapixel camera, HTC is playing safe with the One A9. The rear camera is a 13 MP unit with dual LED and front side carries a 4 MP UltraPixel camera.

To spice things up properly, HTC decided to provide Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS). This massively boosts the resume as OIS is not available on many higher end models as well. The missing option of 4K video capture did disappoint though. The One A9 captures 1080p videos.

The phone derives its juice from a non-removable 2150 mAh battery. This is one area which raises the red flag instantly as the trend definitely makes one to expect a more beefier battery pack. Much will depend upon how efficiently the HTC One A9 has been optimised.

HTC already has tried to alleviate the concerns by providing Quick Charge 2.0 feature, and making the handset compatible with the upcoming Quick Charge 3.0 as well.

OS update guarantee and protection plan

With the launch of the One A9, HTC also realises that there is no scope for being complacent vis a vis OS updates and invite the ire of the customers any further. As a result, Jason Mackenzie (HTC America President) promised that the phone will receive every Android OS update within 15 days of Nexus range getting theirs. This is a big commitment, and puts company's reputation at stake, but raises the profile of the handset as well.

As a cherry on top, HTC also is providing an 'Uh-Oh' protection plan, under which the customers are eligible to get free phone replacement in the case of a cracked screen, or a carrier switch within the first twelve months from the date of purchase. This includes the case of water damage as well.

Like USA, few markets may also witness six months of Google Play Music subscription (worth $50) bundled too.

Pricing and taking on the Nexus 5X

HTC One A9

It is not hard to see that HTC One A9 will be locking horns with the Google Nexus 5X owing to similarities and price bracket. The One A9 will be one of the first phones to come with Android Marshmallow right out of the box.

Even though Nexus 5X trumps One A9 in terms of raw processing prowess, carrying only 2 GB RAM, no OIS or microSD card slot, inferior built quality, only Gorilla Glass 3 protection and no bundled freebies certainly allows HTC One A9 to gain a lot of ground. Only the inability of HTC One A9 to shoot 4K video brings Google phone some respite again.

Add to all this, HTC's impressive headphone output will most certainly beat Nexus 5X there as well.

Coming to the all important pricing, HTC should play it smart after doing the homework. By offering the 32 GB/3 GB RAM model for a pre-order price of $400, HTC has kept the pricing a full $100 cheaper and this is an encouraging sign. Similar pricing across other markets should ensure a windfall for the One A9 in the upcoming days.

The handset will go on sale in November and will be available in carbon grey, opal silver, deep garnet and topaz gold colour options.

Early verdict

HTC One A9

The concerns due to a smaller battery, missing BoomSound speakers, and a milder version of the much loved HTC Sense are well founded. That the 615 chipset hogged battery life is well known, and till a proper review confirms the efficiency of the improved Snapdragon 617 chipset, the concerns will remain.

However, the HTC One A9 surely is an exciting news in the world of mobile phones. A phone with mid-range specifications while carrying a premium built was sorely missing option since long, but it is finally here. Users who don't chase top end specifications, don't bother blaring the phone speakers and place equal importance on a good built surely should take a look at the HTC's latest.

HTC One A9 comes across as a well rounded phone and with a camera which promises good results, it becomes hard to ignore this package. Stay tuned for a thorough review.

Himanshu Juneja