The HTC One A9 offers something of a change in direction from the flagship HTC handsets that we've grown accustomed to over the last few years – the HTC One, One M8 and One M9.

In saying that however, there's an obvious HTC heritage to the One A9 – the Legend and the One S have clearly had an influence on the design, not to mention the fact that there are some remarkable similarities between the One A9 and the iPhone 6 family; as well as inspiration drawn from other rivals in the market.

As with all HTC handsets, the company has primarily focused on its holy trinity of design, audio capabilities and camera, so it's only right that we give these elements their due.
HTC One A9 hands on
  

Design


The metal one piece body has almost become the ‘must have’ element in the design of any premium smartphone and in this respect; the HTC One A9 is no different.

The aluminum unibody is a beautiful creation. The A9 has been given a brushed and heat treated finish to achieve a truly smooth finish; this phone is smoother to the touch than even the new iPhone 6s.

Similarly, its flat back design is a departure from the curved style of the One M8 and M9, making the phone thinner; in fact, this is HTC's thinnest phone ever at just 7.26mm.

The phone sports curved sides from the back and the front which are separated by a lip instead of the semi-circular design of the iPhone 6s.

The front of the A9 is a wall of glass; Gorilla Glass in fact, which flows very nicely into the sides and gives the A9 that generic touchscreen smartphone look that so many manufacturers have gone for in the current market.

When it's not in hand, other than the HTC logo on the front, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a different phone, by a different manufacturer, with the all glass front.

The display is a 5-inch AMOLED screen with full HD 1080p resolution, harking back to the days of the HTC One S, a metal bodied ancestor of the HTC One A9. Despite HTC's well-deserved reputation for top of the range LCD displays, there's no denying the quality that this AMOLED display brings to the overall look and feel of the HTC One A9.

In contrast to a lot of HTC's recent handsets, the HTC One A9 feels very refined in the hand. It's easy to grip and feels compact and light despite being quite tall.

 

Audio


When it comes to audio and HTC, we're used to names like Beats Audio and Boomsound. With the HTC One A9, you don’t get Beats Audio, quite simply because there are no stereo speakers on the front of the phone, in fact, there's no loudspeaker at all on the front of the phone, just the ear piece.

This was a firm favourite of mine with both my HTC One M7 and M8; great for crowding around the screen and sharing those fail video compilations. Despite the departure of the speakers, HTC now offers BoomSound with Dolby Audio surround sound experience for fantastic quality sound through headphones and the best lossless audio, so listening to your music on the HTC One A9 through your headphones is everything you've come to expect from HTC audio.
 

Camera


The rear facing camera on the HTC One A9 is a newly designed unit especially for this phone. Dual LED flash is present to deal with those low lighting shots and it has a 13MP sensor with an F/2.0 lens with optical image stabilisation. The lens has a sapphire cover to help prevent scratches, which may prove more than useful as the lens protrudes slightly from the back of the phone body.

The front facing or ‘selfie’ cam (shudder) as it's become known incorporates HTC’s UltraPixel technology. Yes it's only 4MP, but we know that the UltraPixel camera is more than capable of holding its own against any other front facing camera on the market.

The camera software will be familiar to those of you that have used previous HTC One phones. Auto mode for quick snapping is present, as is pro mode which lets you change shutter settings, ISO and other settings to adapt to your subject matter. If you use the RAW shots mode, you can even edit the shots after shooting.

The HTC One A9 comes with a RAW enhancement feature that will analyze your shot and process it to expose maximum quality. This will take a few second to process just after you take the shot.

One really cool feature on the A9 is the Hyperlapse mode. This is like a time lapse video shot by hand using heavy stabilisation. This is a feature which we’ve seen before on iOS but this is the first out of the box introduction of this technology for Android. Give it a go, it's awesome. You can speed up time by up to 12x and you can also use the HTC Zoe feature to stitch the videos together.

Video recording is 1080p but maxes out at 30FPS which means that in some seriously action packed scenes there can be a little loss of quality. This is as much as the installed chipset (Snapdragon 617) can handle.
 

The Verdict


HTC One A9 welcome screenHTC maintain that the One A9 is an evolution in design from previous One series phones and I think that with its links to the likes of the One S that much is obvious. The all glass front will be subject to comparison with the iPhone but that's not to say that the One A9 can't hold its ground.

The One A9 represents a proper new beginning for HTC and perhaps the start of a new journey for the company. It's a high-class premium device that drops straight into the 5-inch smartphone category and a lot of its competition is lacking in the high technology features that the HTC One A9 brings with it, while being more than capable of competing with its closest rivals, the iPhone 6S and Sony Xperia Z5.

The HTC One A9 is available now at your local Carphone Warehouse store.