HTC One A9 first impressions: trying some new things

by: Joshua VergaraOctober 20, 2015
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The latest smartphone from HTC, unveiled earlier today, may be the latest addition to the One series, but that’s mostly in spirit, given that this new device is quite the departure from the flagship line. What does this new smartphone bring to the table? We find out, with this first look at the HTC One A9!

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The HTC One A9 may feature a full metal unibody construction like the rest of the One family, but that is where the similarities in terms of design end. The One A9 comes with rounded corners and sides, that do contribute to the handling experience, and the back is also a lot flatter, compared to the curved rear of the HTC flagships. Of course, with a 5-inch display, the device offers a handling experience that is better than what is available with most other smartphones out there, given their larger screen sizes.

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The entire phone has a very symmetrical look, and everything is centered on the back. Up front is where you will notice a new button that houses the fingerprint reader, under the much maligned black HTC bar. Despite the presence of a large slit above the display, dual front-facing BoomSound speakers are surprisingly not present here, a departure from HTC’s recent product design.

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Next to the speaker is the microUSB port and the headphone jack, that comes with its own hi-res audio enhancements as well, which HTC claims should provide a far better audio experience with earphones compared to any competing devices out there. On the right side is where all the buttons are to be found, with a textured power button placed below the volume rocker. On the left are the two slots for the SIM card and the microSD card.

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There’s no getting around the fact that the HTC One A9 looks a lot like the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, and the handling experience is quite similar as well, with the One A9 being slightly thicker, but featuring the same symmetrical design and rounded corners and sides that we’ve seen before with the iPhone. HTC did mention that although it may seem like the inspiration did come from Apple’s camp, the use of metal has actually been HTC’s design choice first. Further, given that the One A9 is being touted as a solid alternative to the iPhone, it may not be a bad idea to have some of the design choices that people tend to like about the Apple smartphones.

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Despite all of that, it is up to you as to whether you like the look of the HTC One A9. There are a few color choices available with this device as well, including a lighter silver color, and one that is called deep garnet, a dark red color that looks really good.

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On the display front, the One A9 comes with a 5-inch AMOLED display with a Full HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 441 ppi, and the display is protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 panel. AMOLED displays are known for their high saturation, and that remains the case here, but you do have the option to change the saturation levels in the Settings, by changing it to sRGB mode.

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The display looks really good overall, and while it may not come with a Quad HD resolution, which is more or less becoming the standard, 1080p is more than enough on a display of this size, and the viewing experience is still very enjoyable; I had no problems with this screen thus far.

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Under the hood, the One A9 comes with an octa-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, backed by the Adreno 405 GPU and 2 or 3 GB of RAM depending on the in-built storage option you opt for. It may not be the fastest processor from Qualcomm, but what this processing package allows for is compatibility with Quick Charge 3.0, which will be available with the device in the coming months.

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As mentioned, there is no dual front-facing speakers to be found here, which is quite disappointing, especially if you are someone who uses the device for media-consumption and gaming without headphones. With our without headphones, you do get Dolby enhancements that allow for a good audio experience overall. More testing will be necessary, but the main story here is that the front-facing speakers has been left out this time around.

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16 GB or 32 GB of on-board storage is available, which also dictates whether you get 2 GB or 3 GB of RAM, with the base 16 GB model coming with 2 GB of RAM. Expandable storage via microSD card is present as well, which means that storage will certainly not be of concern with the One A9.

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Up front is the fingerprint scanner, integrated into the button that can also be used as a home button, even though there are on-screen navigation keys as well. After registering a fingerprint, using it is as easy to leaving your finger on the button, which should wake up the device and then unlock it. It may not be the fastest fingerprint reader that we’ve tested thus far, but it is still very reliable, and using a fingerprint scanner remains one of the better ways of quickly unlocking your device. The scanner is also compatible for use with Android Pay, for that added layer of security when making mobile payments.

