HTC has announced the highly-anticipated One A9 smartphone. First expected to be a new flagship to replace the M9, the A9 is actually more of a higher-mid-range device, and with a design similar to the iPhone 6s. How does the new model compare to the M9, and should you buy one? We've lined them both up to find out.
We all expected the A9 to be a clear flagship replacement for the M9, but a closer look at the specs suggests this is not the case.
The phones both have the same size screen, while the older M9 has the superior rear camera and processor – at least on paper, we'll have to try them both for ourselves to be sure.
The M9 also has a larger capacity battery, more storage as standard and more RAM, although a more expensive version of the A7 equals the M9 on these two aspects. A plus for the A9 is that HTC says it will be the first non-Nexus handset to be upgraded to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and the phone's body is slimmer and lighter than the M9.
HTC One M9 vs One A9: Simpler design
To our eyes, the A9's design is less fussy than the M9, replacing angular chamfered edges with a smoother curved finish which shares more than a passing resemblance with the iPhone 6s. The aluminium back with vertical plastic antenna lines are the elements most obviously inspired by Apple, while the HTC branding and centrally mounted oversize camera help to give the phone its own personality. As for colours, the One A9 comes in silver, gold, carbon grey and a shade of red HTC is calling Deep Garnet.
HTC One M9 vs One A9: A more efficient, but less powerful, processor
The M9's processor should have the edge when it comes to outright performance and graphics rendering, but the A9's should return more efficiency, although we're not sure this will be enough to overcome its smaller battery. Both handsets have a microSD card slot to expand storage, which is 32GB on the One M9 and starts at 16GB on the A9, although a 32GB model (with a RAM upgrade from 2GB to an M9-matching 3GB) is also available.
HTC has given the A9 and M9 the same screen size and resolution, but the technologies are different. The M9 uses an AMOLED panel while the A9 uses LCD, meaning the older phone should produce deeper blacks and richer, more vibrant colours and the new one will have brighter whites and more natural colours.
As for software, the A9 will be the first non-Nexus phone to get Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and even while it's running Android 5.1 it has a more simplistic version of HTC's Sense UI interface. The A9's software is closer in appearance to Google's Nexus phones than most other Android phones, and certainly any recent HTCs. There is also less bloatware; apps like HTC Music and Facebook are no longer installed by default.
HTC One M9 vs One A9: Better low-light camera
Although it has a lower resolution than the M9, the A9's camera should perform better in low light, thanks to its sensor having a larger F/2.2 aperture. This is a welcome change, as the M9 often struggled to take good photos in poor lighting. However, a plus point for the M9 comes with video recording, which it can do in Ultra HD (also known as 4K), whereas the A9 can only manage Full HD, which is a quarter of the resolution.
HTC One M9 vs One A9: Fingerprint scanner and BoomSound Headphones tech
A bonus for the A9 is a fingerprint sensor in the home button. This can be used to unlock the handset instead of using a password or PIN, and it will also work for making payments with Android Pay. Another difference is how the M9 had dual front-facing BoomSound speakers, making it louder than most other phones; the A9 ditches these in favour of a single speaker on the bottom edge. But to help soften the blow, HTC has given the A9 a new technology called BoomSound Headphones, which uses Dolby Audio processing power to produce better sounds through the headphone jack.
HTC One M9 vs One A9: Price
Bought directly from HTC, the M9 is £589 and the new A9 is £430. But if you have a quick look online, the M9 can be bought for less than £400 from websites like Amazon, making it difficult to announce a clear winner at this stage. Pitching the A9 at this sector of the market suggests HTC has a fully-fledged flagship in the works to more directly rival the iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S6.