HTC One A9: Saving a ship with a teacup


Watching someone try to scoop water out of their leaking boat with a teacup in an attempt to stay afloat is always a lot of fun to watch. They’re trying their best, but you know that in the end, that ship is going down, so it’s funny when you see them finally realise that using a teacup to save a sinking ship was probably a big mistake.

Or is that just me?

Watching sinking smartphone giants throw a Hail Mary to keep their company from plummeting, but also making one monumental mistake, can be quite amusing too. Just take BlackBerry and the Priv as an example. You can argue that it is a brilliant smartphone and that the specs are fabulous, but what you simply can’t justify is that exorbitant price tag — which in this metaphor represents the teacup.


Unfortunately, on the surface, for a company that has made several smartphones I quite liked, HTC seems to be making the same mistake with their One A9 — you just can’t justify that price tag.

That’s what I thought going into the launch event anyway. I got to spend some time with the little One that could, and while my time with the device was incredibly limited, it did leave an impression.

Fantastic build


Let’s start with the build. I sound like a broken record but ever since the first One, HTC have proven that they’re capable of making some truly fantastic smartphone builds. They just know how to do premium metal devices.


This One is no exception. The One A9 is awesomely built and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that based purely on feel alone, it will easily give you a premium feel. It’s pretty thin too, which should help it slide in and out of your pocket with minimal effort. Both a good and bad thing.


The buttons are excellent and clicky which is great, and I like the fact that the power button has a different texture from the volume rockers letting you differentiate them easily without looking.

If you can get over the fact that it looks incredibly similar to an iPhone, the One A9 is even quite handsome. Of course, if you’re into an iPhone clone in terms of looks, you will obviously like the One A9. It even has that same camera hump!

Snappy performance


Make no mistake, this isn’t a flagship device, despite its look and feel, the One A9 is still a mid-range smartphone at best. On the front, it’s got a 5-inch full HD display, which can get quite bright. Inside, it’s powered by a Snapdragon 617 processor (slightly upscaled from the usual SD 615/616 mid-range processors) paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.

On the demo unit, performance was snappy. It had no problems switching between tasks and HTC’s Sense UI was pretty easy on the eyes. While I’m not sure how this device would perform under a heavy load, had I not known that this device was running a mid-range processor, I might have been fooled into thinking that it had flagship level specs.


That said, my time with the device was incredibly limited so I won’t pass judgement on it until we get a full review. In fact, my time was so limited that I didn’t have time to play with the 13-megapixel camera, so unfortunately, I won’t be touching on that in this first impressions. Or the front facing touch-sensitive fingerprint sensor cum home button.

No BoomSound


Need I say more? One of the most painful exclusions of any HTC smartphone is always their brilliant BoomSound front-facing speakers. They’re fantastic to listen to, often outperforming even other front-facing speakers.

Instead, on the One A9, we get a downward facing iPhone 6/6S-esque speaker. I guess if you’re going to look like an iPhone 6/6S, might as well go all out right? It does come with a DAC that does Dolby Audio with 24-bit Hi-Res Audio though.



There’s no denying that HTC’s ship is sinking hard and sinking fast. People are even assigning situation-appropriate descriptions to replace HTC’s acronym. They need a saviour and unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the One A9 is going to be it.

With a recommended retail price of RM2,299, HTC are falling into the same trap BlackBerry fell into — thinking that their brand alone will be enough to push sales. We know you want to return to your glory days as soon as possible and the easiest way to do so is to overcharge for a smartphone. But, you’re no Apple, which means there won’t nearly be enough people who will blindly buy your product just to have your brand stamped on the back of it.

The HTC One A9 then is a teacup, and a teacup — as we’ve established earlier — won’t be enough to save the sinking Taiwanese company.

That said, I won’t say for certain that the One A9 isn’t worth your money (though it certainly seems that way) as I want to wait for a full review before deciding, but as of right now, HTC looks to be in dire straits.

If you happen to have cash to spare and you simply must get yourself an HTC phone, then this wouldn’t be a bad choice. In fact, here are three good reasons why you might want one.