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The One A9 comes with a non-removable 2,150 mAh battery, which does sound very small given the current scheme of things, but the battery life should be helped by the lower resolution display, the more battery-friendly processing package, and the various battery saving features baked into Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The big draw here is when it comes to the fast charging capabilities of the One A9, and while Quick Charge 2.0 is available out of the box, a future update will allow it to go up to Quick Charge 3.0, making it one of the first devices to be able to support that.

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Despite numerous experiments by HTC when it comes to the camera, this has still been one of the negative aspects of previous HTC flagships. HTC is still in search for a great camera setup, and are certainly hoping that the updated package found with the One A9 is the answer. On the back is a 13 MP unit with optical image stabilization, and the device also comes with a front-facing 4 MP “Ultrapixel” camera, which should allow for some nice self-portraits in low light conditions.

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Taking a look at the camera application, there are a couple of new shooting modes to be found here, including the return of a Pro Mode that also allows for shooting in the RAW format, as well as a hyperlapse mode. The images we’ve been able to take thus far have looked pretty good, and we will certainly be putting this camera to the test in an upcoming camera shootout and the comprehensive review.

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On the software side of things, the HTC One A9 comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, with the latest iteration of HTC’s Sense UI on top. This version of Sense has been dialed back quite a bit, while retaining the signature look and elements of the UI from before, like Blinkfeed. With Marshmallow on-board, features like Doze, Google Now on Tap, and App Permissions are all to be found here.

Specifications

 HTC One A9
Display5.0-inch AMOLED display
1920 x 1080
Gorilla Glass 4
Processor64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617
RAM2/3GB
Storage16/32GB
MicroSDYes, up to 2TB
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.1
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
3.5 mm stereo audio jack
micro-USB 2.0 (5-pin) port
Fingerprint scannerYes
SoundDolby Audio and Hi-Res Audio
SoftwareAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow
HTC Sense
CameraRear: 13MP with sapphire cover lens, f/2.0 aperture, OIS
Front: HTC UltraPixel, f/2.0 aperture, fixed focus
BatteryNon-removable 2150mAh, Quick Charge 2.0 (forward compatible with Quick Charge 3.0)
Dimensions145.75 x 70.8. x 7.26mm
143g
ColorsOpal Silver, Carbon Grey, Deep Garnet, Topaz Gold

Gallery

So there you have it for this first look at the HTC One A9! The One A9 will be priced at $399 in the United States, which is certainly an impressive price point for a device that is a part of HTC One line. HTC is definitely trying some new things, and while the design is hardly original, and the removal of front-facing speakers is a disappointment, these are all aspects that aid in the inclusion of some new features, which HTC is hoping will make for a compelling smartphone.

  • Jack Torrance

    Epic FAIL! They better have a m10 or they’re DOA

    • Miles Haenow

      You are an idiot

      • Jack Torrance

        Miles thanks for your input, but grown folks are talking mmkay

        • felix toran

          Ignore him, he’s just one of HTC bots.

    • Goran

      Its not…its rational choice. U expected flagship with sd 810? Updated or not crap. After m9? It would be suicide. They had to go for midrange. Not perfect, i agree but all midrange are like that. Infact this is one of best if not the best midrange phone now. And its Htc which for me speaks a lot. And m10 will kick ass, u’ll see. But i am afraid of price:)

      • Jack Torrance

        Yeah your right, but with all the hype I expected more. HTC’s a good company I’d hate to see die but they’re on life support and this phone while spec wise competes, will ultimately get lost in the shuffle. The Samsung front and iPhone back leaves little differentiation.

        • Goran

          I now own samsung galaxy alpha….and one max from htc. Like them both. This a9 story reminds me on alpha….remember all reviews were not in favour of that phone…some did. In almost all comparisons between alpha and others like z3 compact…alpha was called worse…but in the end…after one year of using it….its a terrific phone. 1860ma battery is quite fine. Beautifull 720 p screen.Performance is outstanding. Its very very nice phone. Better than s5….so i see a lot of that here. Seems a9 will be quite good phone….in the end. Like alpha:(

          • Degus Jacoby Pradana

            Good advice bro, hope Miles Haenow can have good attitude like u

          • Goran

            Thnx:) He just needs some time to grow up:)

          • 3223

            I’ve been quite lustfully looking at getting an alpha for a second phone to be used for travelling and stuff like that. Sadly, the galaxy alpha in my region comes with the exynos chipset, which has horrible developer and custom rom support leaving it at the mercy of Samsung for updates. Is your alpha running exynos or snapdragon 801? Care to share in a bit more detail how the phone has been for you?

