HTC unveiled today the One A9, and it’s an interesting device. Not because it looks nothing like its siblings in the One series, but because it doesn’t really try to compete on specs with the elite of Android. The $400 A9 certainly looks like a flagship, with its smooth metallic unibody. But judging from the way HTC is selling it, the phone looks like it’s designed to compete with the iPhone, rather than other Android devices.
HTC’s intentions aside, people will inevitably compare the A9 with Android phones in its price range. That said, just how good is the A9, on paper? How does it stand up to the Nexus 5X, the Moto X Style or the ZTE Axon? Let’s find out.
|HTC One A9||Google Nexus 5X||Motorola Moto X Style (Pure Edition)||ZTE Axon|
1920 x 1080
1920 x 1080
2560 x 1440
|5.5 inch LCD
2560 x 1440
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 617||Qualcomm Snapdragon 808||Qualcomm Snapdragon 808||Qualcomm Snapdragon 810|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 2TB||No||Yes, up to 128GB||No|
|Software||Android 6.0 Marshmallow||Android 6.0 Marshmallow||Android 5.1.1 Lollipop||Android 5.1.1 Lollipop|
|13MP and 2MP dual rear
|Battery||Non-removable, 2,150mAh||Non-removable 2,700mAh||Non-removable 3,000mAh||Non-removable 3,000mAh|
|Dimensions||145.75 x 70.8 x 7.26mm|
|147.0 x 72.6 x 7.9mm|
|153.9 x 76.2 x 11.1mm|
|154 x 75 x 9.3mm
The HTC One A9 is the only device in this comparison that features a full metallic unibody (the thin antenna lines on the back not considered). Featuring a brushed metal texture and available in gray, silver, gold, and red, the A9 is a little over 7-mm in thickness and comes with 2.5D Gorilla Glass 4 on the front.
The 5.2-inch Nexus 5X is a little thicker, but lighter at 136 grams, and that’s probably due to the plastic unibody. Google’s phone comes in black, white, and ice blue, and features Gorilla Glass 3.
The larger Moto X Style combines a metallic frame with backs of plastic, wood, or leather, and is definitely the most customizable device you can get right now, thanks to the Moto Maker program.
Finally, ZTE’s Axon combines a metallic body with plastic inserts at the top and bottom. The Axon’s most distinctive design elements are the geometric grilles from the front facing speakers and the rear camera module.
The One A9 is surprisingly the only device on the list with an AMOLED display, measuring 5.0 inches and featuring a Full HD resolution. No, this isn’t the most vibrant display on the market, but the compact screen size and battery-saving AMOLED qualities should make for a pretty great display experience overall.
Google’s Nexus 5X also features a relatively small Full HD 5.2-inch display, only this one is of the LCD variety. This display is similar to what 2013’s Nexus 5 brought us. It’s not bad by any means, but we certainly would have liked to see the addition of an AMOLED panel, especially considering the 5X’s handy Ambient Display feature.
The Moto X Style features the largest display out of the bunch, coming in at 5.7 inches. It also has a higher resolution than both the 5X and A9. The Moto X Style also comes with Moto Display, similar to what’s seen on the Nexus 5X, so again, it’s odd that Motorola decided to choose an LCD panel over AMOLED this time around.
Last but not least, ZTE’s Axon comes with a 5.5-inch Quad HD LCD display. The Moto X Style is the Axon’s closest competitor when it comes to both screen size and resolution.
Processing power is where the One A9 falls behind its three competitors, at least on paper. The Snapdragon 617 processor inside the A9 has eight Cortex A53 cores that run at up to 1.5GHz, coupled with an Adreno 405 GPU. This recently announced processor is entirely mid-range, and we expect to see it in many more affordable phones over the next year.
The processor is coupled with 2GB of RAM (for the base, $400 model) or 3GB of RAM, which is on par with the Moto X Style, better than the Nexus 5X, but weaker than the Axon. RAM is important for multi-tasking, but 2GB should be fine for general usage, as our recent Nexus 5X impressions show.
HTC One A9 officially announced: everything you need to know
There are two One A9 models: the cheaper model, with 2GB of RAM, comes with a paltry 16GB of storage; the 3GB RAM model features 32GB of storage. Storage on both models can be supplemented via microSD.
