• Premium build
  • Beautiful AMOLED screen
  • Decent Camera
  • Plenty of RAM for multitasking


  • Poor battery life
  • Over priced
  • Dim screen


The M9 was HTC’s big flagship last year, but it failed to impress. The A9 was a shot for them to redeem themselves and increase their falling sales. It has a premium look and feel to it, but was it the comeback HTC needed?


First things first yes it does look like an iPhone, but HTC has been doing metal unibody phones for awhile now. This one just happens to have rounded edges mimicking Apple’s devices. The A9 is a 5 inch phone which strangely these days is pretty much considered compact. It has a really nice brushed metal finish and feels very solid in the hand. The curved edges make it comfortable to hold but also pretty slippery, be careful not to drop it.

On the front is a 1080P AMOLED screen with 2.5D glass, that has a nice slope around the edge and feels really nice to swipe. The screen itself is really quite beautiful, but I’m partial to AMOLED screens. I love the deep inky blacks and rich vibrant colors of these screens. I do wish it was brighter for when you’re out in the daylight, but overall it’s a really nice screen. There is also an LED for notifications which is conveniently hidden on the top left.

The fingerprint scanner is on the bottom. While I’m not a big fan of fingerprint scanners on the front, I actually prefer this to how Samsung does theirs. The scanner acts as a home button like with Samsung’s phones, but it’s not an actual physical button. It’s more like a trackpad on a laptop where all you have to do is touch it, not press a physical button. I found the scanner to be quick and accurate, it really gave me no trouble at all. I do prefer the scanner on the back. However with it on the front you can unlock your phone while it’s lying on a table or desk, which is pretty convenient.

The 13MP camera with optical image stabilization is found at the top center on the back of the phone. Which is a bit of a strange place for the camera, as you don’t often see them there. Maybe by not placing it in the corner they thought they could avoid the comparison to the iPhone. In theory it should help keep your fingers out of the shot since it’s not on the corner. However in practice I still found my finger making a guest appearance in some of my shots.

The power button and volume rocker are located on the right side. I always like this layout, as I find them easier to press with the thumb. Also the power button has large ridges on it which makes telling the buttons apart easy by feel alone. On the left side is the SIM slot and microSD slot, which supports up to 200GB cards.

The top has an odd plastic cap on it which is to help with antenna reception, along with the 2 bands which run along the back. On the bottom is the headphone jack, microphone, and the off center micro USB port. Which can be a little annoying to get use to, when almost every device always puts it in the center. Then there is the speaker that sounds good and has decent volume. Like all bottom mounted speakers, it will get muffled by your hand when gaming or watching videos though.


The A9 is running Android Marshmallow 6.0 with Sense 7. Sense isn’t the worst skin around by far, but it still has some little things which bother me. Despite being Marshmallow the network icons at the top are pre Lollipop and something else pre Lollipop are the navigation keys down at the bottom. Although they offer a vertical app tray it’s more of a tabbed swiping experience. Not a one motion smooth fluid one. Meaning it takes several inefficient swipes if your app is near the bottom of the tray. Still you get the app switcher and double drop down menu  from Marshmallow, so it’s not all bad.

The settings menu could probably use a facelift though. Speaking of they do offer themes which will change your font, wallpaper, accent colors, and theme the navigation buttons. Then you have Blinkfeed which will condense your social networks and news feed all into one handy place. I can see this being very useful for people heavy into social media or news junkies.

One particular problem I have to point out is having issues with Gmail syncing and notifying me of new emails. This isn’t an HTC problem, as I see the same thing on my Nexus 6P. While the blame is solely on Google for this, it’s still worth warning people about on this current version of the software.

[ad id=”2764″]


Performance isn’t too bad on the A9 with its Snapdragon 617 and 3GB of RAM. The processor doesn’t feel like the fastest but it’s plenty, and opening apps is fine. Opening games has the usual amount of lag I’ve encountered with other Snapdragon 600 series chips. However after loading they play fine and I didn’t see any issues. Plus the 3GB of RAM really helps you with app switching, and being able to cycle through apps without lag.


The A9 has a 13MP f/2.0 camera with optical image stabilization and a dual tone flash. It’s only 13MP in 4:3 ratio though and 10MP in 16:9. The app is pretty full featured, you have HDR which is pretty standard by now. You can swipe to change modes to Panorama, Pro, HyperLapse, or Slow motion. Pro offers you complete control over everything but aperture of course. It even supports saving raw images. However HTC doesn’t support the Camera2 API. Meaning you cannot use another camera such as Manual Camera to save raw images or have full control. You can fire off shots pretty quickly with HDR off, with it on it takes longer for images to process. Up front you’ll find a 4MP selfie camera that features HDR as well as beauty modes.

The photos themselves look really good. I really like the exposure because they aren’t too bright, have a good contrast, and great color saturation. The photos were often sharp but I had more blurry photos than I expected using a phone with OIS. Another issue I ran into was focusing up close. If you really like taking macro images like I do this could be a problem.

Even though the camera was fully capable of focusing at the distance, it often refused to lock focus on the object. No matter how many times I tried with one particular photo it wouldn’t work. While my other phone would after a couple of tries. I eventually had to place my hand right in front and get it to lock focus. Quickly remove and snap the photo before it tried to refocus on the background again. This would be a good time to use Pro mode but not if you are wanting HDR images straight out of the phone.


Battery life is sadly one of the A9’s weakest points. I was able to get on average about just about three hours of screen on time in a day. Most times it was a little under three hours. Which I consider to be below average, and can really have you scrambling for a charger. One redeeming quality is they include quick charging, that will get you to 100% in a little under two hours. I’d always rather have longer battery life instead of needing to fall back on quick charging though.


In the end I think the HTC A9 has a good albeit slightly stolen design. It’s a very solid phone and feels premium in the hand. The software design and the performance can leave a little bit to be desired. Even with the below average battery life, I still love the screen and I think it would be a decent premium midrange phone.

If it were not for it’s biggest flaw, which is the price. Considering the fierce competition in the midrange these days, and what $300 or just under can buy you. I think the A9 has just out priced itself out of the competition. It’s not a bad phone by any means, but I think for your money you can get a lot more for less somewhere else. Big thanks to AT&T for lending us this review unit.