          • Goran

            Its quite nice phone. Only problem i had is meeeting with touchwiz after Htc sense. I was unpleasantly surprised with it…but its no problem now. U can learn to live with it. Its not so terrible after a while.
            I have exynos european version. And u are right…i am still on 4.4.4. Its not problem for me. Those with lollipop had more problems than advantages it seems:) its unoficially on list to get 6.0 but its…ridiculous now. No sd card slot. 32 gb only. Those are disadvantages. Now on good things. Its so fast in operating that i need to adapt to it. Its literaly flying. Screen is nice. Battery is ok but my advice is to have 2. U can swap them if need. Charging is quick. Nice in hand and easy to operate with one. Good audio call and conections. In fact…what alpha can do..its doing all well.

          • 3223

            Ah I see, thanks so much for your insight! The reason I asked about the chipset is because with a healthy developer community, it will help extend the life of the phone well beyond the life that the manufacturer set for it. I always heard that snapdragon has a better developer community than exynos and it can help extend the life span of the phone :)

            Still, you’re really making it tough for me, coz the alpha really looks like a nice little phone which was quite underrated for it’s time. Might end up getting a used set, though prices for a used alpha at my area are still surprisingly high for some weird reason!

          • Goran

            As i’ ve seen exynos version is better rated…and i was surprised. Did not know that fact but i believe you. In my country u could get used alpha for 200 €:) maybe even less. No phone is perfect but i was really pleasantly surprised with it. If u get it, hope u will be too.

          • 3223

            It actually is a good chipset. Not to take anything away from Samsung and exynos, but samsung do really good chips. Great cpu with pretty decent gpu. The only issue from my readings is that Samsung isn’t very open with the source code of the exynos chips and drivers. So developers have to first reverse engineer the drivers and stuff, which can be a real pain when trying to build custom roms.

            So the issue here is that when Samsung stops officially supporting the phone with updates, the only way you can keep it half decent is via the custom rom route. Which is why for me, the specific chipset a phone runs can be quite vital as well. I hope to get an alpha with the 801 one day just to add to my collection though :)

  • Sayed ahamed

    DOWNRIGHT UGLY i mean this is rubbish i wouldn’t take that phone even if someone were to give me for free. LOL

    • Matthias

      I would take it. But I will sell it right away lol. You can earn quite some money because it is priced at 399

      • Miles Haenow

        Said the idiot

        • Matthias

          What would you do then?

          • Miles Haenow

            Keep it. Like a smart person and not some stupid American.

          • Matthias

            So that means you like the device? Thats great! But I do not, so i wouldn’t keep it. But if I can make somebody else happy with it, and get some money for it, why not?
            BTW i’m not American lol

          • Goran

            Go coment phones u like…only someone who never owned Htc phone can speak like u speak.

          • Matthias

            How do you know i’ve never owned an HTC device? I don’t think its that bad, but i wouldnt buy it for myself. For that price (hopefully its not more expensive in Europe) there are better options I think. If I buy HTC it has to be a flagship, which this phone isnt….

          • Goran

            Really..u expected flagship with sd 810? Pls after m9 it would bw suicide. Even updated 810 is still questionable at least. Throtling seems not solved. So they HAD to go for midrange. I think its best midrange phone right now. 6.0 android and 617 qualcom. And made by Htc. Enough for me. And ok pricing, most important.

          • Matthias

            Very true. But with 399 you can get a Moto X Style, Oneplus Two and maybe others with more flagship-like specs. I hope HTC does a good job with the M10

          • Goran

            Trust me, midrange Htc with 3gb of ram will kill even some real flagships in reality. And it will last longer than any of them.
            M10 will be huge. So will be the price knowing Htc:) this one is priced almost perfect…350 would be PERFECT. I am pleasently surprised Htc becoming more realistic in pricing.

