HTC One (A9) Review

March 29, 2016 | Amy Davies | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The HTC One (A9) was announced at the end of 2015 and is designed to sit just below HTC’s flagship M9 camera, offering some of the same or similar specs, but in a cheaper body.

In the UK, HTC offers the HTC One (A9) with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of inbuilt storage. However, in the US, you can get it with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of inbuilt storage. In either case, it’s possible to expand the inbuilt storage with a Micro SD card.

Ease of Use

At first glance it would be extremely easy to mistake the HTC One (A9) for an iPhone 6S as it has a very similar design. At the bottom of the screen where you would expect to find the “home” button on an iPhone is a fingerprint scanner which can be used to unlock your phone.

On the right hand side of the phone are a rocker switch can be used to adjust volume, or, if you set it that way, to take a photo instead of pressing the virtual shutter release on screen. There’s also a lock button next to the volume rocker - you’ll need to be careful not to press this button when you want to take a picture as it will turn the screen off and you’ll need to start again. The buttons feel quite different however, so it’s reasonably likely you’ll be able to feel for the correct one.

Although the volume button can be used to release the shutter, it’s a little awkwardly placed. If you were to hold the phone in the same way as you would hold a standard camera, then it’s very easy to obscure the lens with your left hand. Instead you need to adjust your grip so that you are using your left hand to take the shot, rather than your right as you might normally do.

From the unlock screen you can access the phone’s camera without having to completely unlock the phone. You’ll see a camera icon on the right hand side - simply tap this and drag with your finger upwards and the camera app will start.

After you’ve taken a shot, you can press the preview in the top right hand corner of the screen to look at it. You’ll be able to look at any photos you’ve taken in your current unlock session, but if you want to see older photos, you’ll need to unlock the phone fully.

Unlike the iPhone’s native camera app, the HTC One (A9)’s native camera app is quite extensive and gives you lots of scope for changing settings, depending on how advanced you are.

HTC One (A9)
Front of the HTC One (A9)

First of all you’ll need to choose the “type” of camera you’ll be using. To do this you tap the icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen which appears as four dots. Here you’ll be able to choose from Selfie (the front camera), Camera (automatic use of the rear camera), Panorama (for creating ultra wide shots), Pro (where you’ll find the manual controls, again with the rear camera), Hyperlapse (for creating time lapse videos), and Slow motion (for creating slow motion videos).

Most of the time you’ll probably switch between Selfie and Camera, but if you want to take more extensive control, switching to Pro is recommended.

Once you’re in Pro you’ll see that there are a number of options which you can change from labels marked around the screen. For a start you’ll be able to switch on raw format shooting by pressing the button marked JPEG - you can switch back to JPEG only by pressing the raw button again. When you’re shooting in raw, the HTC One (A9) will record in both the universal DNG raw format as well as in JPEG.

Along the bottom of the screen you will see your manual controls. There’s white balance, exposure, ISO, shutter speed and manual focusing. Tap one of these controls and then use the slider which appears on screen to make an adjustment. You can also leave all, or some, of these in Automatic by selecting the “A” icon at the top of each slider. It’s a shame not to see aperture here - especially as you can control almost everything else.

The maximum shutter speed you can select is two seconds, which doesn’t give you a whole lot of scope for slow shutter speed type shots, but it’s also worth considering that there’s no tripod mount which you’d need to stabilise the camera when shooting with long shutter speeds anyway.

HTC One (A9)
Camera Mode

There are a couple of other settings which can be changed from an icon marked with three small dots. These include photo size, and whether or not the self-timer is on. If you move into the General Settings option from this small menu, you’ll see that you can switch a Grid on to help with composition, and you can select whether or not you want to use the volume button to take an image.

The final option which you can change in this mode is whether or not the flash is switched on. There’s only on, or off, there’s no red-eye reduction mode or anything like that. To turn it on, tap the flash icon in the top left hand corner of the screen.

If you decide to use Camera (as opposed to Pro) mode, then you’ll find that your options are more limited. For instance, you won’t be able to shoot in raw format mode, or change anything such as white balance or shutter speed. You will have access to automatic flash however - where the camera will decide for itself whether or not to activate the flash. In Camera mode you can also use Auto smile capture, Voice capture and Touch to capture if you prefer. Recording a video can be done directly from Camera mode, where it’s not available in Pro mode. There is a smaller video icon directly underneath the camera (or stills) icon - simply press this to record a video. Unlike some other HTC One phones, the (A9) isn’t capable of recording 4K video.