The Nexus 5X famously lacks microSD, which makes Google’s choice to start it from 16GB that much harder to swallow. The Axon also lacks a microSD port, though it thankfully comes with 32GB of storage. Meanwhile, the Moto X Play stars from 16GB, but includes microSD support.
The One A9 features only limited support for NFC – it only works for Android Pay, in the regions where the payment service from Google is available. You won’t be able to make file transfers or use NFC for pairing various devices.
The Nexus 5X, the Axon, and the Moto X Style all feature full support for NFC. Standing out, the Nexus 5X features a USB Type C port, which is reversible and supports fast charging.
Due, at least in part, to its small and thin footprint, the One A9 comes with a rather small 2,150 mAh battery. Granted, the A9’s specs may be less taxing on the battery, but you will probably still have troubles going through a full day of usage. However, HTC has an ace in its sleeve – the A9 supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2 fast charging standard, and support for the more efficient Quick Charge 3 standard will roll out to the device, via software update, in the following weeks.
By comparison, the Nexus 5X packs a 2,700 mAh battery (with fast charging), while the Moto X Play and Axon come with 3,000 mAh batteries (Quick Charging 2). None of our competitors feature wireless charging.
The One A9 comes with support for 24-bit, 192KHz high-resolution audio and a dedicated headphone amplifier, which HTC says can produce up to 2x the volume compared to competing smartphones. It comes with a single bottom-facing speaker, which actually sounds pretty decent so far.
In contrast, the Nexus 5X, Moto X Style and Axon all feature front-facing speakers. While it wouldn’t appear this way, the 5X and Axon only have one speaker, while the Moto X Style has two. Audio quality is pretty great on all three devices. Front-facing speakers are certainly the way to go, and given that the One M7 was one of the first devices to feature front speakers, we would have thought HTC has done away with bottom speakers for good.
A closer look at the Axon phone’s “Hi-Fi Audio”
On the camera front, the One A9 comes with a 13MP rear camera and an UltraPixel front camera. Unfortunately we haven’t really gotten a chance to check it out yet, but HTC is saying it has a much improved interface that’s easier to use. It also has a sapphire glass lens cover, optical image stabilization (OIS), auto-focus, hyperlapse video support and the ability to shoot in RAW.
The Nexus 5X has a 12.3MP rear camera and an 5MP front, both of which we’ve found to be quite good so far. Google has definitely improved the cameras in its Nexus devices this year, and we’re excited to see how well they do against the competition.
The Moto X Style comes with a massive 21MP rear shooter and a 5MP front. In our full review, we told you that the Moto X’s camera is surprisingly great is most lighting conditions, save for low-light. It’s certainly not the best smartphone camera on the market, but it’s sure up there.
As for the ZTE Axon, this device features dual rear-facing cameras (13MP and 2MP) and an 8MP front-facing camera. The inclusion of a second camera on the back makes for easier depth refocusing after the fact, which has grown pretty popular as of late. In our full review, we found that both the rear and front-facing cameras were very good. The camera interface is simple, fast and overall a joy to use.
The HTC One A9 is the first non-Nexus device to run Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It’s also running the latest version of HTC Sense, which we’ve found to be pretty snappy so far. When the device was announced, HTC also said that the unlocked One A9 will get the latest version of Android a mere 15 days after the Nexus devices are updated. That’s huge news, especially coming from a company who has struggled with timely software updates in the past.
Unlocked HTC One A9: software upgrades within 15 days of every Nexus update
Of course, nothing beats the software experience on the Nexus 5X. It’s running the latest stock version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and will continue to be among the first Android devices to receive new updates for a few years.
The Moto X Style runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, but will be updated to Marshmallow soon enough. Motorola has been pretty good at providing timely software updates in the past, so Moto X Style owners probably don’t have very long to wait. It has a mostly-stock Android experience with just a few Motorola software features added in, which we’ve grown quite fond of over the years.
As for the ZTE Axon, this device comes with a pretty clean version of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. For the most part, the Axon’s software is relatively stock, only with a few customizations thrown in. We’re still not entirely sure how timely ZTE plans to be with software updates, so there’s no telling when the Axon will be updated to Marshmallow.
What do you think about HTC’s newest device? If given the option, which smartphone on this list would you choose? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below.