          • stupidelement

            Why should we trust you on this? Are your some sort of mobile phone genius? Can you predict the future? TEACH ME MASTAHH!!

          • Goran

            :) no. Far from genius. I just know Htc phones. Had them 3, desire, desire x and one max. All 3 work now like in the begining. Sense is beautifull…somehow with soul…for me best of all skins. They make lasting and good phones. Metal…which is important to me. I skeep glass phones. Dont like them at all.
            I just have confidence in Htc. Even after m9 which now after 6p and 950 xl seems quite nice phone.:) even updated 810 is far from good but its fantastic if those who have money for shamless comercials and reviews put it in their phones.

          • Andreas Larsson

            They should have waited 2 months for the 820, this is a fail and it will not sell because poor specifications for that price. People dont care if they use a nice skin

          • Goran

            I may agree with you….maybe it would of been better to wait for sd 820 and M10.

          • Tom Binns

            Why do you keep mentioning the SD 810? You are the only one that has said anything about it. Couldn’t htc put another SD Soc instead of the 810? The 808, or even the older 805? My nexus 6 is great with the 805. You seem to be obsessed with your disdain for the 810. It really is pretty good. My HTC one m9 is fine. The only time it gets hot is when I’m playing some graphically intense games, and if it is being throttled, I’ve never noticed. And why the hell would Google want it in the 6p if it sucks so much? Just curious what your deal is?

          • Goran

            Good insight…so here why i speak about sd 810 so bad:
            2.1 is even improved but throtlling is not even solved. Its not good processor. Ask yourself why next sd will be so much powerfull than never before compare its predesor. Word says it will be 50 perc faster than S6 exynos which means it will be close to 60 perc faster than 810….strange. I just dont have a habbit throwing over 700 euros for a phone i will own a year…and pottenttaly even less followed by problems with phone operating. Qualcom did extremly bad jobe this year and all flagships with sd 810 will be wiped with 2016. I dont upgrade my phone every year. So i am choosing well before buying. Thats why Note phone is the king. Buy one and u can be still for at least 3 years.
            And about Google and Microsoft models…they just have enough money to pay for comercials and reviews….just remember my words and wait 2016 models. All will need to upgrade next year.

          • Tom Binns

            I understand what you’re saying, I wouldn’t want to spend that kind of money either. Still though, I don’t believe the 810 to be as bad as you do. I like my one m9 as my everyday phone. I got mine at a decent discount after returning the Samsung Galaxy s6. I just can’t stomach TouchWiz. Even when Samsung toned it down this year, to me, sense is so much better.

          • Goran

            U dont need to convince me anything about Htc….bcs I am already convinced…Htc makes most exiting, best as hardware phones and metal goodlooking phones. AND SENSE IS THE BEST. I have my eye set on M10 already. I have one max which still works perfect but i want new big screen phone from Htc. Hope they will copy Note next year:)

    • Miles Haenow

      Said the liar

      • investigator

        How much HTC paid you?

        • Miles Haenow

          I’m sorry you don’t like the truth pudding brain

    • strike

      No you should accept it if someone give you for free.
      Then you can sell it, and use the money to buy something better.

      That’s how a good citizen should behave ;)

    • Gaurav Pandey

      wait for some giveaway :P

  • I do love it’s coming with Android 6.0, and will be updated to use Quick Charge 3.0. However, the low mAh battery, the iPhone-like design (Though I kinda like it), and them getting rid of the iconic HTC BoomSound, dual stereo front-facing speakers, bothers me.

    • Miles Haenow

      It has a One-Like design. Not an iPhone like design.

      • Matthias

        Hi Miles! Yeah the iPhone 6(design) was inspired by the M7/M8.

      • Goran

        Bravo!:)

      • Welp, that’s how you feel. And I feel like it’s iPhone-like.