You can either use the front facing camera to take a selfie by selecting Selfie from the camera modes, or clicking on the reverse camera icon while in Camera mode. Either way this will activate selfie mode and you’ll be able to use the front facing camera to take your shot.

HTC One (A9)
Rear of the HTC One (A9)

The HTC One (A9) is generally very quick in operation, with the AF system locking onto a target with ease. On the downside this sometimes means you’re presented with a false positive - where the focusing square turns green to indicate that focus has been achieved - when in reality, focus has been missed. This is most common when you’re trying to shoot close-up shots, rather than during general shooting, so it’s just something to be aware of.

Start-up time of the camera from the lock screen is reasonably quick, making it likely that you’ll be able to capture action as it unfolds when you need it to. During testing, the fact that the (A9) uses a slower processor than the M9 wasn’t too evident - however it’s important to remember here we are assessing only the camera itself, and the faster processor may have a greater effect on using the phone overall for other applications.

How you get images from the phone depends on how you stored them in the first place. As you can insert a Micro SD card, if you have a MicroSD card reader you could take out the card and read them that way. Alternatively, you could email or wireless transfer individual photos and videos. The final way is to plug the phone into your computer using a Micro SD cable. The first time you do this, you should be prompted to install the HTC Sync Manager, and every time you plug the phone in it should detect you’ve done that and load up the software. The software allows you to transfer images across to your computer. In practice, it seems to be a little temperamental and doesn’t always recognise that you’ve plugged in the phone, so it may be wiser to use a Micro SD card.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 13 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.

In good light, the HTC One (A9) is capable of capturing some high quality images. Colours are vibrant and punchy at the lower end of the sensitivity scale. Although there is some instance of image smoothing, even at low ISOs, it’s not particularly unusual for a phone camera, and the overall impression of detail when looking at images at normal printing or viewing sizes is great.

As you move up the sensitivity scale, you’ll start to see a loss of detail becoming more noticeable in smaller printing sizes, but even at ISO 1600, the impression of detail is reasonably good and certainly useable in most circumstances. If the light is very low, images taken at high ISOs may suffer from even more image smoothing.

The camera’s general-purpose metering does a good job of producing accurate exposures in the majority of conditions, not becoming too confused by lots of bright areas or high contrast. Automatic white balance also does a similarly good job and isn’t too baffled by mixed or artificial light conditions. In Pro mode you can choose a specific white balance preset if the camera is struggling with something like artificial light.

As you can shoot in the universal raw format, it’s possible to extract a little more detail than you’ll find in the equivalent JPEG images. However this will come at the expense of introducing more noise into an image - getting that balance right between detail and noise is something you can experiment with in post production and is likely to be dependent on the subject.

The front facing camera can be used for selfies, and again, does a good job in bright light. You can apply image smoothing in various degrees up to quite extreme, or you can switch it off altogether.


There are 5 ISO settings available on the HTC One (A9). Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.


ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


Focal Length

The HTC One (A9)'s lens offers a wide-angle focal length of 28mm in 35mm camera terms, as illustrated by this example:


Digital Zoom


This image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case an SD memory card), with a minimum focusing distance of 8cms.




The flash settings on the HTC One (A9) are Auto, On and Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off


Flash On


Flash Off


Flash On

Flash Off


The HTC One (A9)'s maximum shutter speed is 2 seconds in the Night scene mode. This shot was taken at 1/5th second at ISO 100.



Sweep Panorama

The HTC One (A9) allows you to take panoramic images very easily by 'sweeping' with the camera. The camera does all the processing and stitching and even successfully compensates for moving subjects.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the HTC One (A9) camera, which were all taken using the 13 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The HTC One (A9) enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some HTC RAW (DNG) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample video from the HTC One (A9) camera at the highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 17 second movie is 42.7Mb in size.

Product Images

HTC One (A9)

Rear of the HTC One (A9)

HTC One (A9)

Front of the HTC One (A9)

HTC One (A9)

Side of the HTC One (A9)

HTC One (A9)

Side of the HTC One (A9)

HTC One (A9)

Camera Mode

HTC One (A9)

Image Playback

HTC One (A9)

Manual Mode

HTC One (A9)

Shooting Modes

HTC One (A9)

General Settings

HTC One (A9)

Photo Settings

HTC One (A9)

Bottom of the HTC One (A9)

HTC One (A9)

Top of the HTC One (A9)

HTC One (A9)

Top of the HTC One (A9)


As with other HTC phones - most notably the HTC One (M9) - the (A9) does a good job of producing great photos (especially in good light), while also being fairly pleasant to use.

