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Hands-on with the HTC One A9: An Android in iPhone clothing

Florence Ion | Oct. 21, 2015
Make no mistake: this is an Android phone, through and through. Down to its unnecessary interface overhaul and a misplaced fingerprint reader.

No company should ever have to convince anyone that it’s not copying a competitor. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what HTC spent about half an hour doing during my meeting to see the new One A9.

The One A9 is supposed to be the design convergence of the flat-stack Desire 816 and the three-year-old One M7, though the end result is decidedly iPhone 6-like. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; designers tend to draw inspiration from others, and whether Apple was inspired by HTC or it was the other way around, the One A9 is a phone made to match the design aesthetic that’s permeated throughout the smartphone industry.

Anyway, this idea that HTC “copied” Apple’s smartphone seems like a distraction from the real issues. HTC should spend less time trying to convince us it did not make an iPhone clone (which only convinces us that they did), and more time explaining what it is about this particular device that makes it worth choosing over the latest crop of Android smartphones.

Yes, it looks like the iPhone 6 / 6s

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Yep. Looks like an iPhone. Credit: Florence Ion

HTC has still got its smartphone design mojo and I’m glad to see it isn’t putting that on the back burner despite its financial woes. Whether or not you think it looks like Apple’s iPhone, the One A9 is seriously impressive in person. It’s got curved edges, brushed aluminum metal, and a raised-glass covering on top of the display, which helps give the phone a high-end polish. I’m actually disappointed this wasn’t the phone HTC launched earlier in the year at Mobile World Congress—its design is more impressive than the One M9.

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The One A9 is nice and thin with both the nanoSIM and MicroSD cards on the left side. Credit: Florence Ion

The One A9 has a 5-inch Full HD display and it’s about the size and weight of the Galaxy S6 Edge. It’s smaller than many of the Android phones you’re used to, but I like that HTC stuck to this particular size. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. There’s also Dolby-enhanced stereo speakers with a dedicated amp onboard, so you can use the A9 to annoy your fellow passengers on the train ride home—not that I’ve ever done that. And there’s an NFC chip inside, so you can use Android Pay.

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The power button on the One A9 has ridges so you can more easily distinguish it from the volume rocker. Credit: Florence Ion

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The fingerprint sensor is so much easier to use than some of the others out there, but I’m bummed it’s not accompanied by capacitive navigation buttons. Credit: Florence Ion

 

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