        • Miles Haenow

          That’s because you are an idiot.

          • Glad to know you’re that bothered. lol.

    • Goran

      Sound on ear pieces should be exeptional. First impressions on battery are fine. But i understand u…i also miss their frontspeakers. This one is ok but not as on m9…also first impressions. Thats actualy my only problem with this phone, missing boomspeakers to look like ugly iphone:)

  • coldspring22 .

    Pretty nice phone – looks like hybrid between Apple and Samsung. One trend is becoming clear – Android flagships are dropping in price, now hovering between $400 and $500, as price premium over mid range phones is no longer about usability or even performance, but more about “premium” construction and design.

  • Malcom Buckhannon

    I like it. I wish everyday that my galaxy s6 had more of a rounded edges like this phone and the iPhone. I love the look of the iPhone 6 but hate ios. I’m a android man, so seeing this phone makes me happy.

  • Sylvester Echols

    GAHBAGE!!!

    • Miles Haenow

      Yes you are

      • Sylvester Echols

        yes I am Correct!

        • Miles Haenow

          No. You are a garbage person.

          • Sylvester Echols

            That made no sense

          • Miles Haenow

            Yes it did. You are just an idiot

          • Sylvester Echols

            ……

          • Goran

            He likes Htc a lot. Dont mess with him:) i also like Htc…we can be nasty if u say bad things about Htc:):) just be nice. Its actualy not garbage but propably best midrange phone in the world now:) just the looks…and missing boomspeakers…rest is quite ok.

          • Sylvester Echols

            He doesn’t matter. He’s a troll.

          • Goran

            :) but u really shouldnt say a9 is garbage…bcs it is not:)

          • Sylvester Echols

            for it to be the “future” of HTC? Uhh yeah it is, the M7 and M8 still look better

          • Goran

            Pls guys, think. Htc had to make midrange phone which will sel untill m10 comes. Sd 810 is still filling so called “flagships”…even now. And its not good processor overall even updated. So another flagship in 2015 wouldnt stand against competition now. Samsung with exynos has no competition this year. It would be suicide. M10 WILL BE THE REAL THING. just be patient and give them credit.

          • Sylvester Echols

            Again. They never once showed what the phone could do. The speakers both looked like they were just going through the motions. They put hype into this knock off looking phone but it doesn’t even catch peoples attention. The only big thing people talk about is how they don’t want there HTC looking like an Iphone. Regardless of HTC having the design first. I mean even the Desires have front facing speakers.

          • Goran

            I dont agree completly….i think with looks(which i also dont aprove bcs of simularity with iphone) they did catch a lot of attention. Its marketing isnt it? Htc phone brings certain quality noone in android world can offer but them. In my oppinion. So i give them credit bcs i want Htc to make more beautifull phones. A9 is just a way, trainstation to future. I hope it will be.

          • Sylvester Echols

            using an already done design made popular by another company in the exact same way is not a success plan. It’s more like a child screaming, “I want what they have”.

          • Goran

            They are desperate to survive and this move shows that. I forgive them:) u can not it seems. Hope u will be satisfied with m10. Something tells me u will be.

          • Sylvester Echols

            the move to survive would be to keep their strong points and improve their weak ones like the camera and battery, not remove something that made your phones award winning by taking out the front facing speakers and settling for the bottom ones on the side. Pathetic

          • Goran

            Again for 10th time…making flagship now with all Htc strong points with sd 810 would be suicide. They had to go for midrange. Even flagships are not perfect…so normaly midrange can not too. All that is good will come to its place i am shure with their next flagship….why are u so angry?:)
            PS. First impressions on battery are quite ok. Nothing too short and it charges 85 perc in 30 min….or 80 in 35 i forgot:(

          • Sylvester Echols

            10th time? Pay attention, I didn’t say it had to be a flagship. Even the Desires have theses things. I’m not angry just blunt.