It’s good to have a mobile phone camera which can offer a good degree of flexibility when it comes to changing settings, as well as the ability to record in raw format. Although there is a lot you can change, for those who are less experienced and just want to point and shoot, you can also do that - which is handy.

Of course, being equipped with Android, there are hundreds of other photography apps which you could download to use the phone camera in the exact manner that you wish to use it. You can also share directly to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks without having to send images across to another device, too.

Being able to store your photos on a MicroSD card is also good news for those who like to shoot in raw format, as those files can take up quite a bit of space. It’s also good news for expanding the memory size of the phone quickly and easily.

Mobile phone camera technology seems to be improving by the week, and phones like this make it easy to see why basic camera sales are declining. While this camera copes well with high ISOs, such as 800 or 1600, if the scene is very dark, the resulting image will lose a lot of detail - something to bear in mind if you’re often shooting in low light conditions.

On the other hand however, if you mainly take photos in decent light, then the HTC One (A9) could be a good option for you. It’s currently just a touch cheaper than the M9, which gives you 4K video recording. If you can live without that functionality then the (A9) can save you some money.

It’s also significantly cheaper than the iPhone 6S, but is roughly the same size and shape. If you like the look of an iPhone, but don’t quite have the budget to buy one, then the HTC One (A9) could be a good alternative - although bear in mind that using the Android operating system is different from using iOS. Additionally, if you prefer a very large phone (or phablet), then the HTC One (A9) perhaps isn’t for you.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the HTC One (A9).

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus is the largest ever version of the most popular flagship smartphones of all time. Find out what it has to offer photographers by reading our Apple iPhone 6 Plus review, complete with full-size sample photos, test shots, videos and more...

Google Nexus 5

The new Google Nexus 5 is one of the cheapest flagship smartphones on the market, but also one of the most powerful and full-featured too, running the latest KitKat version of Android. But what kind of experience does it offer photographers? Read our Google Nexus 5 review to find out...

HTC One (M9)

The HTC One (M9) is a new flagship Android smartphone with a conventional 20 megapixel sensor, 5-inch screen, RAW file support and a MicroSD card slot. Read our HTC One (M9) review to find out if it can satisfy the photographer in you...

Huawei Mate S

The Mate S is Huawei's flagship smartphone, offering photographers a 13 megapixel sensor, a 29mm f/2 lens with optical image stabilisation, full manual shooting mode, and 1080p movie recording. Can the Huawei Mate S really replace a compact camera? Find out by reading our in-depth Huawei Mate S review...


The LG4 is a smartphone that focuses on image quality, with a 16 megapixel sensor and f/1.8 lens onboard, along with Raw format support and even a manual shooting mode. Is this the smartphone that every photographer has been waiting for? Read our LG4 review to find out...

Nokia Lumia 1520

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is a new 20-megapixel smartphone with a massive 6-inch screen, a 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.4 aperture and built-in optical image stabilisation, and 1080p video recording at 30fps with stereo sound. Read our Nokia Lumia 1520 review now...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Is it a camera? Is it a smartphone? No, it's the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1, which is bravely offering both in one device. Can the Panasonic CM1 replace a high-end camera and a premium smartphone? Read our Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 review now to find out...

Samsung Galaxy S6

The Galaxy S6 is Samsung's flagship smartphone, offering photographers a 16 megapixel sensor, a 28mm f/1.9 lens with optical image stabilisation, and UHD movie recording. Can the Samsung Galaxy S6 replace a compact camera? Find out by reading our in-depth Samsung Galaxy S6 review...

Sony Xperia Z5

The Sony Xperia Z5 is a new flagship waterproof smartphone that features a lot of cutting-edge camera technologies. The Xperia Z5 has a 23 megapixel sensor, 24mm fixed lens with fast f/2 aperture, 4K and 1080p video, sweep panoramas, a range of picture effects and Hybrid AF system featuring phase detection points. Read our in-depth Sony Xperia Z5 review now...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the HTC One (A9) from around the web. »

To compare this too much to an iPhone would be unfair to the genuinely impressive power under the hood - but it's curious that HTC has decided on this design path.
Read the full review » »

HTC phones once had a reputation for being superb – but this feels like a long time ago now. The A9 is HTC’s attempt to recover some lost ground.
Read the full review » »

