Review: The HTC One A9 — an iPhone for the Android crowd | Techno stream

Review: The HTC One A9 — an iPhone for the Android crowd

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Everyone’s Trying to Kill the iPhone by Copying It.

It featured two headlines, both published a few days earlier after photos of the A9 leaked to the Internet, and both said almost the same thing in the same words: Wow, HTC’s phone looks a lot like the iPhone. Many of us have been begging for a smaller, premium Android smartphone for a few years now, pointing out that while Apple manages to sell millions of 4.7-inch iPhones, there aren’t a lot of high-quality Android phones designed for smaller hands.

HTC has apparently heard our cries, and given us the HTC One A9, an Android phone that just so happens to look as much like the Apple iPhone 6s as possible. At $499 unlocked (although it’s on a very temporary sale for $399 until November 7th) and compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, and (soon) Verizon, the One A9 is less expensive than Apple’s flagship, and just as good-looking. Executives and PR people find unimaginative ways of alluding to Apple—“one of our competitors,” or “a company in Cupertino,” or my favorite, “a certain fruit company.” For years, only a few companies who were bold enough to take potshots in public. The “Here’s what we have that the iPhone doesn’t” ad is among Samsung’s favorites, and the Windows team at Microsoft has borrowed it before too. HTC’s defense on the cloning accusations is that the One A9’s metal design is the natural evolution of the design language that it introduced with the One M7 in 2013.

It’s okay to acknowledge that, as long as you don’t get caught up in all the “who made it first” hoopla. (I’m waiting for the claim that HTC first hammered metal backs in the mountains of Romania in 1563.) The phone measures 5.7 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 5 ounces, making it slightly taller and wider than the iPhone 6s (5.4 by 2.6 by 0.3 inches). For instance, HTC’s One M7/M8/M9 all have front-facing BoomSound stereo speakers and the iPhone doesn’t, and the iPhone has a glass front that curves on the edges and HTC’s are flat. In virtually every meeting I’ve taken with a manufacturer during the last six months, people have spoken openly about how they’re competing with, and improving upon, Apple’s stuff. Apple borrowed our solution,” Nigel Newbyhouse, HTC’s executive director of product planning, told me. (Apple declined to comment.) No matter how you slice it, though, the world will see the A9 as “the Android iPhone.” And for HTC, which never became a household name, that’s not a bad move. Rather than offering gimmicky eye-tracking features or touting their removable batteries, they’re talking about cameras, about design, and about delighting users.

This apparent gimmick seemed a lot more exciting when HTC first announced the phone for just $400, but it seems like a challenge now that we know the A9 will actually sell for $500. That 25-percent markup puts the device in a more competitive posture, especially since the new and much celebrated Nexus 6P retails for the same amount. Nevertheless, the A9 is still a very good looking alternative not only to Apple’s finest but also the flagships from Samsung, LG, and other Android friends. They have to. “Right now, everyone has woken up to the realities of competition in the market, and have realized that Apple is now stealing everyone’s business,” says Avi Greengart, a research director at Current Analysis. “If you can’t steal some share away from Apple, there’s not much share left.” There’s a huge market, but no money, in making unlocked phones for $200.

It’s unlikely to bother most people, but I dislike how the Micro USB port, speaker holes and headphone jack on the bottom of the phone all skew to the right side. It may sound like I’m nitpicking (and maybe I am), but these are the little details that bother you when you start using a product as personal as a phone all day, everyday. The A9 isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with HTC’s UH OH warranty, which gives you one free replacement phone in case of a broken screen or water damage. The One feels noticeably more solid than the metal, glass and plastic combinations of the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Huawei-built Nexus 6P and the LG-built Nexus 5X. Since the looks are so similar, the real test, then, comes down to whether or not the new Android-powered HTC device can keep up with an iPhone in terms of performance.

Keep an eye on your existing Verizon phone—if your connection ever drops to 1X or EV, those are areas without LTE coverage where the A9 wouldn’t work. Harsher critics and fans will bemoan the full HD resolution and wonder why HTC hasn’t moved up to a higher resolution QuadHD display, but I’m a realist and full HD is more than adequate on a phone. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor won’t beat out any flagship phones with faster 808 or 810 chips on benchmarks or even compare when it comes to 3D gaming, but it’s powerful enough for normal smartphone usage — and it doesn’t overheat (a big issue the One M9 suffered from).

That covers everything T-Mobile, Verizon, and Canadian carriers use, and almost everything AT&T uses—the only thing missing for AT&T is Band 30, which is very new. But HTC presumably doesn’t want you to notice that the front-facing camera doesn’t align with the speaker, or that the proximity sensor appears to have been thrown on there randomly. The main new features such as revamped apps permissions and Google Now On Tap (long press on the home button to search within an app) are, as I said in my Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P review, nice, but not exactly groundbreaking (at least, not yet for Now On Tap). Doze, another under the hood feature that turns off background processes when the phone’s idle to extend battery life didn’t appear to give the phone’s puny (for an Android phone) 2,150 milliamp-hour battery a huge boost. So you need to be competitive on design and camera, and then offer something extra.” The good news for everyone not in Cupertino is that there is room in the premium market for devices that aren’t the iPhone.

Marshmallow finally straightens out microSD card support, so a microSD card works just like native memory, and you can install apps on it to your heart’s content. The Android ecosystem has flourished recently—from the new Nexus devices to Samsung’s currently lineup, Google phones are the best they’ve ever been. They looked great on the phone’s full HD screen, but not really so hot when I looked at them on a computer screen; the photos weren’t nearly as sharp and were blurrier around the edges.

But if you want to play the iPhone comparison game, it’s just not as sharp or as versatile and doesn’t threaten the best Android shooters out there either. Apple’s been making and improving the iPhone for a long time. “On the other hand, if Apple’s game is the only game there is, you either play it or you find a different game to play.” Android phones are famous for a little bit of lag, especially when laden with heavy skinning, but it’s that much worse when trying to be an iPhone replacement.

Do you need a new phone so badly that you can snatch up the A9 at the $400 launch price and do you desperately want an iPhone form factor with the versatility of an Android phone? Notable Extras: 6 Months of Google Play Music, Uh Oh Protection Plan, Unlock bootloader without voiding warranty, 15-day guarantee for getting the latest Android build

Sleek metal design • Fast and responsive fingerprint sensor • Runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow smoothly with 3GB of RAM • Pro camera mode that shoots RAW files Average cameras with poor lowlight • HTC’s Sense 7 skin needs to go • Weak battery life • Screen is tough to see outdoors • Nexus 6P is a better buy for $500

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