          • Goran

            Sry, i tried to explain about potential flagship disaster with sd 810 not only to u so i said for the 10th time…
            Just wait for the first real reviews…they might shock u in good way. And for m10. U wont be blunt with it.
            PS And i think they needed something different than m8(THE BEST)….m7 or m9. And they did. Not all in good ways but its interesting isnt it. And atracts attention. Thats what they need now.

          • Sylvester Echols

            Already saw one and it wasnt impressive. The person reviewing it wasn’t even expecting much from it.

          • Goran

            I saw one quite ok and one obviously written from iphone lover:) but lets be honest….this is strongest Htc midrange phone. Till now they made excellent flagships and under midrange phones which were actualy quite fine. So…its not they did not put effort. And once more, wait for real reviews after it comes and people use it for a while. Battery seems not to be problem for now…i was warried about it.

          • Sylvester Echols

            let it go. You just said, “obviously written from iphone lover”.

          • Goran

            I said i saw one ok and another from iphone lover which was worse….but ok Lets stop:)

  • peerpressure

    I like it. They’re hitting all the right points for me.

    I used to be all about the battery (has to have AT LEAST 3000 mAh), but since I moved to a Fire phone with only 2400, but with a smaller screen and less ppi, i’ve found that my batter lasts longer than my OPO. And I really can’t tell the difference in the screen. All those quad HD screens are just a huge battery drain, IMO.

    So smaller screen, fingerprint reader, expandable storage, 13 mp camera with OIS. And only $400. Seems like a winner to me. I never much cared for the Boom sound, as I use headphones anyway.

  • Butane87

    I like the look albeit looks just like any iphone…just wish they’d squeeze a bit more battery and a bigger SOC.

  • i_say_uuhhh

    Still waiting on that M9 concept… Sigh.. Maybe one day.

  • Goran

    After first disapointment when i saw phone….in the end its not bad phone at all. Red garment colour is perfect:) Can not be perfect as phone…its more midrange but…its ok in the end. Pricing is crucial here. Htc phone is Htc phone. Only those who owned Htc phone know what i mean. So i will definetly consider this phone hoping price in Europe will not rise to sky as Nexus phones….or maybe i will wait m10….that will be big. I am shure. But price will also be big:)
    PS. Ive read first mpressions on battery..seems quite fine.

  • Disasterpiece

    So… does the fingerprint scanner double as a home button? If not, it’s another waste of space

  • bklm1234

    Extremely disappointed with HTC. Copying the iPhone 6 is bad enough. They don’t even improve on it. Those thick bezels above and below the screen. Wtf, HTC. Thin them or put stereo speakers there for heaven’s sake. Total waste of real estate. Do you really have to copy Apple to that extent? And then why SD 617? Put a SD 808 in it and charge $20 more (I paid $480 for at T-Mobile LG G4 which has a SD 808. The thing just flies, makes me really happy). It will restore your stupid reputation a bit, HTC. Stop making mediocre devices, and thin out the bezel already. You are wasting a row of space just to put the stupid HTC logo on the front. OMG

  • Jayzziebone

    For 399$ i will rather buy the Moto X Pure. I don’t like the iPhone Clone HTC came up with. Moto X has a bigger battery, QHD display, bigger screen, Front facing speaker, SD808 for the same price. Epic fail.

  • Ryan

    The front looks a bit like the moto g

  • abazigal

    What’s with the blatantly misaligned ports at the bottom? That sticks out like a sore thumb so much!

  • Cakefish

    That red one is gorgeous but the UK price is downright insulting seeing as we get an inferior 2GB/16GB version vs the US 3GB/32GB edition. They could have at least made it cheaper to compensate but what do they do? They make it far more expensive! £429. Unbelievable!

  • Smokingaces

    DOA!

  • i want this badly. when will it be available in thailand?

  • John Doe

    Whaaaaaaat frequency have the processor?!

  • Tom Henderson

    Hate it! there is too many similarities with iPhone… if i wanted an iPhone, i would have gotten an iPhone. AND you dropped one of your main flagship parts of the phone, the Boom Sound Dual Speakers! unless they are still coming out with the M-line (i.e. m10) keeping the original flagship design…

  • I loved! :)