When the history of Android is written, HTC’s name will go down as one of the early innovators that propelled the young platform to its fullest potential. This Taiwanese company built the first ever Android phone as well as the first Nexus. But when HTC’s history is recorded, the One A9 smartphone will stand out as that time the Android pioneer tried to build an iPhone.
Read the full review »


  • Size

    145.75 x 70.8. x 7.26 mm
  • CPU Speed

    • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 617, Octa-core
    • 64-bit, 4 x 1.5GHz + 4 x 1.2GHz
    • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 617, Octa-core
    • 64-bit, 4 x 1.5GHz + 4 x 1.2GHz
  • Network1

    • 2G/2.5G - GSM/GPRS/EDGE:
    • 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
    • 3G UMTS:
    • 850/900/1900/2100 MHz
    • 4G LTE:
    • FDD: Bands 1,3,5,7,8,20,28
    • TDD: Bands 38, 40, 41
  • Sensors

    • Ambient light sensor
    • Proximity sensor
    • Motion G sensor
    • Compass sensor
    • Gyro sensor
    • Magnetic sensor
    • Sensor Hub
    • Fingerprint sensor
  • Camera

    • Main camera: 13MP with sapphire cover lens, auto-focus , BSI sensor, OIS, ƒ/2.0, 1080p video recording
    • Front camera: HTC UltraPixel™, fixed focus, ƒ/2.0, 1080p video recording
    • Main camera: 13MP with sapphire cover lens, auto-focus , BSI sensor, OIS, ƒ/2.0, 1080p video recording
    • Front camera: HTC UltraPixel™, fixed focus, ƒ/2.0, 1080p video recording
  • Weight

  • Platform Android

    Android™ 6.0 with HTC Sense™

  • Memory2

    • ROM: 16GB / RAM: 2GB
    • Extended memory: microSD™ up to 2TB
    • ROM: 16GB / RAM: 2GB
    • Extended memory: microSD™ up to 2TB
  • Connectivity

    • Bluetooth® 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
  • Multimedia

    • Audio supported formats:
    • Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .flac, ac3, ec3, eac3
    • Recording: .aac
    • Video supported formats:
    • Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .avi, .mkv
    • Recording: .mp4
  • Display

    5.0 inch, Full HD 1080p, Corning® Gorilla® Glass

    5.0 inch, Full HD 1080p, Corning® Gorilla® Glass

  • SIM Card Type

    Nano SIM

  • GPS

    Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS

  • Sound

    Dolby Audio™* with Hi-Res Audio
    *Manufactured under license from Dolby Laboratories.

  • Battery3

    Capacity: 2150 mAh

    • Capacity: 2150 mAh with Quick Charge 2.0 support (forward compatible with Quick Charge 3.0 with future software upgrade)
    • HD video playback: up to 12 hours
    • Audio playback: up to 60 hours
    • Internet use on WiFi: up to 9 hours
    • Talk time on 3G network: up to 16 hours
    • Standby time on 3G network: up to 18 days
  1. Network bands in regions may be different, depending on the mobile operator and your location. 4G LTE only available in select countries. Upload and download speeds also depend on the mobile operator.

  2. Available storage is less due to phone software. Approximately 9.8 GB storage available for user content. Available storage is subject to change based on phone software updates and apps usage.
    Extended memory limited to available microSD card size.

  3. Test conditions: The battery claims herein may vary based on cellular network, location, signal strength, feature configurations, phone usage, and many other factors. Actual results may vary. All batteries have limited recharge cycles and eventually need to be replaced. Battery life and charge cycles vary by use and settings. Battery tests are conducted in HTC laboratories using specific HTC devices. All test devices are connected to a 4G network except for Wi-Fi-based tests. HD video playback is conducted with 720P HD MP4 video on a device with audio through a headset, with default screen brightness and audio level (without Dolby). Audio playback is conducted with an MP3 audio file with audio output through a headset with default audio level (without Dolby). Internet use over Wi-Fi tests are conducted using a dedicated web server. Device browsed snapshot versions of 10 popular web pages. All settings are set to default except Auto-Brightness is turned off.

    A Standby time specification ("specification") is an industry standard that is only intended to allow comparison of different mobile devices under the same circumstances. Power consumption in a standby state is strongly dependent on factors including but not limited to network, settings, location, movement, signal strength and cell traffic . Comparisons of different mobile devices using such a specification can therefore only be done in a controlled laboratory environment . When using any mobile device in real life circumstances for which the mobile device is intended, the standby time could be considerably lower and will be strongly dependent on the factors as mentioned above.

Note: Specifications are subject to change without prior notice.

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